Making Grants Popular Again

The non-profit and philanthropic world is going through an identity crisis of sorts. According to Barry Knight and Jenny Hodgson, in the last thirty years technological advancements has changed the non-profit landscape, "[we] live in a world where constant technological innovation has become the norm, so that what is new is always better than what has gone before," and this logic seems to have transferred to how non-profit organizations are managed. Grantmaking went from the popular method of funding initiatives and organizations to being left out in the cold. New business oriented models have replaced the bread and butter of how non-profits have worked in the last century. Funders and donors want to see immediate results. The ".com" boom of the 1990s resulted in a new a class of philanthropists "who establish enormous foundations shaped by the type of business model that made them wealthy in the first place." What works in a corporate boardroom may not work for organizations who are trying to eradicate communicable diseases in developing countries.

Historically grants have allowed the transfer of money from individuals and foundations with assets to organizations without resources that work in communities in need of aid. This type of work will not see immediate results and change can be a painfully slow process. As Knight and Hodgson remind us "[much] of the really important social changes in the past century have been driven not by philanthropy but by grassroots organizing at a local level." Thus, eliminating grants may hinder social change and progress.

Knight and Hodgson believe grants are not the be all and end all of philanthropic work but it is central. They are advocating for a healthy debate in order to bring grants and grantmaking back from the cold.