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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.

70%

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

    Findings from GEO’s Language Survey

    In 2018 and 2019, GEO is developing a publication, workshop and conference to help grantmakers think through what it takes to do this work well. As we embarked on the development of these programs, the language around these topics proved tricky. Nonprofit partners told us 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 goals. Other organizations working on similar issues shared their own struggles with the lexicon. So, we reached out to our contacts, including members, other grantmakers and nonprofits, to help inform the language we use moving forward. Here is a summary of the key results of that survey.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • November 2018
  • Perspective

    Cross-post: Are Nonprofits Getting the Support They Really Need?

    The Center for Effective Philanthropy conducted a study to discover what support nonprofits need and how funders are currently meeting those needs. This post, which originally appeared on the Center for Effective Philanthropy's website, highlights some key lessons from the research.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • October 2018
  • Perspective

    Complex Problems Require Collaborative Solutions

    After 17 successful years of inspiring and nurturing people with innovative, grassroots ideas to positively impact their communities, The Sprout Fund has decided to sunset in 2018. In doing so, the Pittsburgh-based organization has decided to share their lessons learned in "The Sprout Fund Field Guide for Philanthropy & Civic Action." This is part two of a two-part series sharing their lessons learned.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • September 2018
  • Perspective

    Introducing The Sprout Fund Field Guide for Philanthropy & Civic Action

    After 17 successful years of inspiring and nurturing people with innovative, grassroots ideas to positively impact their communities, The Sprout Fund has decided to sunset in 2018. In doing so, the Pittsburgh-based organization has decided to share their lessons learned in "The Sprout Fund Field Guide for Philanthropy & Civic Action." This is part one of a two-part series sharing their lessons learned.

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

    GEOList Summary: Communicating about strategy change

    For those of you who have been through foundation strategy shifts, I am wondering what you have learned about communicating with grantees and non-grantees throughout the process? What worked well, and what did not seem to go so well?

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • September 2018

Upcoming Events

  • Workshops

    Participation, Power and Philanthropy: Putting Nonprofits and Communities in the Driver’s Seat

    As grantmakers, our desire to have a positive impact on the communities we serve fuels our work. In order to create the greatest impact, we must work side by side with nonprofits and communities to solve problems and determine the most effective path forward. But what does it look like to have nonprofits and communities drive our work? How much participation is required to center our work on what the community tells us it needs? How can we be advocates for this approach to philanthropy? This full-day workshop will answer these questions.

    • February 2019
  • Workshops

    Participation, Power and Philanthropy: Putting Nonprofits and Communities in the Driver’s Seat

    As grantmakers, our desire to have a positive impact on the communities we serve fuels our work. In order to create the greatest impact, we must work side by side with nonprofits and communities to solve problems and determine the most effective path forward. But what does it look like to have nonprofits and communities drive our work? How much participation is required to center our work on what the community tells us it needs? How can we be advocates for this approach to philanthropy? This full-day workshop will answer these questions.

    • February 2019

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Perspectives on Philanthropy

Interesting thoughts and ideas circulating in the GEO community.

Related Topics

Flexible, Reliable Funding

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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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