Why funders and the not-for-profits they help 'need to talk'

Posted on 19 Jun 2019


United States research reveals a disconnection between funders' perceptions of the way they're helping, and the reality for the not-for-profits on the receiving end.

The report Strengthening Grantees: Foundation and Nonprofit Perspectives, published late last year by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), found that foundations are out-of-touch with grantseekers' needs.

According to the study, US not-for-profits are most in need of help with fundraising, staffing and communications. Those organisations also say that general operating support - what would be described in this part of the world as core funding - has the biggest impact on their strength.

CEP graphic

The study, based on a survey of 170 not-for-profit CEOs as well as 187 foundation leaders, shows strong similarities to concerns raised by grantseekers on this side of the Pacific.

Our Community's Grants in Australia studies (2017 and 2018) and the Asia Pacific Social Impact Centre (ASPIC) report Philanthropy: Towards a better practice model highlighted a "disconnection" between grantmakers' and grantseekers' perceptions of the help being provided.

"Non-profits and foundation funders are not in alignment in how they view funders' roles in strengthening non-profit organisations, how much they believe funders care about grantee organisations' overall health, and how aware they believe funders are of grantees' needs," said CEP vice president Ellie Buteau, who co-authored the report.

Part of the issue is that grantseekers are saying what funders want to hear, not what they really want.

She said that both funders and recipients must both play a role in narrowing that gap through better communication and to break this unproductive cycle.

"Nonprofits should ask for what they really need - not what they think funders want to provide - and foundations should be working to minimise the power dynamics that prevent non-profit CEOs from feeling that they can ask for what they need," Ms Buteau said.


Download now: Strengthening Grantees: Foundation and Nonprofit Perspectives

Grantee voice: Provide more assistance beyond the grant (six-part series)

AIGM publications: Grants in Australia (2018) | Grants in Australia (2017)

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) is a not-for-profit aimed at informing and improving the work of philanthropic funders, and is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and San Francisco, California.