July 1, 2011
Mutual Misunderstandings? Grantee-Donor Relations – Jim Coutre, The Philanthropic Initiative

“While the relationship between donors and “doers” has been a hot topic since the dawn of philanthropy, there seem to be too few conversations in which donors and doers come together to explore these issues face to face.”  So begins Jim Coutre’s reflections on an unusual “Doers and Donors” Dinner conversation between those who do international work — and those who fund them.  The evening was hosted last week by New England International Donors, an affinity group for internationally oriented individual donors, grantmakers, social investors and those who advise them. 

“We started the evening by separating the donors from the doers so each group could talk privately before coming back together to compare notes and talk through the issues. We dove in by asking each group to identify the adjectives that best describe their most valued relationships with the other. We then asked each group to put themselves into the other’s shoes and list the adjectives that would describe the most valued relationships from the other perspective.”

Jim’s reflections drew on those by one of the participants, Sasha Chanoff, founder of RefugeePoint, formerly known as Mapendo.  He was in turn enlightened by Jennifer McCrae’s course on Exponential Fundraising taught at Harvard.

“A lot of fundraising is done from a transactional lens, that is the grantee is looking to the donor for money and the focus is getting that money in the door.  Within this exchange and relationship are power dynamics that are unequal and problematic, and this kind of transactional relationship is not necessarily fulfilling.

I’m drawn to how Jennifer talks about how a relationship that’s connected to meaning for both the donor and grantee and personal growth is more effective, and builds long-lasting alliances. This means understanding the values that the donor and grantee have and exploring ways to bring those values to the front of the relationship and use those values to deepen the relationship, which also works to make the donor feel connected, and fulfilled on a personal level.  And this “growth” lens also takes down the kind of imbalanced power dynamics that can exist because donor and grantee are building a friendship based in their shared interests and views of the world.”


For the full blog by Jim Coutre about approaching Doer-Donor relations as opportunities for mutual growth see:  http://blog.tpi.org/?p=566

For a calendar of events from New England International Donors, a project of The Philanthropic Initiative in Boston, and other organizations in international philanthropy, development and relations see http://www.neidonors.org.  For more about The Philanthropic Initiative see:  http://www.tpi.org/