How much information do you want from your grant partners?
I ask this because I recently heard about a situation where a funder’s grantee organization had an internal team implosion. This resulted in a falling out between employees, a termination, and a perceived lack of balanced action on the part of the executive director.
In short, the grantee organization acted in a way the funder couldn’t support. And the funder ended the relationship.
Partnerships between organizations are partnerships between people. Sometimes they take a negative turn, and it’s hard to recover. What can you do to keep your grant relationships from going bad, and how can you recoup a relationship that has already taken a turn for the worse? Here are some ideas and questions to consider:
- Set Expectations. Make known your expectations right from the start in a clear, written grant agreement. Include an exit strategy and termination clause with what is required should either party need to end the relationship. This clause can offer latitude in interpretation, and a pathway to continuing the relationship—albeit in a new manner.
- Decide. At the outset, decide what information you would like from your grantee. Do you want to hear about internal employee issues (dirty laundry)? Do you want to trust your grantee to operate in a manner that is both professional and ethical? What happens when you trust and they disappoint? What’s your breaking point?
- Manage Assumptions. Even when a long-term relationship exists with a grant partner, plan ahead in case of a worst-case scenario. Don’t expect leadership/boards to act as anticipated.
- Communicate. Be open and accessible to your grant partners, but be clear how much/how often/in what ways you want them to communicate with you. How will you handle it if a grant partner fails to communicate effectively?
- Community. If the partnership truly dissolves, you might need to consider how you will continue supporting the community that the partnership served. What is your responsibility, as a funder, to replace lost services? How will you communicate to the community that the grant partnership has ended?
With the risk of sounding negative, it’s better to plan ahead for things to go awry, than find yourselves in the midst of a crisis.
Let’s continue this conversation! Have you experienced conflict in a grant or collaborative partnership? How did you navigate through it? Share your tips in the comments below, or email me.
Coming Soon: We are excited to collaborate with Global Family Office Community to produce and release “Philanthropy and the Family Office: A Global Perspective.” This research will debut in London on June 2, 2015 during the annual Global Family Office Community conference and will cover global trends in family philanthropy.