Are you a great grantee?

Find out how to build stronger relationships with your funders.

If the answer to that question is something like ‘we must be if they chose to fund us’, or ‘yes because of who we’re helping’, then it may be time to think a little deeper.

Try this… we’ve all been to a high school parents’ evening. A sea of teachers’ desks spread across a hall with a weird smell of stale school dinners or sweat (depending on the hall). You ready yourself for your teacher’s appraisal, flanked by your parents… gulp! Now, imagine the teacher is your grants-manager, and your CEO is your parent!

How would they grade your performance? Would they say ‘must try harder’ or ‘does not work well with others’, or would you prefer ‘best in class’ or perhaps even ‘star pupil’?

With the economic crisis affecting individuals and organisations alike, there may be big challenges ahead for many charities, so having a great relationship between you and your funder is more important than ever. Here’s our top-five-tips to get an ‘A for effort’ as a great grantee:

Get regular meetings in the diary

Communication doesn’t always mean discussing problems. Your funder may have several grants running at the moment, and they may be worried about the economic crisis’ impact on their grantees. Holding regular meetings will help to reassure them that either all is well, or that you need to discuss challenges – which will be easier if you’re already meeting regularly and have an established relationship. So, get meetings in your diary early, as it’s easy to forget when things are stressful, and often easier to overlook when things are fine.

Plan and communicate one step ahead

The cost-of-living crisis may affect your funded projects or services, so consider any knock-ons to your funded projects. Will you need to agree changing reporting deadlines or altering monitoring requirements? Do you need to reshape the grant-funded programme to respond to the crisis or specific beneficiary needs? Or do you need to revise your measures of success? Grant-makers will want to deliver a quality project that is impactful. Lowering quality to meet revised costs may not be as impactful, and may not reach agreed objectives, so discuss this with your grant-maker and agree the solution together. Another possibility is to ask about an inflationary uplift to your grant so that service quality can be maintained, not sacrificed. They can always say ‘no’, in which case, you can discuss the best way forward with your funding partner. Don’t forget, they want it to be a success as much as you do.

Support relationships at multiple levels

While communication between grant-maker should flow through the project manager. Sometimes wider organisational relationships may need to exist at different levels. For example, between CEOs or at the non-management level. While there is something to be said for keeping things simple and growing a one-on-one relationship; in the longer-term, involving others in your organisation is a good way to minimise risk to your relationship if someone leaves or is unable to work. Growing wider relationships through good communication and succession planning, can have a big impact on the growth and longevity of your projects and ongoing partnership.

Grow your relationship from the start

Good communication is certainly a trait of any solid partnership, but it’s especially important during the current economic crisis. When challenges arise, having an established channel for problem solving will be crucial. Many funders can provide support or guidance, so if project cashflow or deliverables are being affected by the cost-of-living crisis, then any conversations will be easier if you already have an established and supportive relationship.

Remember, you’re in this together

It’s perhaps most important to remember that your grantee-funder relationship is a partnership with a shared drive to help the same beneficiaries… they do it through funding – you do it through providing services. Never forget that funding is not a transaction where ‘they pay you to do the work’. Instead, keep in mind that you’re in this together and you are supporting each other to serve the same beneficiaries.

Being a great grantee is as much about the delivery of your work as it is about having a strong and supportive relationship with your funder. It may take a while to embed these ideas and land that ‘A for attainment’, but an ‘A for effort’ will help get you to the top of the class sooner than you think.