The purpose of the Grantee Engagement Team is to develop relationships with WaWF grantees in alignment with our grantmaking and community outreach strategies. In our second year, the team continued learning how to engage and support our grantees, following the principles of Trust-Based Philanthropy. We built on last year’s experience to build deeper relationships with our grantees, and learn what kind of support they need, and what we can offer. Our team had fun learning and sharing with each other and our grantees.
Leaning into Trust-Based Philanthropy
As we continued the transition to trust-based philanthropy and put the concept of “support beyond the check” into action, GET members agreed that we learned more about our grantees and built stronger and deeper relationships than ever before. Over the course of the year, small teams met with 13 organizations, with the frequency and type of meeting determined by the grantee. With a less demanding structure and flexible reports, we found more collaboration and relationship-building opportunities. GET was more action-oriented, and members reflected that their engagement with grantees felt more meaningful. Grantees repeatedly shared their appreciation for WaWF’s leadership in taking this approach and told us how much better an experience it was for them.
We began with the following goals:
- Use a Trust-Based Philanthropy approach to develop relationships with WaWF grantees.
- Solicit and respond to grantees’ requests for support, understanding our individual and organizational capacity.
- Help to engage the broader WaWF membership in supporting our grantees.
- Capture our learnings about relationship building and grantee support needs and use this knowledge to better serve our grantees in the future.
- Have fun and get to know each other better!
Through regular check-ins and a grantee survey, we learned a lot about what our grantees were dealing with, and the kinds of support we could offer. We used tools that were developed last year to identify WaWF resources, and we began using a new tool to help track this year’s requests and share information about our collective efforts to respond to these requests. With two years of experience now under our belts, we have a much better sense of our grantees’ needs and how we can support them.
Several themes have emerged:
- Training/learning/professional development
Grantees wanted information on where they could get training or learn about specific topics relevant to their work. We received requests for help with board and staff training, coaching, wellness programs and retreat facilitation, among others. We used our Resource Bank and collective connections to connect grantees with WaWF members and others who could respond to these requests.
Grantees requested support in building their community and making connections with other organizations facing similar challenges. Many GET members tapped their personal networks to make connections, and WaWF staff assisted with these requests as well. We also made several connections between grantees, both between organizations doing similar work, or embarking on a new project and needing insight from peers who had done something similar.
- Information sharing with WaWF members
Grantees frequently shared information with GET members for broader dissemination. This included updates about their work, calls for volunteers and board members, or invitations to events. With Isabelle’s assistance, we shared information in the WaWF newsletter, and other communication tools. GET members tapped into their networks, hosted house parties, and attended fundraisers, concerts, and other grantee events.
- Direct action
Grantees also requested support in the form of direct action. This included requests like supporting a specific campaign, finding event space, and identifying resources to help with planning for a summer camp.
- Staffing needs
Several grantees shared their challenges filling staff positions in a highly competitive market and requested support publicizing openings. We included job listings in the WaWF newsletter and will continue to explore how we can get the word out more effectively. We know this is a significant issue for many nonprofits.
We have also encountered challenges along the way. We had to adjust our expectations around whether and how often grantees would want to connect. Both last year and this, some grantees didn’t respond to our invitations to talk with them. We reminded ourselves that our goal was to support grantees in whatever way is most useful to them, not require a certain type of engagement with us. We also learned that some grantees are also adjusting to this new approach, and need reassurance that we truly have shifted to a new way of engaging with them that is intended to be less formal and more conversational and supportive.
We also continued to learn about the limits of our capacity to support grantees’ requests. We discussed how to ensure that the work we did was truly helpful and responsive to the grantees’ needs. And we reminded ourselves that we cannot meet all grantee requests, nor should we try. We do not have the resources to do so- either staff time or money. What we can do is be responsive to some of the requests and then build our capacity for the future.
Finally, we discussed how to get the word out to the rest of the WaWF community, so those who might be interested can help us respond to grantees’ requests. Isabelle and Aviva are working on a few ideas that we hope to implement next year.
In our second year, we benefitted greatly from key learnings from last year. We have been careful to make changes slowly and informed by our community and will continue to improve and evolve in the future. We are proud to be able to support our incredible grantees in many creative ways and are committed to putting our collective values into action. We look forward to both building relationships with our new grantees and deepening partnerships with existing grantees. Members – we invite you to join us next year!