The question of how a foundation will set its agenda is often a central issue in its development. This article explores the different grantmaking styles and how they can be used to develop a schedule that is responsive to the needs of its donors. It also argues that whether a funded partner or funder sets the plan is not so much whether they are doing so but whether they can create a solid generative partnership.
Explaining Responsive Grantmaking
One of the most common styles of grantmaking is responsive grantmaking, which allows for the grantees’ involvement in shaping the agenda. This type of approach also allows for the acceptance of unsolicited proposals and flexible project designs. Usually, the foundation will only define a portion of the issue that needs to be addressed. Still, it can give significant latitude to address it most appropriately.
The main drivers of responsive grantmaking are modesty and prudence. This approach usually assumes that other people have more knowledge about the issue than the funder. Funders looking to work outside their region or zone of experience are more likely to adopt this approach.
In responsive grantmaking, the funder is encouraged to work beyond the pragmatism of who knows what to advocate for action in a specific area or at the grassroots. This philosophy goes beyond the usual approach of working towards a particular outcome. The relationship between the funded partner and the funder is also a central component of this approach.
One of the main disadvantages of responsive grantmaking is that it tends to focus on a project-by-project approach, which can limit the ability of the funder to generalize from its experience. Since the funder is not actively involved in setting the agenda and the execution of the project, it can be challenging for the funder to commit to achieving goals and improving the results of its grantmaking.
The public and regulators’ expectations regarding grantmakers’ ability to be accountable for their results can also conflict with this type of approach.
Overall, responsive philanthropy involves giving funds in response to a known need or to support a specific project. It puts money into the hands of the nonprofits best fit to meet those needs.