The Dark Side of Little White Lies: Funder Feedback

We’ve all done it. (And if you say you haven’t, you’re definitely telling a little white lie.)  A friend, spouse or a colleague asks your opinion. And you fear that telling the actual truth will hurt their feelings.


So you may find yourself saying: “No, your butt doesn’t look too big in those jeans… Or “yes, I would love to see every picture on your phone of every single meal you’ve ever eaten.” How about, “Of course no one noticed you slow-dancing with the mop bucket at the holiday party!”


But in the world of grantee-grantor relationships, telling little white lies is not just something you do to be polite, it’s often something you do because you want to keep getting funded. How do I know this?  


Well, I have a “friend” who has worked for more than 22 years as a grant writer, fundraiser and now as a consultant.  This “friend” has written her way through many a grant proposal, only to be faced with the question: “How can we improve our application process?”  or “What feedback do you have on our grant-making?” 


My “friend” has often thought, “Well, for starters, you could jettison this godforsaken form and stop making me (I mean my “friend”) answer the same question over and over. Then, maybe you could cancel this online submission platform masquerading as a portal to hell.  Finally, how about some MYGOD (multi-year general operation donations—thank you Vu Le) up in here?!?!?” 


Reader, I’ve sent my “friend” off to a silent retreat with a pocket full of melatonin, so let me state that “she” realizes answering questions this way helps no one.  On the other hand, not providing any feedback at all, or simply thanking the foundation for its continued support, is not helpful either. 


What would be helpful is finding a way to be professional and give constructive feedback, especially when a foundation or other funder is actually asking you to do so.  Why not try the sandwich method? That is, writing something positive, like how the foundation’s long-term commitment to the community makes life better for those you serve.  Then ask them to consider multi-year funding to help organizations spend more time providing programs and services. Finally, if their specific application portal is no longer a hellmouth, do let them know.  If there is still a whiff of brimstone in the air every time you sign in, maybe don a garlic necklace and move on. 


Look, we all recognize that the relationship between the funder and the grantee is not an equal one—not historically, anyway. But until we as grant funders find ways to engage in constructive conversation with funders willing to do so, how can we expect change? 


One organization is finding ways to help— This is an online platform created to give and receive feedback on grantmaking. GrantAdvisor exists because its founders believe that grantseekers and grantmakers need each other to succeed. To date, more than 2,100 reviewers have left honest, valuable feedback on 726 grantmakers. 


If you want to learn more about GrantAdvisor, including how easy it is to leave an anonymous review, check out Episode 13 of the Fundraising HayDay podcast that features an interview with GrantAdvisor Co-Director Kari Aanestad.


Start speaking up for the changes you’d like to see in the world of grants!  And hey, why not tell a “friend?” 


DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is so excited to be season 2 sponsors for Fundraising HayDay, a podcast about grants and such. Catch up on season 1 and stay up to date on the new season here.

Don’t let grants stress you out, check out the helpful grant writing services our team has to offer here.

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