Foundations are talking about the best way to tell a grantseeker their request has been declined. It’s a good move forward in creating more transparent philanthropic partnerships.
- Some foundations are making sure the board/trustees give a specific reason for why the request was declined. This opens up the possibility for grantseekers to believe if they fix that one thing, they’re assured funding in the next round.
- Foundations are offering “declination grants” of up to $2,500 for grantseekers who didn’t receive a larger grant. Large funders, like the Ford and Gates Foundations, who receive a tremendous number of requests, would run out of funds just on declination grants.
- Others are offering $1,000-$1,500 declination grants to grantseekers who make it past the first Letter of Inquiry (LOI) stage.
- Some funders host a “let your hair down” happy hour after the funding cycle for grantees and declining grantseekers together. The Minneapolis Foundation has offered these events in the past.
- Program officers are signing up for the online newsletters of organizations who were declined, but show promise for future grant cycles.
- Many funders now offer/guarantee each applicant 15-minute phone calls with program officers to listen and to provide feedback.
Chiefs of Staff and Strategy Officers
During the last few months we’ve seen a new class of foundation executive positions known as Chief of Staff and/or Chief Strategy Officers arise. Some have had these positions in place for years, but recently, funders such as Conrad Hilton Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, and McKnight Foundation have hired for these key roles.
According to those in the industry, Chiefs of Staff and Strategy Officers are responsible for keeping their ears to the ground for community rumbles and ideas and for creating new programs and policies that address both foundation and community needs
Nonprofit Employee Union Organizing
One of the more interesting trends in the last year has been employee union organizing in nonprofit organizations. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Beacon Housing and MinnPost are now union shops. Plenty of others are in process. Since you may not see the union perspective as often in the daily media, read the article from the Union Advocate.
Philanthropy, Plutocracy, and Democracy
In his classic The Prince and other works, Niccolò Machiavelli frequently wrote that philanthropy had no real community value, especially in fostering democracy and empowerment. Five centuries later, it’s still a hot topic, one that Emma Saunders-Hastings revisits in her new book — Private Virtues, Public Vices: Philanthropy and Democratic Equality.
In a review for Candid, Kyoko Uchida writes that the book focuses on two objections to philanthropy with regard to democracy: “philanthropy can be an exercise of plutocratic power, and it can be objectionably paternalistic. Despite calls for reform, elite philanthropy continues to enjoy both social deference, which limits comparative evaluations of philanthropic donations, and institutional and legal deference, in the form of tax benefits, facilitation of foundation creation, weak oversight, and protection of donor intent.”