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What?  It’s hard to give money away? 

Actively refusing money

That sounds preposterous, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, there are moments which complicate foundations’ abilities to provide funding.  Here are five real-life examples:

  1. Where’s Waldo?  On behalf of a foundation I work with, I attempted to contact the development director of a large nonprofit organization.  I was beyond flabbergasted to find the group’s website listed Staff names but no email addresses, just a phone number.  I called development and received a recording for an entirely different department.

    Funders – you aren’t off the hook either!  For all the current conversations about the importance of grantmaker “proximity” to the communities they serve, I still come across foundation websites which don’t provide Staff email addresses or just list a generic “info@” address. 
  1. The lost art of listening.  The movement to encourage funders to listen and learn before acting is getting much-needed attention.  Conversation remains a two-way street, though.  I’ve seen otherwise promising dialogue with grantmakers go sideways when fundraisers talk waaaay more than they listen.
  1. He said, she said.  Speaking of communications, it is never helpful for grantmakers to hear differing or inconsistent messages from the chief executive and the board chair of an organization. Whether the discussion is a formal presentation or an informal update, mixed signals from leadership raise more questions and unnecessary complications.
  1. Report?  What report?  It is common practice for foundation grant agreements to include a request for progress reports from those partners they support.  Grant letters usually state explicitly or implicitly that the acceptance of funding is also acceptance of the request for progress reports. 

    These report requirements – hopefully more streamlined during the current crisis and into the future – help fulfill the funder’s fiduciary responsibilities on how charitable dollars are used.  The reports also keep Staff and Boards apprised of what progress, learning and challenges their partners have had – and provide the ongoing opportunity to strengthen a mutually beneficial relationship.

    In short, Party A is giving money to Party B with the understanding Party B will be thoughtful enough to let Party A know what they’ve done with those dollars.  Not honoring this simple agreement undermines trust and relationships.
  1. I’ll get right back to you on that.  Grantmakers get well-deserved criticism when going overboard in asking for gobs of details and data in their proposal review process. (Are you really going to read all that material and analyze all that information?)  What happens when the reverse occurs?  Such as a foundation that approves a grant contingent on receiving a two-page project description before cutting the grant check – then two friendly email reminders and six weeks later didn’t receive the two-pager?

As I observed, it really can be hard giving money away!