Nothing About Me Without Me

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

GEO guide

This past week marked the release of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations’ newest action learning guide – Do Nothing About Me Without Me: An Action Guide for Engaging Stakeholders.  IISC is pr0ud to be a co-publisher of and contributor to the publication, which builds on our work with GEO staff facilitating Engage for Results.  Essentially this seminar walks foundation staff through a series of strategic questions and tools for engaging grantees, community members, and other stakeholders in their grantmaking.  Worth highlighting here is what GEO and IISC identify as being core to the case for funders doing more to involve others in their work:

  • Deeper understanding of problems. In light of the complexity of the issues most foundations, and those they fund, are setting out to tackle, it behooves funders to engage a multiplicity of perspectives in any given system to develop a clearer and more coherent picture of where and how to intervene.
  • Truer sense of grantee needs and challenges. Research indicates how quickly foundation staff who were previously community-based grantees, lose touch with the needs of those in the community once they change roles.  Furthermore, Barry Oshry’s work reminds us that where we sit in an organization or larger system impacts what we see and how we think.  The bottom line: It’s hard to know what grantees or communities truly need, and how to meet those needs more effectively, if you don’t ask.
  • Improved strategy. A 2009 study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy identified a clear link between foundation leaders being more strategic and higher levels of stakeholder engagement.  Quoting the authors, “More strategic leaders . . . look beyond the foundation’s internal processes for budgeting or grantee selection. … [They] seek
    input from grantees, stakeholders, beneficiaries, and consultants when developing their strategies.”
  • Greater effectiveness. GEO’s 2008 national survey found that foundations that have staff with nonprofit experience were significantly more likely to have “grantee-friendly” practices in place in areas ranging from soliciting grantee feedback to providing the types of support that will most contribute to grantee success.  The basis for much of this, from IISC’s perspective, is greater trust and genuine partnership between funders and grantees.

What else would you add to making the case for stakeholder engagement in grantmaking?  Where and how have you seen this be most effective?

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