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Realizing Readiness: Takeaways from Two Foundation Leaders

TCC’s Director of Nonprofit Effectiveness Julie Simpson teamed up with Senior Program Officers Annie Martinie of the Danville Regional Foundation and Andrea Kellum of the Healthcare Georgia Foundation to present “Radical Readiness: Who Decides Who’s Ready to Solve Complex Problems?” Co-designed by TCC Director of Evaluation and Learning Jared Raynor, the session explored how funders can overcome common barriers to organizational readiness by working in collaborative relationship with their communities.

In the discussion as well as the conference halls, the TCC team heard two major themes emerge related to these holistic new ways of approaching readiness.

1. Start with the internal work

Once again, self-awareness comes to the forefront. Traditional grantmaking practices characterized by unilateral communication and unrealistic metrics often solved the wrong problems or exacerbated systemic issues to fall short of meaningful impact. “Don’t give me an RFP to ‘apply to this and we will end poverty in five years’—you won’t,” said Juliet de Jesus Alejandre, Executive Director of Chicago’s Logan Square Neighborhood Association, in the opening plenary. “This sets me up for failure.”

Taking time to consider how grantmaking is done can end the cycle. “Funders need to be in learning mode and go into relationships with grantees without knowing all the answers,” said Andrea Kellum. “They need to reframe the knowledge they have and do their own work as a starting place.”

2. Build on self-awareness to support the sector

With this strong foundation, funders can engage in dialogue with nonprofits to “get resources to the community and get out of the way,” said Jared Raynor. Julie Simpson added that instead of singular organizational trainings that may reinforce power dynamics, “we need continual back-and-forth of what’s being learned, ongoing coaching, bilateral conversations.”

The TCC team noted that some GEO funders are inviting grantees to participate on panels, thus creating shared understanding and helping lift voices not previously included. By working together in partnership and mutual determination, grantmakers can look forward to making greater strides toward and living and manifesting the change they intend to make, both as individuals and organizations.

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