Regranting a smart option? Etienne Eichenberger, Theresa Lloyd, Padraic Brick and Judith Symonds respond to Jacob Harold

Alliance magazine

An African saying states that ‘if you want to go fast you go alone; if you want to go far you go together’. This saying could have been the subtitle of Jacob Harold’s stimulating article on regranting in the September issue of Alliance. It rightly recognizes the importance of informed choices for donors, the cost of being well informed, and sometimes the challenge of finding any information at all.

As suggested in the article, regranting may not be new. However, new resources and new initiatives are offering more options for donors to be wisely involved. But does that provide the impact and efficiency that our sector needs?

From our perspective, we see two dimensions in the giving process whereby regranting is one option. But it will work only for donors who are looking for someone else they can trust to do a better job and who have no intention of getting personally involved beyond the cheque. From our experience with European donors, we see an equation that has two sides.

When it comes to creating impact in the field, donors may achieve better results by regranting their gift. However, many donors today would like to move beyond signing a cheque, perhaps through involvement of their own personal talents, leverage of their networks, or sharing relevant professional experience. This high-engagement approach may not sit easily with a regranting approach that involves joining up with a large and established donor. In this case, the point is that it is not only about giving up control; it is also about recognizing your own added value in the process and the freedom that this generates.

There are other issues too: parents may like to engage the next generation in a bonding experience; a family business may like to have strategic philanthropy connected with its operations. The motivations for philanthropy are diverse and so are the returns. The diversity of approaches, while including a focus and informed choice, may even result in more sustainable giving.

Today we see that giving is about impact in the field as well as what you get out of it. Finding the balance between informed choices – advised by third parties as well – and trusting others to do the job for you responds to different aspirations and both may be wise.

Etienne Eichenberger
Co-founder, wise partnership


What about personal involvement?

Jacob Harold’s article on regranting has some very constructive ideas. However there is a need for caution. He completely discounts the value of personal involvement. Philanthropy is not the same as investing to maximize financial return, although some of the impact assessment questions and techniques are being usefully adapted and transferred to the non-profit arena. He forgets about motivation and values. He creates a false antithesis between ‘caring more about having an impact … than about having a say on a particular grant’. They are not mutually exclusive.

There needs to be a continuing renewal of the pool of informed and engaged donors. Such donors develop by doing and learning. If regranting became the norm, there would be less chance of new ideas and approaches emerging.   

New philanthropists may start naively but benefit from and enjoy the learning process as they become more experienced. Doing it themselves makes it easier to involve family members, especially younger ones, and to create and embed a system of values. Outsourcing philanthropy risks the process becoming just another call on family finances.

But there are various ways in which donors collaborate on specific issues, and share information and experience with like-minded donors. The UK’s Community Foundation Network is an example of an intermediary creating an environment of shared learning and facilitating what we might call shared granting, based on shared understanding of the problem and the community foundation’s analysis of how best to address it on a local basis.

The value of this approach is that it has some of the positive aspects of regranting but retains the direct involvement with the beneficiary that we all know is so important and reinforcing.  

Theresa Lloyd
Theresa Lloyd Associates


Being part of a grand plan: a good option for donors

In his article, Regranting: Smart Humility?, Jacob Harold highlights giving through foundations as a clever option for donors. Jacob’s article echoes lessons that New Philanthropy Capital has learned through linking donors with foundations.

In addition to gaining access to expertise, our experience is that donors also value knowing that their funding is part of a grand plan – for example, their grant may be co-funding an after-school club but it is part of a wider effort to increase opportunities for kids and reduce crime in their local area.

Our report on donor/foundation collaboration, published this summer, found that the greatest difficulty donors face is finding a foundation that works on issues they care about. Donors also want foundations to be able to demonstrate their impact, as with other non-profits. (This will favour foundations that have invested time and resources in addressing this challenge, which is not a bad thing.)

Giving through foundations should be among the options that smart philanthropists consider. Until donors are themselves able to find the Tiger Woods of the foundation world, philanthropy intermediaries should play a role in encouraging and brokering relationships.

Padraic Brick
Senior Consultant, New Philanthropy Capital


Throwing down a gauntlet

Jacob Harold makes some very valid and important points in his article on regranting; he also throws down a gauntlet. This may be a fair thing to do in the US, where a large grantmaking sector has critical mass in key sectors, many more professional staff, and a much better information and knowledge infrastructure, and where individuals and institutions are more connected with each other and more open about what they do. But it may be too early to do this in Europe, and the model may be too narrowly described to take into account some similar practices that already occur and are emerging.

Even though regranting is a good and important model for fostering greater efficiency and impact in grantmaking, in Europe, as anywhere, the reference to ‘donors who care more about having an impact on an issue or a region than about having a final say’ is a tough pill to swallow. Even though it is presented as a ‘further option’, the statement implies that grantmaking is the only way that a donor has impact, and does not take into account the leverage from individual donor engagement or mobilizing others or non-cash contributions. Nor does it acknowledge the need for an environment that fosters innovation and creativity within the context of designating the best recipient for regranting.

Nevertheless, the European philanthropy landscape is changing and focusing more on impact and systemic change. Very strategic regranting is taking place in some of the most effective, change-making family-led foundations such as Oak, CIFF and McCall McBain and others, who fund the European Climate Foundation and peer foundations to increase their impact. Foundations seek out the expertise of the European Foundation Centre; individuals and family foundations consult independent philanthropy advisers and institutes and place their funds with umbrella foundations such as the King Baudouin Foundation and Fondation de France. Affinity groups and giving circles are growing, all with the objective of sharing information and identifying the best approach for having impact together.

The second theme of the article is possibly the most important: the need for a better information and knowledge infrastructure in the philanthropy field. This is acutely true of Europe. It is a priority issue on which the whole sector is well advised to act so that we do what we do in philanthropy better and more collaboratively.

Judith Symonds
JCS International Philanthropy & Strategy Advisors


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