March 25, 2013
Effective Collaboration with Nonprofit Grantees: Three Lessons from Richard Atlas
The result? One cornerstone of Atlas's philanthropy is to build truly collaborative relationships with grantees. Here are three lessons other philanthropists can learn from his strategy.
Offer capacity-building support to grantees—and don’t presume you know what they need.
Atlas says that his approach in working with grantees is not just to build the program he's funding, but also to offer leadership development, staff development, and board development. And he doesn't assume he knows what his grantees need. Instead, Atlas believes it's important to ask grantees what they think. "The people who are on the ground doing the work know more about what their needs are than we do," he says. "We can ask them questions to make sure that we really understand and they really understand what they’re telling us, but for us to believe that we have the answers that they don’t have, I think is foolhardy and wasteful."
Ask grantees to evaluate your work.
To see the complete archive of Richard Atlas videos, see here
Connect grantees to other funders.
Atlas complements his money with his time. One important way: He works to connect grantees with other funders. "You have a fixed amount of dollars, you have a fixed amount of time, and yet you have ever-increasing demands on your assets," he says. He says that in any given year there's a hard boundary around what he's able to give. "If our agencies need more than what we can do, we will then get more involved in helping connect them with other funders," he says. "We will allocate more of the time asset to working with them than we otherwise might, and that time asset will be in helping them develop grant proposals or helping them frame an approach to a funder that they don’t have relationships with." Without a relationship, in Atlas's experience, such grant proposals are virtually doomed.
Richard Atlas's Key Messages for Other Donors
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