Communication Strategies (with Grantees) for International Grantmaking

Establish lines of communication. Once you have done your background work and are ready to enter into grant relationships, establish clear and respectful lines of communication with grantees. This is particularly important in negotiating grant terms in places where people may have different ideas about what needs to be done, or who may have trouble articulating them in ways that U.S. grantmakers are used to.

  • Clarify your own expectations for contact and reporting. Try to be clear from the start about how a grant will be evaluated for success. The objective, grantmakers explain, is to build relationships in which grantees feel able to alert you to problems early enough to do something about them.
  • Familiarize yourself with the communications culture in which you are working. For example, the director of a small family foundation was surprised at how negatively grantees and applicants reacted to her written communications: “In an oral culture like Haiti — about 80 percent are illiterate — the written word has a weight that I’d never encountered. What is written is treated as a legal document for all intents and purposes. I'd been working with Haitians for a long time, and it was only when we started this regular exchange of [written] memos that I [realized] I can’t think out loud on paper. I really have to do a lot of that on the phone, and certain things I just had better not write at all. Because when I start writing, the bells go off, the windows slam down."
  • Draw on guidance from local colleagues or consultants.
  • Decide how to handle language differences. In what language will you communicate with grantees, potential grantees, and the wider public? Will you hire translators, or can translation be handled by your staff? Can you afford to supply translation services for your grantees? Can you handle translation in-house, by relying on your own staff? What forms and documents might need to be translated? Are good translators readily available? If not, what can you and your grantees do to locate people with the right skills? If you communicate in English only, will you fail to reach certain groups?

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from International Grantmaking.