Communicating Clearly With Grantees

The quality of communication as a grant is ending depends a lot on the quality of the existing relationship. “How the ending goes will probably mirror what the relationship was like all along,” said one funder, “and it will also be affected by the personalities of the main players.” On a practical level, grantees facing the exit of a funder like to have clear, timely information about why the grant is ending, when the end is coming, and whether or not there’s reason to hope for more money. Here are some tips:

  • Provide some context. Explain the situation to the grantee directly and personally. “Grantees are not babies,” said one experienced education grantmaker, “and we shouldn’t condescend to them as if they were. Of course, we should be polite and respectful, but above all honest.”

  • Get everyone on the same page. “Everyone at the foundation should be communicating consistently,” said a grantmaker who has also been a grantee, “as a matter of policy and training.” “It’s absolutely vital to have your supervisors involved,” said a program officer at a large foundation, “especially when the grantee is a big institution with lots of connections or has been getting funding for a long time.”

  • Be consistent yourself. Along similar lines, one long-time grantmaker warned, “It’s easy to personalize the message in ways that can be confusing to the grantee and detrimental to the foundation.” Her advice: “Don’t say things like ‘If it were up to me’ or ‘I tried to make the case, but in hopes of making the situation more acceptable.” In fact, she said, trying to soften the message can undermine your own role. “If the message appears inconsistent, of course they’ll try to go around you to others in the foundation. Who wouldn’t?”

  • Talk about exiting early and often. “It needs to be a long and sustained process of conversation that begins at the start and intensifies over time.” Moreover, she added, “it’s naïve to think grantees want to hear about ending, so it’s important to talk about it often.” One of her grantees added a further note of advice: “The grantmaker should be talking about this from the beginning — and not just in writing!”

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by GrantCraft using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from The Effective Exit.


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