Photo of two people hugging each other.

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.

  • Perspective

    Improving Maternal and Infant Health Through Collaboration and Engagement

    bi3 provided $3.2 million to launch StartStrong, a maternal and infant health initiative. They supported partners throughout, creating and fostering collaboration. They recently published a short paper highlighting their insights from this project.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • February 2018
  • Perspective

    The Story of the Blue Line Coalition

    Beginning in 2012, Nexus and the Phillips Foundation partnered to fund and convene a group of organizations that would later become the Blue Line Coalition to engage communities of color in advocating for equitable outcomes in the planning of the Bottineau Blueline light rail extension through North Minneapolis. Today, Blue Line Coalition members have seen their impact on the policies and structure of the light rail plans, and in building community capacity.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • December 2017
  • Perspective

    Cross-post: What Does it Take to Build Strong Relationships?

    On November 21, 2017, the Center for Effective Philanthropy posted this blog on building strong relationships. GEO's work on strong relationships with nonprofits is closely aligned with CEP's new publication Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success. This article explores what it takes to build strong relationships.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • December 2017
  • Member Story

    Smarter Grantmaking in Action: Social Venture Partners Arizona

    Increasing nonprofit capacity to deliver positive social impact through multiyear, general operating support

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • November 2017
  • Publication Members Only

    Is Grantmaking Getting Smarter?

    Through our research over the past 20 years, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations has identified a set of grantmaker practices that help nonprofits achieve better results. Every three years, GEO conducts a study to help us understand how we are doing as a field, including trends over time as well as new areas of inquiry.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • November 2017

Upcoming Events

  • Conferences

    2018 National Conference

    Hosted in partnership with Philanthropy California, the 2018 National Conference will provide participants with the information, connections and experiences to continue improving and pursuing smarter grantmaking practices that positively impact nonprofit effectiveness.

    • April 2018
  • GEO in the Field Members Only

    Developing Authentic Relationships with Nonprofits

    Join Meghan Duffy of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) to learn about how you can build trust and form authentic, productive relationships with nonprofits and other community stakeholders.

    • February 2018
  • Member Calls Members Only

    Ask Me Anything About GEO's New Strategy

    Join GEO President and CEO, Kathleen Enright, and GEO Board Chair, LaTida Smith, to learn more about our 2018 - 2021 Strategic Direction.

    • February 2018

Discover More

I’m looking for
on this topic
Show me all resources for this topic

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.

Learn More

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.

Learn More
Emily Wexler


Speak directly to our Senior Manager, Programs

Reach out

Join the GEO Community

500+ members sharing insights and learnings to move philanthropy forward.