Survey reveals perceptions of grant givers

28 May, 2020

The Grant Givers’ Movement (GGM) has published results from its Sector Pulse Survey.

The survey aims to find:

  • How those working within grantmaking organizations perceive their own power as individuals.
  • The dynamics within grant making organisations
  • The  power  balance  between  grant  makers, grantee  partners, and  the communities  we  seek  to  serve

Key findings include:

  • There is an overwhelming consensus that not only does a power imbalance exists between funders and grantee partners, but that there is much that we know can be done to address and rebalance power.
  • Grant makers have far greater trust placed in them than power and that they also had a good amount of influence.
  • Just over 50% agreed that their organisations were taking steps to rebalance power.
  • A range of factors inhibit a trusting relationship between grantee partners and funders, including: funders creating a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of low pay in the sector; funders applying punitive measures when things don’t go according to plan; and grantee partners not wanting to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’.
  • Respondents told us they felt foundations were most accountable to their board, the group they were felt to be least accountable to was end beneficiaries.
  • Respondents felt that some key barriers remain in place. To name a few, these include: old, embedded structures and boards which see little reason/driver to change; the resource required to actually rebalance power led several to worry that unless this came alongside the will to change, things wouldn’t change; and concerns over value of jobs depreciating or job loss.
  • Respondents feel that now is the time to make changes within the sector, and they cite #CharitySoWhite and #ShiftThePower as examples of movements catalysing this. Many of those in grant making positions stated that they felt trusted in their jobs and this results in a good amount of influence for them to change practice within their institutions.

Overall, 140 respondents answered the survey, 70% of which are directly involved in distributing grants and 15% are CEO/directors or senior management.

The report concludes that re-balancing power within the grant making context on a practical level means recognising that grant makers are not always the best people to make funding decisions. Through introducing greater levels of participation in grant making by those with lived experience and by investing in expert knowledge and sharing of knowledge - power can be shifted into the hands of people and communities.


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