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. Continue reading
[Note: I’m a sucker for humor and actually collect cartoons about writing and language. This one is from Mark Litzler, the cartoonist who illustrated my 2011 book, Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact.]
Q: How can a nonprofit CEO, Director, or Board member facilitate successful grantseeking?
A: Grantseeking is a team sport. As a nonprofit CEO, Director, or Board member you can help guide your team to victory — but you can’t do that if you hang back on the sidelines.
If your nonprofit is like the vast majority out there, you need (at least some) grant income to advance your mission in your community. Your role as a leader is to marshal the right strategy and resources so your grantseeking team can succeed.
Whether your team consists of staff, consultants, and/or volunteers, you need to help set (or at least know) the game plan so you can manage effectively. Without your vision and planning, your team will lack direction, priorities, and motivation.
Even if you are not personally involved in your organization’s day-to-day grantseeking activities, you need a solid grounding in how grantseeking happens. That is, you need to know what to expect from the process and how you can help it along. By preparing for success you will increase your likelihood of attaining it.
I’ve spoken with leaders of many new (and not-so-new) organizations who have not properly prepared for grantseeking. They simply want to see more money come through the door right away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work that way. They have often been disappointed.
In my experience, strategic leaders who are starting or upgrading their teams’ grantseeking efforts best position their organizations for success when they:
- Frame grantseeking as a team effort that enjoys strong investment from the organization’s leaders: in the form of timely information, adequate human resources, and appropriate planning
- Encourage an attitude of ongoing partnership between the organization (the entity that makes changes in the community) and funders (the entities that underwrite those changes)
- Model a sense of openness and curiosity about what makes the most sense in the current funding climate, from a funder’s point of view
- Routinely share specific plans for accomplishing their mission and evaluating their activities’ outcomes and impacts
- Establish community collaborations that the grantseeking team can leverage
- Prioritize funding needs for at least 6-12 months at a time
- Meet with their grantseeking team on a regular basis to strategize and define responsibilities
Is grantseeking high on the agenda of a CEO, Director, or Board member? It should be. Without the support of nonprofit executives, even the strongest grantseeking teams must often watch opportunities pass them by.
To learn more, join me for my February 15 free webinar, Grant Strategy for CEOs, Directors, and Board Members: What You Need to Know to Succeed.
[By the way, you can find more “Ask Dalya” questions and answers HERE.
Question: It seems that foundations and other funders hold all the cards in power relationships with grantseekers. Is that true?
At first glance, it definitely can appear that way. It may feel like you are “begging for money” with a virtual tin cup. You may even get nervous when you prepare to speak with a funder one-on-one.
That’s totally understandable. (FYI, many foundation program officers used to be in grantseekers’ shoes so they can empathize with your sweaty palms.)
But while grantmakers hold the purse strings, by no means are they the only ones in the relationship who should be confident, empowered professionals.
Look closely at the situation. Continue reading