When a Community Organizing Organization is Under Attack

  • Make sure grantees know that you strongly prefer to hear bad news from them first. (This requires a basis of trust, grantmakers said, that needs to be established from the start.) If you do hear a report or accusation that has enough credibility to cause you concern, take it directly to the organization. Give them the opportunity to dispel or confirm what you’ve heard. Don’t spread rumors.
  • Consider not taking action. Organizing groups sometimes have opponents who seek to undercut them by amplifying (and even distorting) negative reports or comments. Think about ignoring them altogether. Where there’s smoke, there’s not always fire.
  • If the concerns prove legitimate, urge the organization to take action on the issues quickly and forthrightly. “Being swift, transparent, and direct in responding helps blunt criticism. Make sure the grantee knows this,” a communications expert advised. A slack, secretive, or inadequate first response often hurts more than the original allegation.
  • Encourage the grantee to engage its full governing body in addressing the problem. Consistency is essential in the face of controversy. Ask if the organization has communications resources (such as board members from the PR or communications field) that can be harnessed. Suggest that they assign a spokesperson to handle media queries professionally and expeditiously.
  • Bear in mind that the grantee is the organization, not a person or a faction of the board or staff. Stay out of internal fights and messy controversies between individuals. Encourage the organization to keep the integrity of its own internal governance process foremost.
  • Consider your own communications, as well. Core funders will inevitably be cited in media reports and may be called for information or comment. Have a clear, simple, forthright statement ready. And remember that your first loyalty is to your own organization. Your obligation is to ensure that funds granted are used appropriately.

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 Funding Community Organizing.