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What We Care About

Strengthening Relationships

When we build trust and tap the knowledge and perspective of nonprofits and the communities we serve, we create better solutions.


of funders say they are willing to engage with their grantees in open dialogue about general operating support, but only 32% of nonprofits believe they actually are

When we build trust and tap the knowledge and perspective of nonprofits and the communities we serve, we create better solutions. And investing in building and sustaining these long-term relationships allows us to continue making meaningful progress in our work. We can bridge our knowledge gaps about the communities we serve. We can ensure greater humility by recruiting and retaining staff from nonprofits. And we can improve our own practices by being inclusive of nonprofit and community feedback and insight. Our success as grantmakers is inextricably linked to the strength of our connections with these partners.

Building these relationships requires an investment of time and resources — but they have the ability to shape not just what solutions we pursue but how we support our grantees. GEO’s research shows that grantmakers who are more connected to their grantees are more likely to provide the support that nonprofits need to be successful, such as capacity building and multi-year support. If we’re going to make progress on some of the most deeply entrenched problems in our society, we must directly address existing power dynamics and create strong, trusting relationships with nonprofits.

Strong relationships are never built on transactional engagements; both parties must engage with honesty and integrity, acknowledge the other as a vital part of their success, be willing to have courageous conversations, and have compassion for each other’s humanity.

Kierra Johnson, Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity

Helpful Tools and Resources

Stay informed of the emerging trends and promising practices from the field of philanthropy through GEO’s publications and research.

  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Seeking examples of ways to measure hope or wellbeing

    Hello Geo, As part of our Strategic Visioning process in 2022, the Iowa West Foundation conducted a number of community listening sessions called Imagine Hours. As a place-based foundation, Iowa West strives for communities in which families love to live and businesses thrive. The Imagine Hours helped us to understand that the community members in our area of southwest Iowa value: Belonging, Financial Stability, Opportunity, and Wellbeing as elements of a prosperous community. We have shifted our focus to align with this feedback. We are also trying to identify metrics that demonstrate whether we are accomplishing Wellbeing (defined as thriving instead of just surviving). We believe an indicator or metric that spoke to community hope would be a strong candidate, but have not found many good resources on how to do this at a city or county level. Does anyone have any great examples, communities, or resources we should consider as we develop this? Thanks! Matt

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2024
  • Publication

    Reevaluating Practice: Reimagining Philanthropy

    This report is a final offering to philanthropy from the Hazen Foundation and its nonprofit partners. The report includes grantee recommendations for funder partnerships that advance a more effective and sustainable movement for social justice.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • April 2024
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Seeking GMS recommendations that incorporate relationship management

    Hello Everyone, We are seeking recommendations for a GMS that incorporates relationship management into the process to allow for tracking of prospect contact, meetings, visits, etc. One system we’ve heard about that might fit the bill is Giving Data. We’re curious if any of you are using Giving Data as your GMS? If so, we’d be grateful to hear how it’s working for you. We’re also open to any other suggestions for a GMS that offers more prospect and relationship management! Or anyone have a system you just love? Many thanks as always! Georganna

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • February 2024
  • Perspective

    Bridging Differences to Advance Equity: Three Lessons Community Foundations Are Learning About Engaging Donors and Community

    An exciting evolution is happening among community foundations in the United States.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • January 2024
  • Perspective

    Don’t Be A Stranger: Tips for Philanthropy on Distancing vs. Building Solidarity

    Isabel Sousa-Rodriguez of the Edward W. Hazen Foundation shares important insights into how grantmakers can build strong relationships with the communities they serve remotely.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2021

Upcoming Events

  • Peer Learning

    Community Driven Philanthropy - 2024 Remote Learning Series

    GEO provides remote learning series that offer space for GEO members to learn alongside their peers in a virtual setting about effective grantmaking approaches that are equity-centered, community-driven and that matter most to nonprofits through a combination of in-depth conversation, practical examples and thought-provoking discussions with the GEO community.

    • September 2024

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

Interesting thoughts and ideas circulating in the GEO community.

Related Topics

Flexible, Reliable Funding

When we provide funding that gives nonprofits space to innovate and the security to know our support is here for the long haul, they worry less about their own survival and focus more on responding to shifts in their environment and lifting up their communities.

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Learning and Evaluation

By shifting our understanding of evaluation so that it’s focused squarely on improvement and engaging grantees and other partners, we can learn in ways that yield rewards for everyone involved.

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Nichole Hoeflich


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