Relationship Lens

The way in which funders engage and build relationships with grantees matters deeply. Indeed, nearly every story of successful capacity building we heard highlighted the importance of funders and grantees being connected in open and honest two-way dialogue. We were told repeatedly that how funders approach grantee relationships can either build the trust needed to authentically interchange with grantees about their capacity strengths and challenges — or not. From nonprofits we heard, “Relationships are best built when grantees feel empowered to drive a conversation” and “when the funder doesn’t react with stress or angst if grantees share a challenge or shortcoming.”

Given that funder-grantee relationships are, at their core, constructed around the premise of money, which funders have and grantees want, it can be tricky to break into trusted conversation territory. From both funders and nonprofits we heard, “Relationship building takes time,” especially time when funding isn’t always the underlying subject of conversation.

However your foundation does it, “Trust needs to be built so you can ask grantees capacitybuilding questions without them wondering or worrying what your intentions are,” says one funder. “Not only might nonprofits feel uncomfortable divulging capacity issues, but so many nonprofits are acculturated to ask for project — not capacity-building — support because that is more the norm. Discussing capacity meaningfully requires a different kind of conversation than most grantees are used to having with foundations.

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 Supporting Grantee Capacity.