Strengthening Relationships Language Poll

  • By Grantmakers for Effective Organizations,

Strengthening the relationship between grantmakers and nonprofits has been fundamental to GEO’s work since our community’s beginning 20 years ago, and it remains a key priority. In fact, in our 2018-2022 strategy, we made a commitment to prioritizing new content on sharing power with and including nonprofits and community members. Broadly, we call this work strengthening relationships. As GEO states in its strategy direction, “When we build trust with and tap the knowledge of nonprofits and community members, we amplify each other’s strengths and arrive at better solutions. In order to build these relationships, we need to recognize how our power can create hesitation and tension in our partners — and own the responsibility of creating authentic connections.”

This year, GEO is developing a publication and workshop to help grantmakers think through what it takes to do this work well. As GEO staff have embarked on the development of these programs, the language around this topics has proved tricky. We received feedback from nonprofit partners that phrases like “grantee inclusion” are frustrating because they reinforce power dynamics and define nonprofits by their relationship to a funder. In addition, language that doesn’t encompass both nonprofits and community members doesn’t reflect the entirety of our goal. So, we are reaching out to you to help inform the language we use moving forward.

At the core of GEO’s work is the belief that we must work side by side with nonprofits and communities to solve problems and determine the most effective path forward. As we titled our 2010 publication on this topic, we strongly believe in “do nothing about me without me.” This is not the time for cursory engagement or outreach for the sake of checking a box; in this moment, grantmakers must authentically and deeply listen and respond to the voices of nonprofits and communities. If we want to achieve long-lasting change, philanthropy cannot afford to operate in a silo.

Our members have told us they are taking a variety of actions to hear from, work with and shift power to nonprofits and community members, including things like conducting community input sessions, having community members on grantmaking committees and hiring staff that come from the communities they serve. So, we want to hear from you!