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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: Guidance on Work with Grantees

    I am writing today to see if you have guidance at your foundation for program staff about working well with grantees that you could share with us. We are embarking on a cross-foundation effort to create guidance for program staff on many dimensions doing excellent work with grantees. This might include guidance for how to engage grantees (i.e, communications, responsiveness, site visits, frequency of contact) or guidance on what to cover (i.e., how success will be measured, the role of and plans for evaluation, full/true costs of grantees’ work, D/E/I topics, and so forth).

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • December 2018
  • Perspective

    Cross-post: Crafting Capacity-Building Support that Counts

    When grantmakers consider providing capacity-building support for the first time or refining their existing capacity-building support, it can be challenging to figure out where to begin. This post, which originally appeared on the Center for Effective Philanthropy's website, digs deeper into what it looks like to evaluate and implement capacity-building support through a case study with Healthcare Georgia Foundation.

    • Grantmakers for Effective Organizations
    • December 2018
  • 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

Upcoming Events

  • Remote Learning and Webinars

    2/20/19 Change Leaders in Philanthropy Informational Webinar

    Join us to learn more about the Change Leaders in Philanthropy Fellowship, a 10-month peer cohort program for senior leaders who are responsible for developing and shepherding key change efforts in their organizations. We will provide an overview of the program’s structure and goals, as well as an opportunity for you to hear and learn directly from program facilitators and current cohort participants.

    • February 2019

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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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