A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

The Attitude, and What We Can Learn From Funders Who Possess It

At Foundant, we are fortunate to work with many grantmakers of different geographies, sizes, areas of interest, and grantmaking styles. Yet, the vast majority share a similar trait. They view their responsibility as maximizing the impact their philanthropic assets will have today and in the future. This perspective fuels their passion, and it is tangible. Around our office, we call it “The Attitude,” and we purposely search out these types of organizations as clients.

Here’s some of what we mean by “The Attitude” and what we can all learn from the funders who possess it.

Focus on collaboration, not directives

Foundant, in general, does not work with the world’s biggest grantmakers. Instead, most of our clients are constrained by their staff size and rely heavily on grantees and nonprofits as the experts within their communities or focus areas. Due to this reliance, our clients end up fostering a more collaborative relationship with their grantees. They rely on them for resources, information, and expertise. Our clients tend to consider their grantees as partners, in the truest sense of the word. The resulting relationships end up being stronger than the traditional funder–nonprofit relationship, and typical power dynamics are less of an issue. The payback is more truthful, collaborative interactions with their grantees.

Look for the quick wins while keeping an eye to the future

Many of our clients look for—and celebrate—quick wins in their day-to-day work. This does not mean they don’t have greater, more strategic goals for their funding. It means that, due to their involvement in their community or cause, they understand that the lights need to stay on, payroll needs to be met, and bigger goals require small steps toward them. Rather than becoming impatient or frustrated, our clients focus on small wins and continual improvement in lieu of the proverbial “Knock-Out Punch.”

Continually make the granting process easier for everyone

One area where Foundant lends a hand is making sure our clients realize the importance of considering all the people involved in their grant process.

Often, when grantmakers purchase a grants management system, they are focused on their needs. They don’t always consider their grant reviewers, board members, and, most important, their applicants and grantees. We find it very rewarding to see our clients demo their own grant process as reviewers and applicants. It often opens their eyes to how those in other roles experience the granting process. With this new view of their processes, many clients have taken things to the next step by annually, or even after each grant cycle, reviewing their grant processes with the different parties. Using interviews, surveys, and direct feedback, it is amazing to see how much can be improved for your different users.

We know these attributes are not exclusive to Foundant clients. Yet they are great examples for us and are instrumental in helping us create our culture. We relish the opportunity to learn with our clients as well as teach one another how to make the grant process as easy and rewarding as possible.

Mark-LarimerMark Larimer leads the Client Services and Marketing teams at Foundant Technologies. Foundant is an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Company providing grants management solutions to over 850 grantmakers of all types and sizes. Mark’s high-tech career includes time with Extended Systems (acquired by Sybase) and RightNow Technologies (Nasdaq: RNOW – acquired by Oracle) prior to becoming a founding partner of Foundant in 2006.

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