Jul 13, 2021
In this episode Rhod sat down with Gemma Bull and Tom Steinberg,
authors of new book "Modern Grantmaking: A Guide for Funders Who
Believe Better is Possible". In a wide-ranging conversation, we
Humility & Funder Ego
- Why is humility such a key part of Modern Grantmaking?
- Is part of the problem that traditionally our idea of what it
means to be “good at grantmaking” has revolved around attributing
genius to funders and grantmakers in terms of their choices/program
design, rather than on the extent to which they nurture
- Do we need to redefine what counts as success and failure in
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
- Does grantmaking have a diversity problem?
- Are funders more effective when they reflect more closely the
people and communities they serve? In what ways can they achieve
- Do some grantmaking practices exclude people from
already-marginalised communities? (E.g. focus on the written-word,
invitation-based grantmaking etc.)
Privilege & Power
- Is traditional grantmaking paternalistic, and too often about
decisions being made about communities rather than by them?
- The book emphasises that modern grantmakers should see
themselves as serving the people and communities they
fund– what does this mean in practice?
- Why is it so important for grantmakers to check their
privilege, and what does this mean in practice?
- How do you navigate power dynamics within a
grantmaking org- e.g. between trustees and grantmakers, or between
philanthropic donors and the staff of a foundation?
Participation & Movements
- There is a growing amount of focus on participatory approaches
to grantmaking at the moment as part of the solution to the
criticisms being levelled at philanthropy. How much of the rhetoric
is reflected in reality?
- Would all grantmaking be participatory in an ideal world? Or
are there limits to participatory approaches? i.e. are there some
situations in which it is better for expert funders to set aims and
design programs? Or are there cause areas in which participatory
approaches are not suitable for other reasons?
- Would it help if more funders supported grassroots
organisations and movements?
- Are there signs that funders are changing their behaviour
during the current crisis? (Moving to unrestricted funding,
trust-based grantmaking etc.) Is this likely to lead to longer-term
Risk and Innovation
- Many have argued that a key function of philanthropic funding
is to drive society forward by taking risks and funding things that
the state and market cannot – but how much current philanthropic
grantmaking do you think meets this criterion?
- Is there a danger that “being innovative” becomes an end in
itself, and results in continual chasing after shiny new things,
rather than funding things that are already known to work?
Evidence and Impact
- The book argues that modern grantmaking requires more of a
focus on evidence-based decisions- what kinds of evidence should
grantmakers be considering?
- Do we need to ensure that different kinds of evidence and
expertise are considered equally, in order to avoid perpetuating
- What role can data play in making grantmaking more effective