My latest journal article: “Time to Reclaim Your Power in Funder Relationships”

If you are involved in grantseeking, you are probably familiar with the Grassroots Fundraising Journal (or should be!). Published by the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training, the journal contains articles to promote the connection between fundraising, social justice and movement-building.

I have a full-length article in the January-February issue, titled “Time to Reclaim Your Power in Funder Relationships.” The piece reminds us that funders rely on nonprofits to fulfill their missions, and offers tips for interrupting the lopsided power dynamics that often plague those relationships. Check it out here!

(To get you started, I reprinted the first several paragraphs below.)

GRANT FUNDING HAS A LOT TO DO WITH POWER. Who has the money, who gets the money, and what are the dynamics between the two groups?

At first glance, it can definitely appear that foundations and other funders hold all the cards when it comes to their relationships with grantseekers. After all, grantmakers control the funds and seem to have complete discretion over how the money is doled out.

As a grantseeker, you may feel like you’re begging with a virtual tin cup. By accepting this position of powerlessness, you may hope funders take pity on you. Or maybe you will learn to answer their questions with the answers they want to hear. If they visit your organization, you often find yourself bending over backwards to please them. You would never think of biting (or even challenging) the hand that may feed you.

After all, beggars can’t be choosers, right?

If you are somehow successful in winning the grant, your eternally grateful (and dependent) stance will continue: one that looks up to the grantmaker as the one calling all the shots.

I have seen this attitude run rampant throughout the many years I have been conducting grantseeking trainings. Participants are eager to learn how to “play the grant game” with their mysterious opponents. Students often get nervous when practicing one-on-one conversations with funders because it feels like one wrong move can seal a decision to deny funding.

But do we have to stay locked in this traditional power arrangement, or can we move toward a more equal relationship? Let’s examine the situation more closely…

Read the rest of the article here…


6 thoughts on “My latest journal article: “Time to Reclaim Your Power in Funder Relationships”

  1. Renee Rubin Ross

    Dalya, thanks for sharing your perspective! Having been on both sides of the table as a funder and grantseeker, it’s absolutely true that funders feel pressure to get money out the door in a way that aligns with funding criteria. The more that non-profit organizations can build relationships with funders and hone in on the alignment between funder and grantseeker, the more likely it is that their proposal will be a successful one.

  2. Deborah

    Brilliant article reminding us that the relationship between funders and nonprofits is fundamentally mutual interest – and grounded in shared values and purpose. Both sides have power to help each other achieve their goals. As always Dalya, you explain the possibility beautifully and provide a great model for good writing. Thanks for the inspiration today.

  3. Reba Rose

    I appreciate your honest assessment of the dynamic. I have been in the role of of the executive director and felt like I was “status down” while begging for money and acceptance. In time I was able to grab onto my confidence and transparently share our program’s strengths and mistakes. I am happy to hear about the work of GEO. I know that I have been grateful for funders who are partners.
    Thanks for the article, Reba

    1. Dalya Massachi Post author

      Thanks for your note, Reba. I’m glad to hear that you have held onto your power and found true partnerships with funders. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *