How Great Donors Invest in Grantee Success

Funders heal thyself! Your intentions are noble, but your practices are not. The vast majority of you are starving your grantees rather than nourishing them.

Funding Performance Campaign

In an era when our communities are being rocked by a health pandemic, economic upheaval, racial injustice, and political turmoil, the world has never needed more from civil society leaders—and never have these leaders needed more from their funders. Now is the most important moment in our collective lifetimes for funders to dispense with conventional practices that have been shown to undermine grantees and adopt those that have been shown to produce greater impact for grantees, funders, and constituents alike.

The Funding Performance campaign encourages funders to rise to the urgency of this moment. You’ll find no pie-in-the-sky theory in the resources on this page. Instead, you’ll find practical advice about the specific practices that produce outsized progress on urgent issues of our time.

The centerpiece of this campaign is Funding Performance: How Great Donors Invest in Grantee Success (2021), a Jim Collins–style monograph intended to generate positive peer pressure among foundations and individual donors.

The monograph features insightful essays by eight highly respected thinkers and doers: Hilary Pennington, Ford Foundation; Daniel Stid, Hewlett Foundation; Sam Cobbs, Tipping Point Community; Jeff Bradach and Jeri Eckhart Queenan, Bridgespan; Lowell Weiss, Leap Ambassadors support team; Hilda Polanco and Deborah Linnell, FMA. All of these essayists have vantage points that have given them a close-up look at the best and worst practices in our sector. In Funding Performance, they share both—in the hope of turning this moment of crisis into a moment of truth and then a moment of productive pivot.

The essayists and their respective organizations joined forces on this project to begin merging closely related workstreams into a river of advocacy for the following changes in funding practices:

  • If you want to empower grantees rather than hamstring them, provide more of what nonprofit leader Vu Le cleverly calls “MYGOD” support—multiyear, general operating dollars.
  • If you’ve made the decision to give your precious resources to an organization, then give that organization the benefit of your trust and respect as well.
  • If your website trumpets your concern about inequality, then don’t perpetuate it with funding decisions that always favor fancy pedigrees and PowerPoints over lived experience and relationships.
  • If you’re moved by the suffering in your community, then show the courage to give more money when the supply of funding from governments is down and the demand for nonprofit services is skyrocketing.

Please read this practical, plain-English guide to what the best funders are already doing to supercharge their grantees, and let us know what you think!

If you’d prefer to read or share individual essays rather than the full monograph, you can do so below.


Rising to Our Times: Five Habits of Highly Effective Funders

by Lowell Weiss

Lowell Weiss

Are You Helping Grantees Succeed—Or Trying to Catch Them Messing Up?

by Sam Cobbs

Sam Cobbs

If Not Now, When? : From Virtue Signaling to Self Examination

by Hilary Pennington

We Depend on Well-Led and Well-Managed Grantees

by Daniel Stid

Daniel Stid

Toward Funding Practices That Strengthen Nonprofits

by Jeri Eckhart Queenan and Jeff Bradach

What Grantees Need From Funders at This Time of Tumultous Change

By Hilda Polanco and Deborah Linnell

The Leap of Reason Ambassadors Community is a private community of experts and leaders who believe that mission and performance are inextricably linked. Our resources are collaboratively developed and offered to the field to support organizations on their journeys to high performance.

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