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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.

  • Perspective

    Reframing our Purpose to Be More Transformative for People and Families

    As Root Cause began to question its purpose, it was critical that they ask themselves: How can we improve the lives of people and families in a way that they actually notice the difference, address growing disparities, and do that at scale across a neighborhood, town, county or even beyond? The GEO Capacity Building Champions program offered the opportunity to share these perspectives with foundation leaders.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2018
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: Managing Communications When A Foundation Is Narrowing Its Focus

    How do we invite conversations with the two communities we’ve identified for this shift, without sounding alarms both within those communities (by some who might fear that the Foundation will impose an unwelcome agenda) and outside those communities (by former grantees who will no longer be eligible for funding)?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2018
  • Member Story

    Smarter Grantmaking in Action: John T. Vucurevich Foundation

    Collaborations for Change is a strategy used by the John T. Vucurevich Foundation as a key to solving issues. JTVF seeks to understand community issues through partnerships with others.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2018
  • Perspective

    Revised Reporting: Are We Fooling Ourselves?

    While there is a nearly universal belief that grant reports are necessary, there is far less agreement about frequency and format, required elements, and uses.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • March 2018
  • GEOList Members Only

    GEOList Summary: When and How to End a Grantee Relationship

    I’d like to hear from funders about formal or informal criteria you have for ending funding for a grantee in cases NOT related to a changing strategy.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • February 2018

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

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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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Emily Wexler


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