210 Goodbyes: Lessons from Making Final Grants and Ending Grantee Relationships

by Ruth Norris

Sep 1, 2018

These are words an organization never likes to hear, but let's be honest: funding relationships eventually come to an end. Sometimes, the end is carefully planned -- a funding initiative with a limited life span, a foundation that decides to spend down. At other times, it's a mutual decision when funder and grantee discover that their goals are not aligned or that their partnership has simply run its course. It might even be a surprise -- such as when the stock market or the legislative appropriations process take a turn that leaves the funder with fewer assets than anticipated.

No matter what the reason, the end of a funding relationship can be cordial and affirmative, advancing and demonstrating the grantee's resilience. But it can also be turbulent or even catastrophic, damaging relationships, reputations, and the grantee organization's prospects for future success. The different outcomes depend, surprisingly, less on the magnitude of funding lost and more on the degree of care taken by both partners to prepare for the change -- and to anticipate the challenges and opportunities it will bring.