What do you say to the foundation that’s been silent for the past year as it readies itself to deliver a new strategy to your fast-moving field? Or to the one you have your eye on that has never before funded an organization run by a leader of color? Too often, you may be inclined to say nothing at all.
That’s because nonprofit professionals are often reluctant to speak candidly about their experiences and frustrations working with foundations. “There’s definitely this power dynamic that exists,” grantwriter Kari Aanestad tells us. “I think there’s a real fear of retribution in the field.”
But without ongoing feedback, foundations may fail to understand how they are perceived by their grantees, who are arguably some of their most critical partners. As a result, funders may be slow to learn lessons or course-correct.
Aanestad has been a professional grantwriter for seven years. She now co-directs GrantAdvisor, an innovative solution to the feedback void. In this Tiny Spark podcast, we speak to the co-directors of this relatively new platform.
GrantAdvisor is a site like Yelp but for philanthropists, where nonprofits can anonymously rate the foundations with which they interact. To date, they say 560 foundations have received at least one review on Grant Advisor and people have written 1600 reviews.
Jon Pratt, GrantAdvisor’s co-director and Aanestad’s colleague at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, describes it as a gathering place where nonprofits can share honest feedback about what it’s really like to work with specific foundations. They also advise aspiring grant-seekers on how to make an initial approach to a given foundation, or what signals a foundation might give to indicate that you’d be better off going away and trying your luck elsewhere.
One of the strengths of this platform, unlike other mechanisms for funder feedback, is that foundations don’t have to opt in to be included. Nor do the funders under review have editorial control over the responses; once a foundation receives five reviews, GrantAdvisor gives the foundation an opportunity to respond, and then all the responses and reviews are published. GrantAdvisor makes sure the reviews adhere to established community guidelines, in the hope that funders and grantees alike come to see the site as a rich source of useful and forthright information.
“There was a lot of concern what foundations would think about this, and will they get used to it,” Pratt says. “We did have some foundations say, ‘Actually, please don’t include us. Don’t write about us. And in fact, don’t even look at us.’” Pratt included them anyway.
In this podcast, Pratt and Aanestad tell us why they feel this platform is so necessary, whether comparisons to other review sites make sense, and how GrantAdvisor might help make the nonprofit sector a more equitable space.
- Nonprofit AF: “GrantAdvisor.org, a site for reviewing foundations, and why all the cool people are using it”
- Fast Company: “This New Review Site Lets Nonprofits Give Feedback To Foundations”
- NPQ: “At Last! Rate Your Grant-Seeking Experience at GrantAdvisor.org: The Yelp for Reviewing Foundations”
- Vu Le on Tiny Spark: “Vu Le on “Funder Fragility” and Unproductive Philanthropic Practice”
- GrantAdvisor on Twitter
Featured Image: Jon Pratt and Kari Aanestad outside their office at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (credit: Sarah Crumrine)