NPF TIG Week: Setting Partnership Expectations Between Nonprofits and Foundations by John Byrnes

Hi, I’m John Byrnes, Principal at Community Services Analysis, LLC. Application requirements for foundation funding typically are looking for qualitative information on the proposed efforts and results.

In many cases, the foundation also requires quantitative information on the nonprofit’s condition and experience to ensure they have sufficient resources available to perform the effort to completion.

What is frequently missing in the application submission is the definition of a process for jointly examining the results of the funding and the effectiveness of the efforts delivered and a method for quantitative analysis of the outcomes of the efforts.

This definition of a measurement methodology and establishment of a joint progress review process is an important initial step, as it can be a strong basis for the development of a more “equal partnership” between a funder and a recipient.

This approach also has a strong impact on the evolution of a more balanced “power dynamic” between the funder and recipient. The recipient has the detailed knowledge and operational ability needed to define and perform the tasks necessary to achieve the planned goals, but the funding foundation also has a wide range of experience in understanding what strategies can result in a successful project – and, based on their experiences, what can cause projects to fail.

A working relationship between the parties can result in a more balanced relationship, and as a practical result can make the frequently necessary “mid-course adjustments” to the tasks, goals, and projected outcomes of the funded projects more of a joint effort and an easier transition.

There are similar parallels in the relationships in the private sector between startup companies and early stage investors. These investors, whether professional venture capital firms, corporate investment organizations, or private “angel” investors, have a significant level of experience in what strategies and policies work. For many years, it has been a basic premise of an early stage investment decision that a working partnership relationship is an important element of a successful investment result.

Ove the past 14 years and approximately 270 engagements, we have seen that a joint working relationship between a nonprofit and a foundation will not only  improve the chances of a successful result in an individual project, but can establish a history of an effective working relationship that can lead to ongoing funding opportunities.

Always remember – “More communication is better”!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Nonprofits and Foundations Topical Interest Group (NPFTIG) Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our NPFTIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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