Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Read this and be ashamed

Every once in awhile I read something that just makes me sad.

Reading the Northern California Grantmakers blog, I came across this statement from a Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) publication.
Grantmakers, for instance, often are not aware of what it actually costs nonprofits to deliver services.
Something is seriously wrong with an industry that doesn't understand its customers. How on earth can grantmakers be OK with this situation?

Well, a gem from my experience with private foundations. In almost all cases grantees are not customers, the trustees are the customers. Foundations understand their trustees *very* well and generally (not always) the trustees don't require their organizations to understand grantees. And even if staff understands grantees, that isn't enough to change policy or trustee behavior.

In the egregious cases, the value of a grantees to a trustee derives from their ability to support the trustees ego. Does the grantee make me feel good? Does the grantee support my religious construct of "giving back." Does the grantee connect me with other powerful people? Can I chat about what the grantee does on my private plane with my social and business associates?

And finally, since the grantmakers are basically running the White House Social Innovation Fund, are we OK with people who are often unaware of what it actually costs a nonprofit to deliver services making the decisions about what the most innovative, scalable and effective programs are?

Nice little nugget to chew on there.

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