An interesting article was brought to my attention this morning by a tweet from one of our CausePlanet contributors, Michaela Hayes. Published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review and written by Kristi Kimball and Malka Kopell, “Letting Go” highlights a handful of ways that foundations are getting in the way of their grantees’ work. Micromanaging is just one of the ways that foundations undermine the work of their recipients, say Kimball and Kopell, who work within the foundation world.
In fact, the first problem was described as “foundation-designed solutions.” Crutchfield, Kania and Kramer discuss this problem in Do More Than Give. The Do More authors describe number four of their six best practices as “empower the people,” which explains that when foundations or donors sit shoulder to shoulder with recipients and even the communities’ served at the same table, creating social change becomes more collaborative and results-oriented rather than the give, spend and report cycle, we typically see between grantor and grantee. Crutchfield, Kania and Kramer say that catalytic donors view individuals as “essential participants” in the process of solving problems for themselves. Listening to stakeholders is a powerful engine for change because of the ideas that emerge and the solutions that result from brainstorming.
Another problem Kimball and Kopell expose from their view inside the foundation world is that funders typically make grants with “tunnel vision.” They choose one organization to make the change they are looking for in the entire system. “Instead of letting 1,000 flowers bloom, they think they can afford just one variant. But focusing narrowly on one solution is a fragile strategy, particularly in complex, unpredictable environments,” say Kimball and Kopell. Do More authors would agree by sharing best practice number three, which is “forging nonprofit peer networks.” Instead of focusing on a few grantees, donors are in a unique position to look at an issue in its entirety and call for convenings among all nonprofits who focus on the same issue to benefit from information sharing and collective impact.