Walking the Talk:  Animal Grantmakers Align Values with Practices

My highlight of two weeks ago was talking to Animal Grantmakers at their annual conference about the connection between organization values and grantmaking practices.

To prepare, I did a quick survey of participant websites looking for explicit and implicit values.  In addition to the core focus of caring for, saving, and advocating for animals, these were the most common values I saw for Animal Grantmakers, which I think will resonate with most funders:

  • Impact/results – expectation of real change as a result of the grant
  • Collaboration – the funder sees itself as working hand-in-hand with grantees as equals
  • Ingenuity, Risk taking or innovation – funders are open to new ideas or solutions to problems
  • Stewardship – a recognition that the resources entrusted to the funder are there for the public good and the funder takes that responsibility seriously
  • Diversity/inclusiveness – in the grantmaking organizations, in the grantees,
  • Knowledge or learning – grants should move the work and field conversations forward

I learned so much from the grantmakers in the room about new approaches they are trying to “walk the talk” and ensure their practices support their values. My favorite was the idea to send a short (5 question) survey at the end of a grant in lieu of requesting  report.  This helps decrease the time needed to follow up on overdue reports, reduce grantseeker time since the “report” is shorter and more focused, and gives the funder data in a consistent format to make assessment of results across a grantmaking portfolio easier.  This approach supports values on impact since the grantee can spend more time doing versus reporting on doing, and on stewardship as it gets the funder the information needed to assess their investment.

We also heard about practices that are disconnected from values.  One funder shared that it was unable to set grant terms to align with the grantee’s organization or project timeline as they didn’t have the staff capacity to customize individual grants. Funders who don’t align grant terms miss out on getting the best information to support knowledge and learning values as the grantee might not yet have the best data and information to share with the funder.  It also adds a significant burden to the grantee to create customized narrative and financial reports on a timeline that has no relationship to the organization’s work undermining collaboration and partnership values.

We ended the conversation with a call to action—asking participants to commit to aligning practices to support their values.  Here are a few examples of changes on the way for these grantmakers:

  • Provide a response to a grant request within a specific period of time.
  • Streamline eligibility guidelines
  • Focus/target funding to make an impact on specific issues.
  • Scale the requirements of the grant to the size of the grant.
  • Move to online applications and reporting
  • Simplify the process.

What will you do to follow in their footsteps to align your practices with your values?

Michelle Greanias

Michelle Greanias is executive director of PEAK Grantmaking. Follow her on Twitter @mgreanias.

Leave a Reply