Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Excessive Professionalism Has Taken The Heart Out Of Grant-Making

We asked 2 grantmakers and 2 non-profits on whether they felt the soul has gone out of philanthrophy. Is grantmaking today about numbers and impact or is there still some credit for 'good work'. 

"Excessive professionalism is by definition unprofessional! Grant-seekers are as interested as grant-makers in achieving impact. In addition, appropriate professionalism will only improve the ‘good work’ that NGOs are doing. 
Grant-makers on their part should continue to demand accountability and promote a result-based development NGO program. However, the grant-maker’s approach and relationship with the NGO must flow from a genuine understanding of the special character of non-profit organisations in general and the partner NGOs in particular. Hence the ‘professional demands’ must be suitably adapted to the exigencies of the voluntary sector and the target groups/ communities/issues the NGO is working with.

An issue that is often observed is that the main contribution of Corporate Social Responsibility looks more at the funds and less at a socially-oriented Corporate approach. One of the problems that grant-seekers face is that in most situations the interface with the grant-maker is with their CSR field staff, who often themselves are from a social work background and are able to understand the ground reality, but fail to present the situation convincingly to their Corporate superiors. On the other hand, when senior corporate staff (even at the level of Chairperson/CEO) are personally involved and can make the time even if once a year, for appropriate interaction with the NGO Management, the partnership is not just inspirational but could even contribute to the Paradigm Shift that is so necessary in the Voluntary Sector today. This I can say from personal experience. 
A related and relevant issue here is the fact that most CSR programs are managed by the HR Department which sometimes operate from within a constricted organizational framework. One result of this is that their CSR field -staff are pressurized to show immediate and tangible results which could conflict with long term objectives of the NGO partner. 
The need then is for grant-makers and grant-seekers to have a joint commitment to mutually agreed outcomes which can over time contribute significantly to the impact that both seek."

Audrey Ferreira, Project Consultant, India Sponsorship Committee
India Sponsorship Committee works with children & education - Help Us Create a Better World for Children. 


"Grant making has been going on for decades and report submissions was always a requirement.  However, over the last decade or so with changing times, CSR being made mandatory under law reporting expectations have changed.  ‘Good work’, ‘welfare activities’, ‘charitable initiatives’ – cannot be answers given by grant seekers.
In my opinion, it is important and essential for grant seekers to provide reports, to ensure transparency and accountability in utilization of funds and services being tendered.  Ultimately, grant makers also have an accountability to donors, government, etc.
However, having said that-
  • Reporting should not be expected in complex formats
  • Grant makers often expect to see impact in 6 months, measured impact is not always easy and takes time, and not all initiatives can often be measured.
  • Programs should be monitored and evaluated at a level of detail appropriate to the resources employed.
  • Grant makers should respect the work and expertise of the grant seeker and although the process is important, grant makers should be driven by outcomes.
  • Focus should be on quality of work and not numbers.
  • Evaluation is necessary for large and small grants to enable sustainability and growth.
  • Grant makes can offer training on reporting systems as per appropriate needs and capacities of the organization, this would be an added value.
Measurable Outcomes” – Management with measurement’, have become the new mantra and the voluntary sector will need to keep pace with these changing requirement."

Roxana Kalyanvala, Executive Director, Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra
Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK) is a not for profit organization based in Pune since 1979 which provides professional social welfare services to children, women and families in need.


"As a grant maker, I believe that we need professionalism into the system, to ensure that the right kind of NGOs receive support. Often NGOs which are started with a vision and mission of the founder, start losing steam, the original vision and mission of the organization after the second line, takes up leadership. As grantmakers, we need to ensure consistency on the flow of the activities, variations in the pattern of activities from the existence of the NGO . 
We have not done away with the ‘good work’ philosophy of the NGO and still like to get a feel from the communities. We look for basics within the development process, such as the working manner of the NGO works, how economically and efficiently it is able to spent funds for the communities they work for and how best the funds are allocated and utilized by them. This in turn also measures the impact the programme is able to have on the communities they serve. 
It is true we would like to see the impact of the programme, and would like to support the more open and transparent organisations. The role of the grant maker should not only be to support NGOs financially, but also help them to build on their strengths and work on the weakness of the NGO for the betterment. Thus as grantmakers we take that extra step to understand from the organization their lacunae, so that we are able to guide them appropriately.

The professionalism in grant making is good for all, since it helps the grant makers to look at impact and accountability of the NGO, on the other hand it helps the Grantee, to introspect their systems and work on their shortcomings, and overcome them, to be better organizations. 
It is also needed with a motive of progressing the NGO and its beneficiaries. It helps the grant makers to collectively fund a project and work collaboratively, which works out better in the long run for the NGOs."

Cyril David, CEO, Volkart Foundation
Volkart Foundation ,is a Funding organization working across India in the areas of health, education and women empowerment.


"We’ve heard this over and over again and if we follow it literally as grant makers then essentially grant makers wanting strict accountability and being sticky about the outcome becomes a vetoed demand. As a grant maker, don’t we have the strength to make the world a better place? Isn’t it this that we are contributing for?

There are numerous grant seekers and I believe that most if not all, must be out there to do something ‘good’. As a grant maker if I may delve into the reasons that grant seekers are working for and most essentially see an archive of the impact they’ve made, it puts me in an immediate comfort zone to accord them the grant. Of course a report is mandatory to see the use of the grant but at the same time over emphasizing and demanding too much paper work from the grantee may take out the fragrance of the service we seek to do.

Sometimes I feel we are too attached to the number of outcome of beneficiaries. But did each one of the beneficiaries get the soft skill interactions that were required to fulfill his or her needs ? 
As a grant maker it is essential to be professional about how I go about parking funds for the organization, but if I am also particular about the result being my way only, then instead of pilling on too much responsibility of paper jargons to the grantee, I’d rather have a good check mechanism in place. As hard as we try, no machine can replace the soft empathetic approach humans have. 
I’d say it is a win-win solution to be professional in our approach as grant seekers and as grant makers, especially when we both share the same vision. We then get attached through our vision rather than only looking at the fruit."

Shivani Dahanukar, Director - CSR Committee, Tilaknagar Industries Ltd. 

(from our Debate column
CAP's quarterly newsmagazine 'Philanthropy' Q1 April - Jun 2015 ) 

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