Image: Not actually our grantmaking tattoos. Thanks DALL·E 3.
Now, we know that most people reading this newsletter probably already know that grantmakers can make choices that will cause harm to other people. But we also think it’s likely that you will occasionally meet people in your working lives who honestly believe that because we do grantmaking for good moral reasons, that we cannot therefore create any negative side-effects. If you do encounter someone like that, here’s the top three types of harm you need to introduce them to:1 - Wasting time.
It is SO easy for a grantmaker to waste the precious and limited time of a grantseeker or a grantee - we can do this in many different ways. Most notorious is the waste that happens when funders run hopelessly oversubscribed open-funding processes. If you reject 999 grantseekers for every one grant you give it is entirely likely that your overall impact on the world will be a net negative. But there’s so many other
fun ways you can waste other people's time too! For example you can ask for a monitoring report you have no time to read: more common than most of us like to admit. Or you can run events that meet your needs, but not the needs of your grantees, so they sit there politely twiddling their thumbs (see this previous newsletter
for tips on avoiding this trap). 2 - Knocking grantees off mission.
Most good nonprofits have clear missions: they know what they’re trying to achieve. As a grantmaker it’s very easy to meet an impressive nonprofit team and think “Ooh I’d love to give these people money, so they can deliver what I think they should deliver”. And now you’ve just taken an organisation that was set up to achieve one thing and you’ve twisted it towards doing something else - something it isn’t as committed to, and that it may be much worse at doing. Bravo!3 - Funding stuff that produces harmful side-effects.
Sometimes when a nonprofit runs a programme, it not only doesn’t produce the intended outcomes, but it can actually make things worse. Perhaps the most famous of all examples in grantmaking is ‘Scared Straight’, a programme focused on frightening teenagers into avoiding a life of crime. After becoming hugely fashionable due to a 1978 TV documentary
, it was later shown to have “increase[d] delinquency relative to doing nothing at all to similar youths” (source
We are sure that our readers could tell us a dozen other types of harm that can result as side-effects of grantmaking practices and choices, but the main moral is this: call your local tattoo artist and get your own “First, Do No Harm” grantmaking tattoo booked in, pronto.New Modern Grantmaking Trainings
Our late November ‘Fundamentals of Modern Grantmaking’ training has now sold out
(woohoo!) so we’ve scheduled a next one for 27th March 2024
. We love running these: it’s brilliant to watch people from really different funders meet and learn together.
We’re also running another iteration of ‘Improving Grantseeker Experiences’ workshop, for people focused on making their funding more accessible and better for everyone. That’s on 20th March 2024. Book now!Latest Reading - Modern Grantmaking recommends
Micro-survey: has the funder you work for become more or less restrictive since the pandemic?
- Philanthropy’s response to the Israel-Hamas War. The Council on Foundations has been keeping an updated page on both ways to donate, and with links to articles on how philanthropy is responding.
- A group of ten mostly large US funders are contributing more than $200 million in funding toward public interest efforts “to mitigate AI harms and promote responsible use and innovation”. More info here.
- Civic Power Fund and The Hour Is Late joined forces to analyse social justice grant-making in the UK in 2021-22. In Funding Justice 2, they looked at 18,816 grants from 60 funders, worth over £950m. Key findings include: of all the grants analysed, 27% were focussed on social justice work. This was just 5.7% of foundation giving in the UK that year.
- Interested in learning more about the #ShiftThePower funding reform movement? Check out this video of a recent webinar with key players who revisit the roots of the movement and talk about what it means now.
- At last a table-top game for grantmakers! ClimateWorks and Forum for the Future invite you to step into the future and play an immersive game entitled “Shocks to the System: Fast Forward to 2028”. This game will test your ability to make decisions around critical issues as they pertain to climate funding.
If your funding organisation has become more (or less) restrictive in its grantmaking since the pandemic faded, what do you think has driven that change?Whisper your experiences to us, and we’ll share them anonymously
, soon.How about a new job or trustee role in grantmaking?
- The Nuffield Foundation is hiring for a Finance and Information Systems Director - £95,000 (part-time). Deadline 14 November.
- Sovereign Network Group is hiring for a Community Investment and Partnerships Lead - £37,000 - £45,000. Deadline is 20 November. (Location: Abingdon, Basingstoke , Bristol, Calne, Chippenham, Thatcham - Greenham Hub).
- The Health Foundation is hiring for a Research Manager - £63,248 per annum. Deadline is 23:59, 22 November.
- The UK Government is hiring for a Commercial Lead, Grants Management - £68,775 - £75,920. Deadline is 23:55, 22 November 2023.
- The Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) is hiring for a Chair of the Finance and Risk Committee - unremunerated. Deadline is 23 November.
Want to see your job ad in next month’s newsletter? Ping us! We now only share job ads that #ShowTheSalary
. Grantmaking ‘joke’ of the monthQ. Why were the gunpowder plotters rubbish fundraisers?
A. Because they only ever asked for a penny for the guy.
Got any terrible or actually funny grantmaking jokes to share?......tell us. Have you been forwarded this newsletter? Want to subscribe?
No problem - sign up here.Who writes this newsletter?
We are Gemma Bull and Tom Steinberg - we run Modern Grantmaking. We do consulting
specifically for funders, and wrote a book
on how to be a modern grantmaker, too. We love chatting to anyone with any interesting news in grantmaking-land, so please do get in touch.