Trust is at the core of every effective professional relationship. As this research from the American Psychology Association points out, when both parties trust each other they can spend more time finding solutions to shared challenges and less time and energy worrying that their interests aren’t being reflected in decision-making.


This same mentality can be applied to the funder-grantee relationship. When both parties are aligned in their goals you can maximize the benefits of collaboration. To ensure alignment, both funders and grantees need to be committed to transparency. This can mean a nonprofit being straightforward about their capacity needs, a funder sharing the data that can inform optimizations, or an overall understanding of goals. 


The time is now for funders to set an example by opening up their data to the organizations you are partnering with. It will fuel trust-based relationships rooted in knowledge sharing, helping everyone to learn, identify gaps in data and collaboratively use that data to build stronger programs and scale impact.  Here are a few key ways to achieve this:


Let your grant partners, community know what you are trying to accomplish.

The first step is to connect with your grant partners and community to share with them what you are trying to accomplish. We often hear, “it’s in our mission statement”, or “it’s on our application or website”. Do the organizations you are funding truly understand what matters to you and why? Do they have access to your theory of change, the key performance indicators (KPIs) you are tracking towards, or the list of outcomes that matter to you? Having honest, realistic conversations like this with your funding partners will establish a level of trust and a baseline for your future conversations.


Share how you’re responding to what you’ve learned from grantees and the community, like focusing on the true needs of the community.

Next, you’ll need to connect with your grant partners and community to share with them what you’ve learned, what worked, what didn’t work and what data you still don’t have to help you answer these questions. In opening your data up in this way, you will not only learn how to improve your programs, you’ll have the opportunity to further help support the organizations you are funding. 


Ask partners what they are trying to accomplish and identify ways that your goals align. 

You then need to make sure you understand what your grant partners are trying to accomplish. Do your goals align? Do your outcomes align? Where are they off? Ask them what they need in order to accomplish their goals. Is it a grant, is it data capacity, is it technology, or is it mentorship?  When we open up this line of communication we can learn about all of the areas where organizations are struggling and where we can help them. Is it limited staff, low budgets, lack of resources, no data or technology support? Are we trying to fund a program when they actually need infrastructure? Stop treating every grant partner like they are starting from the same place.


Funding capacity means funding sustainability.

We’ve learned from our many partners that funding capacity means funding organizational sustainability.  Foundations that invest in their own digital infrastructure, analytics, goal tracking and impact tools are now beginning to understand the data needs of their grant partners to understand where the needs are.  By investing in the data needs and strategy of their grant partners, foundations are helping to unlock deeper analysis and learning, helping to get to some fundamental root community issues. Empowering grant partners with the tools and training they need to develop and implement their data strategy enhances their ability to understand where to focus, what is and isn’t working, and identify growing needs within their communities. Nonprofits can then leverage their learnings and insight to sustain and grow their programs.  


Emphasize using the data to deepen the level of collaboration.

Putting data at the center of the funder and funded partner dynamic also level sets the conversation around what needs to be done and where and how the grant partner is in the best position to tackle those needs. Then you can have a meaningful discussion of what that grant partner really needs in order to really effect change. When the grant is set up with specific goals that are tracked by the grant partner using this data, even better. It will allow the funder to get quick access to the data they need, is this grant on or off track, or do they need further support. It will also give them the impetus to step out of the way so the grant partner can keep running at the challenge. 


When both the funder and their grant partners are aligned in their goals and transparent with the results, you will be able to maximize the benefits of collaboration leading to trust-based relationships with knowledge at the root. This shifting dynamic will help everyone learn, identify gaps in data and encourage ongoing collaboration as organizations use that live, actionable data to build stronger programs and scale impact.  


Learn more about how the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana reimagined how they collaborated with their grant partners by using data capacity as a unique starting point. Access the webinar recording by filling our your information below. 





About UpMetrics:

At UpMetrics, we believe that storytelling has the potential to become the most impactful tool for social impact organizations - especially when those stories are rooted in data. The platform empowers impact organizations to achieve clarity and focus of their impact across activities by combining quantitative and qualitative data functions designed to collect, understand and communicate impact.

Post by Annie Rhodes
July 15, 2021
At UpMetrics, Annie works across our Client Success, Outreach and Product teams to inspire organizations on their data journeys, empowering them and their grant partners to embrace their data and capture critical stories in order to better understand, accelerate and communicate their impact. Throughout her career, Annie has worked at the unique intersection of technology and social good. From her work in grants management at the Ford foundation to her product management and strategy roles more recently in technology, Annie has a background as an advocate for social good sector transformation and growth. Annie went to Manhattan College in the Bronx, NY, where she studied Psychology and played Div I women's soccer. She received her MBA from Pace University in NYC with majors in Management and International Business. She currently teaches a Analytics/Metrics in the Nonprofit Sector course as part of Columbia University's SPS Nonprofit Management Master's Program. She also stays involved in the community by doing some volunteering.