Recently, members of the Satterberg Foundation Board and staff met with our Southern California-based Community Partners (California Community Foundation, Liberty Hill Foundation, San Diego Grantmakers, and Southern California Grantmakers). This gathering gave us a chance to explore one of our favorite topics of interest: building meaningful, two-way relationships with grantees. The following are some of the more salient points from the conversation…
Creating Space & Setting the Table
- A good way to build trust is to be forthright about expectations of the relationship. It’s very important to consider: Are you looking to discover something actionable or just have a conversation?
- Provide useful prompts and frames when bringing multiple stakeholders together.
- Do everything possible to create a safe space for conversation. Lead with your own vulnerability, if necessary. It may convince others to open up as well.
- Build in numerous touch points within the relationship; familiarity doesn’t breed contempt! *Usually
- Challenge your own orthodoxies and assumptions. Admit to failure.
Concept of Reciprocal Influence
How do we build 1:1 relationships so that both parties are supported and have something to gain? We need to influence grantees to help us understand their space and perspective. We also need to open ourselves to letting their perspective influence our work. A shared analysis of the relationship is necessary, one that is open about the power imbalance of funding, and gives some power to the grantee to be comfortable in providing constructive feedback.
Elements of Ongoing Relationships
- Spend time together, in a variety of settings. Everyone has different comfort zones, and it’s essential to try to find what those are.
- Balance accountability vs. mission: Is everyone’s mission being heard and furthered? Does everyone have skin in the game?
- Make sure that the relationship is generative. Don’t put grantees through the motions just to fill arbitrary requirements.
- Personal touch and outreach are important: while there is some method to building multiple relationships, it shouldn’t be templated.
- Provide space for qualitative storytelling. Not everything can be cleanly translated into measurables, especially working in the amorphous area of social change.
- Following convenings, ask for feedback, and then incorporate it for the next time.
Bonus Track: Liberty Hill’s 7 Keys to Relationships with Grantees
- Relationships are long-term
- Understanding their perspective from their perspective
- Responsive Approach (Satterberg does this, and this is great!)
- Feedback & Evaluation: How they experience our trainings, granting process, and incorporate this feedback (put our skin in the game)
- Go to bat for them (with other funders, legislators, etc)
- Integrity-putting our values into action
- Mutual Accountability– For grantees: reporting, etc. For foundations: Confronting/not ignoring the power imbalance and to be sensitive to it. Foundations are asking organizations to be vulnerable with their strengths and weaknesses. Foundations should not be fooled by their own rhetoric.