What Grantees Want: Championing Your Partners and Their Work - Exponent Philanthropy
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What Grantees Want: Championing Your Partners and Their Work

Photo by George Milton

The relationship between funders and grantees goes beyond the mere exchange of financial support. It’s about fostering mutual respect, trust, and collaboration to drive meaningful change. Yet, one aspect often overlooked is the profound impact that active championing can have on the work of grantee partners.

Delving into insights gleaned from our Grantee and Applicant Perception Surveys (GAPS), it is evident that grantees and applicants want funders and foundations to step into a more proactive role in championing their organizations and endeavors.

The following anonymous quotes are a small sample of common GAPS responses:

“Good communications work is extremely expensive. We deeply appreciate promotion of our successes.”

“Does the foundation have a newsletter or other communication avenues where it can highlight our work?”

“Stories of impact from grantees and partners would be a great way to increase credibility and make efforts more visible.”

Let’s explore why championing matters, the invaluable role it plays in amplifying success stories, and how it can elevate the collective impact of your philanthropic efforts.

Learn More About the Grantee and Applicant Perception Survey »

The Benefits of Championing Grantees

Foundations have many different channels where they can elevate grantee partners and their work at relatively little additional cost. Our members highlight a number of benefits:

Developing Additional Funding Streams

Foundations pay attention to what their peers support. And lean foundations are known for making bets on new and creative ideas – to be first-in. The new projects, pilot initiatives, and emerging fields that lean funders support can catch the attention of larger foundations. 

Raising Grantee Profiles 

Likewise, elected officials and other public decision-makers, journalists, and leaders in your field look to you and other foundations in your area to learn about dynamic nonprofit organizations. These leaders may be interested in learning more about your grantees, and potentially collaborating with them.

“Not many foundations focus like we do on funding civil legal services. So, we’re trying to make other potential partners aware of what we do and why we do it, to encourage people to get in touch with us with field-specific ideas, innovations, and partnerships.”

Akilah Browne of FurtherJustice in New York, NY

Expanding Your Network and Nurturing Collaboration 

Spotlighting your partners can be a way of identifying organizations working in your field or issue that are unknown to you. Groups that reach out to your partners and to you have the potential to become grantees, coalition members, or collaborators in other ways.

“Our communications strategy aims to create connections among folks who may have familiarity with each other but haven’t connected yet, and those who have never heard of nor met each other before. For instance, two partners in a grant program knew each other through our quarterly learning community gatherings. However, they connected one-on-one after they attended a webinar and read a follow-up newsletter interview featuring one partner’s work. It was such a fruitful and synergistic point of connection for both organizations, that a team member from one actually joined the other’s advisory committee.”

Megan Cook of the Rx Foundation in Hadley, MA

How To Champion Grantees

In this section, we’ll delve into practical strategies and approaches that can empower funders to champion grantees effectively.

List Grantees on Your Website

Many foundations have websites where they publish their mission and grant guidelines. This is also a great place to list grantees. Here are examples from the Exponent Philanthropy community:

Tzedek Social Justice Fund (Asheville, NC) Grantees

Share Grantee Communications

Members also use their websites, social media, and other channels to share grantee communications and elevate their events like arts performances, lectures and discussions, and conferences. The Cullen Foundation in Buffalo, New York promotes summer arts events hosted by grantees, including outdoor concerts, festivals, and theatre productions.   

Cedar Tree Foundation (Boston, MA) Grantee Stories

Write About Partners and Host Webinars

Exponent members produce content about partners, from writing short pieces to creating articles, interviews, and blogs. One foundation publishes Q&As with selected grantees, while another hosts webinars with partners to help audiences learn about their work in more depth.

Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation (Belfast, ME) Fellow Stories

Lean funders who are supporting new and emerging fields or movements write about a cohort of grantees doing innovative work to help the public learn about the field or approach and build interest among potential collaborators and stakeholders. Foundations that support individuals such as researchers, activists, artists, and social entrepreneurs also use these strategies to highlight work they believe in. To manage this work, some funders choose one grantee each month to highlight. Here are examples:

Publish a Newsletter

Some lean funders produce newsletters that they use to distribute content about their partners. Below are examples:

How to Build a Newsletter Distribution List

Our members that publish newsletters say to start small and gradually build a list over time.

  • Invite your board members, committee members, grantees, advisors, and consultants to sign up for your newsletter and ask them to invite their contacts.
  • After each meeting you have with stakeholders (such as other funders, people working in your field or issue, and government staff) ask if you can add them to your mailing list. Sign them up directly rather than waiting for them to sign up.
  • Create a place where visitors can sign up for your newsletter on your website homepage, and the page where you publish your mission and guidelines. Remember to make it clear how people can unsubscribe.

How Grantees Think Funders Can Improve
Funders want to be the best versions of themselves. A critical step on that journey is getting feedback from grantees. Over the past two years, we’ve surveyed more than 400 nonprofits to learn what lean funders do well and where they can improve. Get your free copy now »

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Andy Carroll advises staff, trustees, and donors of leanly staffed foundations in leadership, advocacy, and catalytic philanthropy. He works to empower more leanly-staffed foundations to leverage their unique position and assets to catalyze change on important issues. Andy has an MBA from the University of Michigan Business School and 30 years of experience in management, training, and program development for nonprofit organizations. Follow him on Twitter @andycarrollexpo, and check out his Catalytic Philanthropy Podcast. 

Hannah Smith creates and updates content with member foundations and Exponent Philanthropy staff, upholding editorial quality and maintaining the voice of our CEO and organization.

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