August 25, 2011

Train Wreck, or True Philanthropic Partnership?

By: The Bridgespan Group
There are many ways to create results as a funder. But if you’re a donor who mostly funds nonprofit organizations, your results are their results. How then, besides selecting the right organizations, can you help them succeed?

We’ve found that true funding partnerships are marked by two things–first, a shared vision of success; and second, a strong working relationship. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. Imagine that you fund an afterschool program about which you feel passionately. Your idea of growth is to work more deeply in the community, but the nonprofit CEO’s goal is to grow to 50 cities. Or perhaps you would prefer to get more involved and sit on the board of this organization, while the leader would prefer just a check.
  In these situations, no one is right—each viewpoint is supported by personal belief and good intentions. The problem is you end up with misalignment that likely won’t produce the results you hope to see. When considering your relationship with your grantee, to what extent do you have shared goals and a productive relationship? Would you say you have a true philanthropic partnership, or does this pairing constitute a train wreck?

Strategies for improving your relationship do exist—for example, actively clarifying the strategic disconnects around shared goals and identifying practical ways to better communicate. For more on how to diagnose your relationships and ways to make them better, click here.

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