We are pleased to publish this article simultaneously with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy:
The question posed to me by NCRP for this article: "Is it possible for a foundation and a grantee to have an honest, real partnership?"
My answer: It's the wrong question. The key words in the question - honest, real, and partnership - contain so much coded meaning that the only reasonable response by a grantee is a slow blink. By using these words, we trap ourselves in a framework that ignores the material, business basis for the funder-grantee relationship. This language diverts us from understanding the key dynamic.
And unless we take a clear-eyed look at that dynamic, we won't be able to see a path towards productive, effective, and perhaps even enjoyable grantmaker-grantee relationships.
Institutional or personal relationships?
Essentially, the relationship between a funder and a grantee is one between institutions, driven by institutional interests, and fundamentally about money.
"Shared values," warm personal interactions, and nonfinancial support to grantees all are fine. But without money changing hands . . .