Getting the Most From Technical Assistance

  • Technical assistance can’t solve everything. As one grantmaker observed, technical assistance is “no substitute for the three things you really need — a strong entrepreneur, a strong idea, and a strong market.” Even with those elements in place, he cautioned, it’s sometimes necessary to admit that external solutions won’t fix an organization’s problems: “I was a technical assistance provider before I came to the foundation, and I saw a lot of situations where advice was not going to solve the problem.”
  • Grantees need some degree of choice and control. Some funders pointed to what they called the “third-party payer problem,” or the tendency of funding organizations to hire technical assistance providers directly, with the grantee exercising little discretion or control. Said one: “I’m increasingly of the mind that money and responsibility need to flow to the main client. The grantee needs to be deeply involved in selecting their technical assistance, and they need to have the authority to fire them if the work isn’t what they need. Why not just give them a grant and say, ’Use these resources to get the work done’?”

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 Working with Start-Ups.