8 Tools Grantmakers Frequently Forget to Use
by Kris Putnam-Walkerly, Putnam Consulting
When most people think about philanthropy, it's all about the money. But cold, hard cash is just one of many tools in a donor's tool belt. And some of those non-cash tools are far more effective when it comes to addressing grantee needs and community challenges. Here are eight tools philanthropists can - and should - use more often:
Who are the people you know, and how could you make introductions or referrals for your grantees? If you're like most people, you probably have a broader list of contacts than you realize. Don't be afraid to use it. Think about the other funders, accountants, attorneys, consultants, government employees, and nonprofit leaders you've met. How could these people help your grantees or partners? Once you get started, I think you'll be amazed at the connections you can make.
2. Knowledge and Intellectual Capital
What do you know about your community, about local politics, about other funders, about the issues? How and when can you share that information in ways that can support your grantees? For example, one individual donor who worked in Cleveland took her experience and contacts in creating a plan for preschool access to a new home in North Carolina. Another used her knowledge of her city’s downtown redevelopment plans to help a nonprofit work with the city to create job opportunities for low-income residents.
Chances are, you have specific experience in certain areas that can translate to advice and guidance for grantees. Perhaps earlier in your career you designed a business plan to reach new markets. Maybe you led a successful marketing initiative. Perhaps your organization merged with another organization. Maybe you were a whiz at finance or technology. When you became a funder, you didn't wipe the slate clean - you brought your entire past experience with you, and you can use it to help your grantees. Just be sure to offer it with humility, and only when a grantee seems willing. No one wants to be forced to learn from your experience against his or her will!
As a funder, your reputation, both personal and professional, can help open doors for grantees. Speaking up for grantees and endorsing their work to other funders can help leverage further investments. Advocating on their behalf can help ensure better policies and regulations. And calling attention to their successes can encourage others to replicate it.
5. Physical Space
Your corporate board room, country club, even your house can provide valuable meeting space for a grantee's staff retreat. Or, use your space to host an event, sans rental fee. Even providing a small space for a quiet conversation between diverse community stakeholders can help solve shared challenges and move everyone forward.
6. Convening Power
As a funder, you have an unmatched ability to bring together either disagreeing factions or would-be partners in a safe, neutral and controlled environment. You can also provide facilitators or mediators to help move their conversations forward and enhance their outcomes. One small family foundation learned that the leaders of local substance abuse treatment centers had little interaction, except for an annual meeting where they competed for county funding. The foundation brought them together to build relationships, identify needs, and create new collaborations, resulting in improved services for the community.
The choices you make about where you invest in can have a huge impact on grantees. Mission investing can align the stewardship of your charitable corpus with your stated values. The simplest example of mission investing is an environmental foundation that invests its assets in green energy companies. There also are ways to make program related investments (PRIs) in local organizations, similar to providing a loan. PRIs can provide much-needed capital that's truly seen as a vote of confidence rather than a handout. Practices like program-related investing and mission investing boost the capacity and confidence of individual organizations, conscientious companies or even entire fields.
8. Ability to Take Risks
Funders often are hesitant to try new ideas and learn from them, because they seem to operate under the assumption that failure will somehow discredit them. But as one of my favorite foundation CEOs says, "If this doesn't work, are people going to stop coming to us for money?" You have broad latitude in which to take risks. Use it.
Ready to do more than make grants? Here's a suggestion to help you get started: Set aside time to discuss each of these tools and how you can deploy them. Then, either pick one or two and document how you're using them, or choose one particular grantmaking initiative and see how you can deploy all eight. Keep a record of what you do and the outcomes you see, and I guarantee you'll never go back to a "grantmaking only" mindset again!
Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a global philanthropy advisor and was recently named one of "America's Top 25 Philanthropy Speakers." Her latest book, Confident Giving: Sage Advice for Funders, is available on Amazon.com. www.putnam-consulting.com The Putnam Consulting Group is part of AEF’s Philanthropic Advisory Firm Referral Program.