Funders Forget Their Influence

Have you ever had to let a staff member go? Regardless of the circumstances, it is an awful experience. It usually requires lots of documentation, and endless conversations to cover all of your bases and look at the situation from every angle.

I don’t think that funders realize that sometimes, they also are the cause for endless conversations. Regardless of whether it’s a “meet and greet,” a “pitch,” or a “this-isn’t-going-as-we-had-planned” meeting, nonprofits spend hours preparing for these meetings and making sure that the “t’s” are crossed and the “i’s” are dotted. (At least, most stellar, responsible nonprofits do this type of preparation.) And usually, there are questions that need to be responded to as a follow-up, and that requires more hours of work. And, quite frankly, if we all acknowledge the relationships, it doesn’t have to be this hard. That is why I loved Kris Putnam-Walkerly’s recent article, “Are You the Bottleneck for Effective Giving?” Anything a funder does, says, or decides has an impact on its grantees and partners.

I sat in a meeting last week when the funder declared, “I want to see all the data!” It seemed a bit extreme and not the right approach. I was in another meeting where a different funder got frustrated with the lack of response from grantees, and I had to carefully point out the power dynamic to the funder. (I was prepared to be told to leave the room, but somebody had to say it.) It was just another reminder that sometimes funders don’t remember the power they wield. Putnam-Walkerly’s 3-minute article provides some good reminders, so be sure to read it.

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