Excessive Professionalism Has Taken The Heart Out Of Grant-Making

We asked 2 grantmakers and 2 non-profits on whether they felt the soul has gone out of philanthrophy. Is grantmaking today about numbers and impact or is there still some credit for ‘good work’. 

professionalism is by definition unprofessional! Grant-seekers are as
interested as grant-makers in achieving impact. In addition,
appropriate professionalism will only improve the ‘good work’
that NGOs are doing. 

on their part should continue to demand accountability and promote a
result-based development NGO program. However, the grant-maker’s
approach and relationship with the NGO must flow from a genuine
understanding of the special character of non-profit organisations in
general and the partner NGOs in particular. Hence the ‘professional
demands’ must be suitably adapted to the exigencies of the
voluntary sector and the target groups/ communities/issues the NGO is
working with.
issue that is often observed is that the main contribution of
Corporate Social Responsibility looks more at the funds and less at a
socially-oriented Corporate approach. One of the problems that
grant-seekers face is that in most situations the interface with the
grant-maker is with their CSR field staff, who often themselves are
from a social work background and are able to understand the ground
reality, but fail to present the situation convincingly to their
Corporate superiors. On the other hand, when senior corporate staff
(even at the level of Chairperson/CEO) are personally involved and
can make the time even if once a year, for appropriate interaction
with the NGO Management, the partnership is not just inspirational
but could even contribute to the Paradigm Shift that is so necessary
in the Voluntary Sector today. This I can say from personal
related and relevant issue here is the fact that most CSR programs
are managed by the HR Department which sometimes operate from within
a constricted organizational framework. One result of this is that
their CSR field -staff are pressurized to show immediate and tangible
results which could conflict with long term objectives of the NGO
need then is for grant-makers and grant-seekers to have a joint
commitment to mutually agreed outcomes which can over time contribute
significantly to the impact that both seek.”
Ferreira, Project Consultant, India Sponsorship Committee
Sponsorship Committee works with children & education – Help Us
Create a Better World for Children. 

making has been going on for decades and report submissions was
always a requirement.  However, over the last decade or so with
changing times, CSR being made mandatory under law reporting
expectations have changed.  ‘Good work’, ‘welfare
activities’, ‘charitable initiatives’ – cannot be answers
given by grant seekers.
my opinion, it is important and essential for grant seekers to
provide reports, to ensure transparency and accountability in
utilization of funds and services being tendered.  Ultimately,
grant makers also have an accountability to donors, government, etc.
having said that-
  • Reporting
    should not be expected in complex formats
  • Grant
    makers often expect to see impact in 6 months, measured impact is
    not always easy and takes time, and not all initiatives can often be
  • Programs
    should be monitored and evaluated at a level of detail appropriate
    to the resources employed.
  • Grant
    makers should respect the work and expertise of the grant seeker and
    although the process is important, grant makers should be driven by
  • Focus
    should be on quality of work and not numbers.
  • Evaluation
    is necessary for large and small grants to enable sustainability and
  • Grant
    makes can offer training on reporting systems as per appropriate
    needs and capacities of the organization, this would be an added
Outcomes” – Management with measurement’, have become the
new mantra and the voluntary sector will need to keep pace with these
changing requirement.”
Kalyanvala, Executive Director, Bharatiya
Samaj Seva Kendra
Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK) is a not for profit organization based in
Pune since 1979 which provides professional social welfare services
to children, women and families in need.


a grant maker, I believe that we need professionalism into the
system, to ensure that the right kind of NGOs receive support. Often
NGOs which are started with a vision and mission of the founder,
start losing steam, the original vision and mission of the
organization after the second
line, takes up leadership. As grantmakers, we need to ensure
consistency on the flow of the activities, variations in the pattern
of activities from the existence of the NGO . 
have not done away with the ‘good work’ philosophy of the NGO
and still like to get a feel from the communities. We look for
basics within the development process, such as the working manner of
the NGO works, how economically and efficiently it is able to spent
funds for the communities they work for and how best the funds are
allocated and utilized by them. This in turn also measures the impact
the programme is able to have on the communities they serve. 
is true we would like to see the impact of the programme, and would
like to support the more open and transparent organisations. The role
of the grant maker should not only be to support NGOs financially,
but also help them to build on their strengths and work on the
weakness of the NGO for the betterment. Thus as grantmakers we take
that extra step to understand from the organization their lacunae, so
that we are able to guide them appropriately.
professionalism in grant making is good for all, since it helps the
grant makers to look at impact and accountability of the NGO, on the
other hand it helps the Grantee, to introspect their systems and work
on their shortcomings, and overcome them, to be better organizations. 
is also needed with a motive of progressing the NGO and its
beneficiaries. It helps the grant makers to collectively fund a
project and work collaboratively, which works out better in the long
run for the NGOs.”


David, CEO, Volkart Foundation
Foundation ,is a Funding organization working across India in the
areas of health, education and women empowerment.


heard this over and over again and if we follow it literally as grant
makers then essentially grant makers wanting strict accountability
and being sticky about the outcome becomes a vetoed demand. As a
grant maker, don’t we have the strength to make the world a better
place? Isn’t it this that we are contributing for?
are numerous grant seekers and I believe that most if not all, must
be out there to do something ‘good’. As a grant maker if I may
delve into the reasons that grant seekers are working for and most
essentially see an archive of the impact they’ve made, it puts me
in an immediate comfort zone to accord them the grant. Of course a
report is mandatory to see the use of the grant but at the same time
over emphasizing and demanding too much paper work from the grantee
may take out the fragrance of the service we seek to do.
I feel we are too attached to the number of outcome of beneficiaries.
But did each one of the beneficiaries get the soft skill interactions
that were required to fulfill his or her needs ? 
a grant maker it is essential to be professional about how I go about
parking funds for the organization, but if I am also particular about
the result being my way only, then instead of pilling on too much
responsibility of paper jargons to the grantee, I’d rather have a
good check mechanism in place. As hard as we try, no machine can
replace the soft empathetic approach humans have. 
say it is a win-win solution to be professional in our approach as
grant seekers and as grant makers, especially when we both share the
same vision. We then get attached through our vision rather than only
looking at the fruit.”
Dahanukar, Director – CSR Committee, Tilaknagar Industries Ltd. 

(from our Debate column
CAP’s quarterly newsmagazine ‘Philanthropy’ Q1 April – Jun 2015 ) 


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