What Grantees Wish Grantmakers Knew: Work on the Underlying Relationship

  • Work on the underlying relationship. “The focus needs to be on creating a good grantor-grantee relationship, not on the tactics for intervening when things go wrong,” said one grantee. “If it all comes down to technique, you’re in trouble. You need the relationship first.” In other words, if a good relationship is established up front, problem solving would be a joint undertaking by grantor and grantee, not an “intervention” by one into the affairs of another.
  • Encourage candor. Problem solving is hampered when problems are taboo. “Everyone has to do a dance that makes it too risky to tell the truth,” commented one grantee. “Grantees worry that funders don’t like risks or may not really want to hear the truth. So both become too polite to deal with the problems the grantee might face. ... It would be great if something could be done to reward honesty: ‘I’ll keep funding you if you keep growing and changing.’ A few funders do this, but they’re rare.”
  • Don’t make it solely a business relationship. One grantee argued that focusing on budgets, outcomes, and grant agreements would make the relationship too “transactional.” “If it becomes, ‘I have these resources and I want this job done’ then it’s a contractual relationship. You really need to create a basis for relationship that leads to openness."

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from When Projects Flounder.