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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

    Strengthening Relationships Language Poll

    Help GEO decide on language to use when we talk about increasing community and nonprofit participation in philanthropy.

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

    GEOList Summary: Support grantee cohorts that speak different languages?

    Do you know of any examples or best practices on how to serve grantee cohorts and grantees when they speak different languages? Democracy Fund is part of a state funder collaborative in North Carolina that will support a cohort of local news and information nonprofits through grants, and probably will have at least one organization that has leaders that speak primarily Spanish. We also are hoping to support some convenings, as well as other types of resources such as informal mentorships, readings, etc. We hope to continue to make this funder collaborative’s offerings, as well as other work we do beyond NC, more accessible to organizations that have staff and leaders that speak languages other than English. We started by making this collaborative’s application and guidelines available in Spanish, and provided an interpreter for conversations during the application process, but know that we could do more. Thanks for any thoughts, ideas, feedback or links!

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018
  • Perspective

    Philanthropy's Debt to our Country's Biggest Region

    The southeastern U.S. is heavy with history and layered with nuanced culture that can take a lifetime to fully understand. All places have magic and secrets, but NCRP and GSP's 'As the South Grows' initiative documents the unique and hidden complexities of advancing systems change in the South.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018
  • Perspective

    Listening to Beneficiary Needs and Respecting Grantees

    Philanthropy and the nonprofit sector have seen several evolutionary changes over the past decade. Paul Brest and Hal Harvey look at two important developments – listening to the needs of beneficiaries and respecting grantee organizations – in the second edition of Money Well Spent.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • July 2018
  • Event Materials Members Only

    2018 National Conference Discussion Guide: The GEO Community at 20

    Over the last 20 years, the GEO community has worked to transform a desire for results into real improvements by creating spaces where grantmakers learn together and use that learning to drive concrete changes in the way grantmaking work gets done. As a field, we've made progress. And, as we continue learning together, our understanding of effective philanthropy evolves.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • June 2018

Upcoming Events

  • Remote Learning and Webinars

    The Golden State Learning Series

    This six-part virtual learning series is designed exclusively for California grantmakers and is offered in partnership by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations and Philanthropy California.

    • September 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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