As funders turn to community change, intentionally addressing the unique power differential between funder and grantee partners and structuring ways to mitigate this imbalance is essential to honest communication. Funder relationships with their grantees impact the legacy of major community initiatives. This article explores this relationship and its effects through the lens of the recent evaluation of one family foundation — the Robins Foundation in Richmond, Virginia — and its follow-up actions.
Through a participatory evaluation process, we derived three principal approaches for this donor, and others, to consider in contemplating funder-grantee partnerships and the way these may influence the impact of the work and the likelihood of a positive legacy: build equitable partnerships, set up structures for mutual learning, and evaluate with intent.
We will show how the Robins Foundation, a funder committed to continuous learning; its grantee partner, the Partnership for Families; and the evaluators modeled these approaches in the assessment process and how the foundation is recalibrating its approach to grantee partnerships and integrating the three approaches into all of its work.
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