On the surface it seems that PIPP’s work only really benefits a select few people. Improving philanthropic impact will only help the not-for-profit organisations that take money from the grantmaking organisations, which means…what?
Improving how money is given can mean life or death for not-for-profits
When philanthropists fund not-for-profit organisations, it is generally for specific projects. Very few organisations will fund bolstering infrastructure or systems upgrades. This means that, unless a not-for-profit has another form of income, it will not have money to operate sustainably or improve its operations, meaning that those benefiting from their programs are also at risk of being cut off if the not-for-profit goes under. This constrains their ability to invest in the long-term programs needed to transform the lives of their beneficiaries. Giving an organisation money with the specific mandate of buying a thousand books to teach children how to learn to read doesn’t really help if the not-for-profit has nowhere to keep the books or hold the reading lessons, or only has those things for a very short time.
Improving communication will address the imbalance of power between grantmakers and grantseekers
The power in the relationship between grantmaker and grantseeker is in the hands of the giver. This can lead to a toxic relationship in which the grantseeker is treated as an instrument of goal achievement rather than a partner. Not-for-profit organisations report feeling uncomfortable giving complex or corrective feedback to funders who want to hear that their targets had been met, despite real-world changes that may make those targets less than impactful. And it’s an unfortunate truth that, as Katherine Fulton noted, those with the power to make decisions about funding are often those who have the least direct knowledge about the problems being addressed (Fulton, 2018), and unlikely to have time to be redirected in a more sympathetic direction. Creating a framework that encourages evidence-led decision-making encourages grantmakers to develop deeper understanding of the people and contexts doing the work of change. In doing this, grantseekers will feel more able to tell funders how well their project is (or isn’t) doing and redirect funds in a way that is more useful, thus creating better outcomes for the not-for-profit’s beneficiaries.
All of this leads to better outcomes for beneficiaries
If grantmakers are encouraged to give their funds to not-for-profits in a way that addresses the root causes of problems and enables sustainable support for beneficiaries, not only do beneficiaries stand receive the care they need for longer periods of time, but not-for-profits can start creating strategies for growth and for the future. Grantseekers can be supported to become more effective and impactful in their practice, expand their ability to sustainably support those in need in the ways that matter most. After all, isn’t that what philanthropy’s meant to be about in the first place?
Image by schaeffler. Pixabay licence.