A fair number of the grantmakers I came into contact with during my years writing and managing grants were cognizant of the power dynamics inherent in grantor/grantee relationships. They treated me and the organization I worked for with respect, listening intently and making themselves available to provide guidance and support. These grantmakers recognized that developing authentic relationships with their grantees led to honest conversations and, ultimately, better outcomes.
When I transitioned from a “grant-seeking” role to a “grant-making” role, it was important to me not only to remember what I had learned from these grantmakers but also to put these lessons into action. I was fortunate to join the staff of a family foundation that is deliberate about placing a strong emphasis on grantee/grantor relationships. We see ourselves as the generalists and our grantees as the experts. We’re careful to tread lightly in issuing directives to our grantees, and we spend a lot of time serving as a listening ear. Do we get it right every time? No, we don’t. But we’re working on it!