Is grantmaking getting smarter? As I reported elsewhere, the answer appears to be ‘not by much’ or at least not fast enough, according to a survey recently released by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. This study of mostly US foundations found that over the past three years, there were only minor shifts in grantmaking practices that help grantees succeed, such as providing general operating support and awarding multi-year grants.
Perhaps a different set of questions would have been a little more flattering to me and my colleagues.
For example, self-identified social justice grantmakers like me could have been asked to detail our coordinated plans for overcoming our country’s racial and other disparities. (To conserve space, I believe the survey designers could have safely limited this response to 140 characters or less.) We foundation CEOs could have been invited to stumble through some account of the root causes of poverty, although, quite frankly, without the benefit of a head-clearing trip to Davos, I’m not sure how I would have answered. And let’s be fair, these things take time. The disenfranchised of the world need to exercise patience while we schedule more meetings to study the situation.
Or, perhaps, in the interest of stakeholder engagement we could have asked the public how we’re doing on reducing global warming, educating our children, and ending homelessness.
You get the idea: a softball question or two on the survey that probes some of the less technocratic aspects of our work would help restore the bell curve to a less alarming shape and do much to paint a vivid portrait of those of us who sport the mantle of the grantmaking profession.