Monday, August 17, 2020

In 2019, Partners For Impact helped support Triangle Capacity-Building Network’s new grantmaking process. This blog is the final in a continuing series discussing what was learned by doing that work. The full report goes into significant detail about the process. So this blog post, focuses on the conversation that was had by the review panel, all people of color, who made the final decisions for funding.


Prior to making the final funding decisions, the reviewers had a conversation about the impressions they had of the process overall. Some of the initial comments focused on the disparity in organizational budgets. This disparity led to two different conclusions. First, those with lower budgets tended to have a harder time building their case. Second, regardless of budget size, organizations had very similar capacity-building needs. Ultimately, the reviewers proposed a question back to the funders to be answered in the future. That question is: Are you willing and able to support and meet organizations, especially those with smaller budgets and less capacity to build their case, so that they have an opportunity to compete with organizations with larger budgets?


The reviewers deliberately talked about organizations “led by people of color.” They challenged the funders to continue to understand the unique capacity-building needs of different types of organizations. Organizations founded by people of color and rooted in that community may need something different than a person of color who is leading a white organization. Is there a real commitment and authenticity to creating an equitable organization in white organizations whose Executive Director is a person of color? If so, how do we recognize this? Do we need to support these individual leaders in a unique and different way?


The reviewers saw a pattern in the capacity-building requests. The requests fell into the categories of evaluation, strategic planning, fundraising, communications, and board development. However, they echoed the question that has been part of this whole process: What are the best examples of capacity-building projects? They encouraged the funders to continue to better define and provide guidance to applicants, advising the funders to differentiate between capacity-building and expanding programs/staff, provide examples that encourage choice without dictating what will be done, and provide more support in proposal development.


Finally, the review panel discussed the importance of the Triangle Capacity-Building Network in defining some equity goals with this funding process. They felt like many of the answers to racial equity found in the applications were weak. Sharing these goals would help applicants understand the long-term outcomes created by the capacity-building activities and improve the applications. They also acknowledged that creating these specific goals would create a message that could be used by many different stakeholders interested in improving racial equity in the nonprofit sector.


After the discussion, the panel walked through the top applications and made final recommendations which are found in the final report.