Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (Excerpted from the Foundation Review)

by Barbara Kibbe

Sep 1, 2018

Funding relationships begin, and they end. An exit might occur as planned in a time-limited initiative, arise through new research or evaluation insights, or follow shifts in funder priorities. Whatever the reason, grantmakers can take steps to advance positive relationships and outcomes for grantees. What do funders leave behind when they exit? What approaches to exits are most effective at preserving or extending the results of good work? At ensuring that grantees and fields thrive?

These and other questions were explored through interviews with a combination of funders and grantees, drawing from stories of more than a dozen exits. The greatest exit challenges related to the confluence of three factors: (1) the central role the funder had chosen for itself; (2) the scale of support offered, especially when it outpaced other support for the issue or organization; and (3) the difference between the expected and actual duration of that support.

While much more needs to be understood about why and how funders exit as well as about the effects, below are some sensible practices that can immediately improve both relationships and outcomes related to funder exits.