Using it With Grantees: Gender Analysis in Grantmaking (Organizations)

  1. Think “compatibility,” not “compliance.” Grantmakers concerned about their grantees’ diversity expressed a dilemma. On the one hand, they believe their foundations are not only entitled to their values but have a right to look for grantees who share them. On the other hand, they are reluctant to interfere in and sit in judgment on the values of grant seekers. “We have aspirations,” commented one grantmaker, “but we’re not trying to manipulate people. We want them to share our values.”

    To resolve that tension, grantmakers often position their concerns about gender equity within a broader discussion of institutional values — with the goal of allowing both grantor and grantee to make an informed decision about their compatibility. The most important part of the process is to articulate the foundation’s own values. “Most of our grant applicants recognize we’re concerned about equity and access,” explained one grant maker whose foundation makes its values clear. “People expect us to ask these things.”

  2. Show your institution’s own struggles. Some grantmakers disclose not only their values but also their own efforts to realize them internally. Explaining why he thinks most of his grantees “wouldn’t say we’re heavyhanded and pushy,” a grantmaker from a family foundation said, “I start by talking about us and what we’re trying to do in our own organization…It makes it much more comfortable.” Another, much bigger foundation shows grantees data tracking changes over a number of years in the composition of its own staff and board — from a mostly white male institution to a much more diverse one. Sharing those data signals that the foundation acts on its own values and appreciates the effort required to change hiring and advancement patterns.
  3. Develop a timing strategy. Timing conversations about diversity can be important — and tricky. Grantmakers have to decide whether to raise diversity issues before a grant is awarded or after, and then work with the grantee to determine how long it might take to address the problems that could be uncovered.... Change takes time. If the grantee commits to improve its diversity, don’t underestimate the “time and space” required for the job. Many grantees “need lots of dialogue internally” to clarify their goals and plans, says one grant maker. “Anyone who understands how organizations work,” added another, “knows that trying to create too much change overnight can just backfire. It can destabilize everything.”

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 Grantmaking with a Gender Lens.