Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success

Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success

Program officers play a critical role in fostering strong funder-grantee relationships, which are vital to achieving shared goals yet often difficult to forge due to inherent power imbalances, a report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy finds. Based on grantee surveys and interviews with highly rated program officers, the report, Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success (44 pages, PDF), found that funders can increase trust with their grantees by making an effort to better understand their organizations and the context in which they work, and by striving to be as transparent as possible with their grantees. A foundation's helpfulness in terms of the grantee selection process, openness to ideas about strategy, and dialing down of pressure on grantees to modify their proposals to conform to the funders own goals also contributes to stronger relationships. Funded by the Fund for Shared Insight, the James Graham Brown Foundation, and the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the report further notes that program officers need resources and support from their foundations to do their work well, with implications for organizational culture, structure, and leadership.