While listening to some research highlights about Native American philanthropy yesterday, I got to wondering: Why have grantmaking methods changed so little since the 20th century? What are the invisible roadblocks that are preventing us from adopting 21st-century grantmaking practices?
In the Native Voices Rising report are 17 recommendations to increase grantmaking effectiveness and impact. Although written from a Native perspective, these suggested changes could be adapted for nearly any cultural or issue-based group:
- Provide increased funding for Native organizing.
- Provide more general operating and capacity-building support.
- Make long-term multi-year funding commitments.
- Fund grassroots Native organizations directly.
- Invest in leadership development.
- Support Native intermediaries that are solidly grounded in Native movements.
- Support income-generating activities such as social enterprises.
- Support development of the telecommunications/media infrastructure.
- Provide on-going operating support to voter engagement organizations beyond national election cycles in order to sustain progress and momentum.
- Incorporate interdisciplinary grant approaches that draw funds from multiple foundation program categories to support organizations and projects conducting work at the intersection of those programs, e.g., culture and environment.
- Listen and learn about Native communities, including issues, needs, and aspirations.
- Be more responsive than directive; find common interests.
- Communicate information about grant programs more broadly in the Native world.
- Conduct research on needs in the field in partnership with Native organizations.
- Look beyond the small population numbers as compared to other racial/ethnic groups.
- Bring Natives into the foundation as staff, board members and resource people, involving them in shaping and implementing foundation programs.
- Pool funds from small grant funders to streamline the grants application process and reporting requirements.
If you are a grantmaker, or if you work anywhere in the independent sector, I expect you’ve seen versions of these recommendations many times before. So what is hindering our adoption of these 21st-century grantmaking practices? I confess I don’t have the answers, but I bet you do.
Join the Conversation
Grantmakers, which of these recommendations have you already incorporated in your work? Which new practices would make the greatest difference to your grantees’ success? And which would dramatically improve your grantmaking effectiveness?
Please share your experiences. Together we can identify and break down the barriers to change.
— Wendy Wehr, v.p. of communications and information services