Be Transparent & Responsive


Open, honest, and transparent communication minimizes power imbalances and helps move the work forward.


Steps You Can Take

  • Be clear up front about what you do and don’t fund, and let potential applicants know if meeting is not a good use of their time

  • Give grantees ample notice if you are making any changes that will affect their funding

  • Invite grantees to share their challenges

  • Be open and honest about your own organizational struggles, questions, and thought processes

  • Respond to emails and calls in a timely manner


The Difference It Will Make

  • Creates conditions for a more honest funder-grantee relationship

  • Acknowledges power dynamics with the intention of creating a more balanced relationship

  • Fosters a better understanding of grantees, their work, and their challenges

  • Offers insight that can help funders be more effective in supporting grantees


What It Looks Like

“You begin to tilt the power balance a bit by ensuring the partner self-determines the use of resources, thereby meeting its own needs instead of ours. It signals the deep trust we have in our partners and opens the door for more honest dialogue, which reinforces trust. It enables us to focus on building a relationship based on mutual trust and accountability as opposed to one based on the transaction of resources. Over time, this allows us to sharpen our analysis, sharpen our practice.”

- Solomé Lemma, Thousand Currents


But What About…

“What if you learn something about a grantee that makes you want to rethink your support for them?”

If it is a serious concern, you will be in a better position to talk with them about it, explore solutions, and ultimately decide whether you can continue to work together or not. It is more productive to approach the conversation proactively, rather than reactively.


From the Blog

“We need, and want, to be better communicators, to help others understand our approach and rationale. Being clear in sharing what we’re doing and why we are doing it is important for all foundations.”

—Phil Li, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation