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Relationships between funders and their grantees are crucial because the two must work well together if they are to achieve shared goals. But funder–grantee relationships can be fraught due to the inherent power imbalance between those who have resources and those who need them. How can funders effectively navigate this dynamic to build and maintain strong relationships with their grantees?

Relationships Matter: Program Officers, Grantees, and the Keys to Success sheds light on what constitutes a strong funder–grantee relationship, what nonprofits say it takes for funders to foster such relationships, and the crucial role that program officers play in the equation.

The report finds that in the eyes of nonprofits, the most powerful ways that funders can strengthen their relationships with grantees are to: 1) focus on understanding grantee organizations and the context in which they work; and 2) be transparent with grantees. Less powerful, but still important to forming strong relationships, are the experiences grantees have during the selection process and how open they find funders to be to their ideas about the foundation’s strategy.

Findings of the study are based on CEP’s analysis of the perspectives of nearly 20,000 grantees of 86 foundations, as well as insights gleaned from interviews with 11 program officers whose grantees provided high ratings about their funder experience through CEP’s Grantee Perception Report (GPR).

November 2017