What Grantees Wish Grantmakers Knew

  • Learn more about the funding interests and specialties of other funders. As one nonprofit director explained, “I hear from start-up grantees all the time who tell me that they asked their program officer where to look for funding and were told, ‘I don’t know. Go ask my other grantees.’ Despite their affinity groups and conferences and other gatherings, a lot of program staff don’t seem to know what their colleagues in other foundations are doing. Why don’t they know this? Why can’t they mobilize to bring funders together?”
  • Don’t make a planning grant instead of saying no. Some grantees raised a concern about funders who support the planning stage but aren’t committed to helping the grantee act on the expert advice they receive, either because of funding limitations or ambivalence about the mission and goals of the start-up: “If you’re going to invest in technical assistance, be ready to support the follow-up. Funders often support strategic planning, but once the grantee has done the work and is ready to perform, the funder won’t provide further help.”
  • Recognize the importance of the second phase of innovation. People who lead organizations beyond the point of being good ideas are often frustrated by the next challenge they face: maintaining their funding by generating discrete projects. Just as they feel ready to build their organizations in earnest, they find that funders only want to know about individual initiatives, not the organization’s overall growth and effectiveness. “When you invest in IBM,” said one non- profit director, “you’re not investing in the development of a particular laptop. You’re investing in the continuing development of the organization. Couldn’t funders invest in a similar spirit in nonprofit organizations?”

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.