Funders: Lead the Change

Last week, I had lunch with a funder (let’s call him Scott) who shared some surprising recent experiences. He had been reviewing proposals in which the respondents referred to reports that had recently been completed for other funders. Scott visited those funders’ websites and could not find the reports. It begs the question: How often are funders paying for the same work over and over again? Shouldn’t they be making more of their reports public, as well as sharing more information with one another?

Scott went on to say that just before he declined three grantees, he heard that there was another foundation getting ready to award the three organizations capacity building grants. Scott called the funder to explore what messages he could share with the grantees to strengthen the work they would be doing with the other funder. That funder was floored and couldn’t understand the “real reason” Scott was calling. It’s a terrific, yet frustrating, example of how funders are, for the most part, not working together, or sharing information with one another.

In a world in which we are all inundated with information, where we are often too busy to pull our head out of the weeds and see the big picture, where there are thousands of people and organizations trying to make our community a better place, it feels next to impossible to try to find a solution for this problem of how we can work better together. In the nonprofit sector, funders hold the key. Funders are the influencers. Funders have the power, although they are often reluctant to use it. Funders can lead the change. Funders can set the example for how to work together, to share information, to stop the duplication of efforts. I challenge funders everywhere to lead this change.

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