Kari McCann Boutell, President
Iowa Council of Foundations
Last week I attended the Grantmakers for Effective Organizaitons (GEO) national conference in San Francisco. The convening brought together over 950 people to discuss ways grantmakers can be more effective and impactful in their work. During graduate school I had the opportunity to work for GEO for for two summers as a Summer Associate. As I listened to reflections at the conference as part of GEO’s 20th Anniversary celebration, I couldn’t help but notice one thing that sets GEO apart from other national organizations: GEO continues to double down on what the grantmaking practices they believe (and what nonprofits have affirmed) are important.
GEO can be credited for significant shifts in the philanthropic field as it relates to the types of funding and supports grantmakers are providing grantees. A few GEO hallmarks include:
- Capacity Building – When grantmakers support capacity building, nonprofits can build their skills and expertise to tackle important issues.
- Collaboration – When grantmakers build productive partnerships (and support nonprofits to do so) we see real change.
- Flexible, Reliable Funding – When we give flexible, long-term funding, nonprofits worry less about their own survival and focus more on responding to shifts in their environment and creating real results for the communities they serve.
- Learning and Evaluation – When we adopt a learning mindset focused on continuously improving, we can use evaluation to focus on what we can learn from the data, push ourselves to experiment and deliberately look at failures as opportunities to grow.
Strengthening Relationships – When we build trust with and tap the knowledge of nonprofit and community leaders, we arrive at better solutions.
I encourage you to take a look at your grant guidelines and see how many of the GEO values are reflected in your work. Through our unrestricted grant programs and County Endowment Fund Program annual grantmaking, Iowa Community Foundations have the opportunity to practice these principles and provide nonprofits with the right kinds of supports. When nonprofits are equipped with what they need, our communities are strengthened.