Change Incubator Lessons Learned

At last month’s closing retreat for the Change Incubator, participants reflected on their own learning journeys, and we lifted up some common themes across the teams. While we learned a lot about grantee inclusion, we learned perhaps even more about change management and leadership. Here are five key lessons learned from our pilot program, along with examples from our participating foundations.

What Are Some Whys and Hows of Grantee Inclusion?

Justin Laing—program officer at The Heinz Endowments, a cohort participant of GEO’s Change Incubator—shares grantee inclusion practices co-created with two members of its Transformative Arts Process (TAP) Advisory Board.

The importance of community engagement

“Better solutions are created when organizational leaders spend the time to better understand the voice of community members and partner with their community members to address the problems.” Troy Bush-DiDonato, community engagement officer at Episcopal Health Foundation—a GEO Change Incubator cohort participant—explains how the foundation is building the capacity of its grantees and partners to […]

Addressing the Power Dynamic Through ‘Little Leaps of Logic’

This post is the second in a series that shares lessons Independent Sector learned through its 2016 initiative to address power dynamics in the charitable sector. Read more here.

Trust-based grantmaking: What it is, and why it’s critical to our sector

From a grantee’s perspective on why it is important for funders start with trust.

5 Core Practices of Grantee-Centric Philanthropy

Grantee-centric practices create funder interactions that strengthen a grantee’s ability to achieve their outcomes, and address the power imbalance of typical funding relationships. The grantee-centric funder shows understanding and empathy for social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders.

The Whitman Institute’s Trust-Based Grantmaking Approach

The Whitman Institute believes that investing in equity requires that our giving practices demonstrate equity. We strive to walk our talk through respectful, trusting relationships with grantees, funders and investors, and other colleagues.

Winter Is Here, and the Wall Between Funders and Nonprofits Must Come Down

Grantmakers and nonprofits can face today’s pressing social issues only if we break down the walls between us and see each other as partners on the same side. Read the full article here.

Grantee Inclusion for Community Empowerment

Grantee inclusion can help correct the power imbalance not only between foundations and nonprofits, but also between marginalized communities and the broader power structures that perpetuate inequity. Read the full article here.

Start with a Shared Vision

True grantee-funder partnerships are based on a shared vision of the future. Creating a strategy to achieve that vision requires listening and clearly defining roles. Read the full article here.

Pleasantly Surprised by What’s Inside Pandora’s Box

It’s critical to test different approaches to grantee inclusion and to incorporate new learning along the way. Read the full article here.

When Organizational Change Fails

Many organizational challenges are not technical at their core; they are cultural. There are times when we must not only change the things we do and the way we do them, but also how we think and feel about our roles and our organization.

Getting to the Heart of Healthy Funder-Grantee Relationships

Three practices successful social sector partnerships can adopt to improve their alignment and generate better results. Read the full article here.

Grantee Inclusion: A Step Towards Mutual Accountability?

Grantee inclusion is not sufficiently powerful to transform grantee-funder relationships, but it might present a vision for a sector that more evenly shares power. Read the full article here.

The Gift of Grantee Inclusion

Grantee inclusion requires learning, risk-taking, and letting go of cherished behaviors and ways of working to make progress.

Walking a Different Kind of Grantmaker Walk

By actively moving into the roles of advocate and partner for grantees, grantmakers can cultivate trusting, transparent relationships that ultimately translate into social impact.

Four Ways to Bridge the Grantee-Grantmaker Power Gap in Collective Impact

As grassroots and “grass-tops” groups come together to create collective impact, funders have the power to foster truly authentic engagement and co-ownership among all.

Four Dating Tips to Sustain Strong Grantmaker-Grantee Relationships

Relationships take work—and those between grantees and grantmakers are no exception. Read the full article here.

From The Kids’ Table To The Adults’ Table – Taking Relationships Seriously in a World of Networks

We are seeing concrete examples of what can happen when funders recognize relationships as having a place at the theory-of-change table. Read the full article here.

Ask Questions, First to Learn but Then to Act

Now, more than ever, grantmakers are asking questions and working to learn with and from their grantees. But whatever grantmakers learn from grantees, the lessons matter only if they inform future action and if grantmakers report back to grantees about the impact of their input.

Who’s Getting Paid to Advance Grantee Inclusion?

It’s time to recognize how inequity shapes funders’ choice of partners. Read the full article here.

Grantee Inclusion: What’s It All About?

Including grantees in decision-making, program-building, and strategy is critical to effective social impact. While the things grantmakers “do” are important, authentic inclusion also requires that they embrace a new mindset.

Funders and nonprofit leaders need to get on the same side of the table…and share a beverage

When he declared July 8, 2016 “Get a Beer and Undo Nonprofit Power Dynamics” Day, Vu Le tapped into something really important. Many trustees, program officers and nonprofit leaders are pretty terrible at having real conversations with each other. Imagine how powerful it would be if we could sit together over a beer and discuss the real challenges at hand.

The Difference Between Feedback and Power

Feedback is important. It helps organizations know how their programs are received and whether the beneficiaries feel that the programs are making a difference… But is getting feedback revolutionary? Read the full article here.

What Grantee Inclusion Means to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation faces a significant reduction in its annual grantmaking dollars. In light of this shift, the foundation feels it is critical to hear from its grantees about what the foundation can do to remain a key partner and further the nonprofits’ work despite a smaller annual budget.

Are Nonprofits Ready to Give Foundations Direct Feedback?

With several philanthropy organizations calling for more openness, and the rise of social media, the Internet, and the proliferation of crowdsourcing tools, the environment seems ripe to push for this cultural shift—and to keep pushing—but we know it will be a monumental task. Foundation leaders, affinity groups, and regional grantmaker associations are hesitant to openly critique their peers while nonprofit leaders are loath to share their honest opinions with their funders.

Philanthropy Lessons: Who Knows More?

Why don’t foundations check in with their customer base more often? Foundations don’t have to “sell” their grants – they are pretty much guaranteed that there is a market for grant dollars out there. But just because people ask for grants, it doesn’t mean that grant dollars are being deployed in the most useful, impactful way. Seeking feedback is key.

Placing Big Bets with the Change Incubator

When GEO launched the Change Incubator last year, we were making three big bets. Six months into the first cohort, we have plenty to feel good about, but we are very much in the “messy middle” and many questions remain.

Adaptive Leadership: The Next Requirement for Sustainable Community Health Improvements?

Organizational leaders frequently apply technical solutions to adaptive challenges, which makes their efforts at change all but impossible, wastes times and dispirits teams. Foundations are in a unique position to drive significant change by leveraging adaptive leadership skills – stretching beyond technical grantmaking activities to help communities identify the problems they seek to solve.

Community Foundations as Catalysts for Community-Led Change

Too many programs are done to communities and not for them. Grantmakers must hold themselves accountable to the residents of those communities if they want their work to benefit them sustainably. Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, based in southwest Connecticut, is taking this approach with the PT Partners initiative, a model for engaging and training public housing residents to lead change in their neighborhoods.