The world's first cash machine (ATM) is revealed in Ealing, London, in 1967.
Always Mention the Money
Tragically for our egos, most people want to talk to us as grantmakers because of to our ability to supply them with cold, hard cash, not because of our brilliant ideas or our incredible good looks.
Now, speaking as two of the most deeply soulful people to ever work in professional grantmaking (ahem), this fact of life can be a real downer. We are all human, and we want people to love us for who we are, and not for the zeros in our institutional bank accounts.
That means that when people tell us that they want to talk to us about topics other than money, it can be tempting to believe that - at last - this is an opportunity to have a conversation that isn’t about me being treated like a cash machine!
These kinds of 'not-about-money' conversations are often framed as having conspicuously non-pecuniary purposes. For example you might hear: ‘Can I get some advice?’ or ‘We have some interesting new findings we wanted to share.’ Not a dollar sign in sight.
Confronted by such offers of interesting chats it can be extremely tempting to go ‘yes please!’ especially if you’ve recently had a load of conversations with people who don’t hesitate to treat you like a walking wallet.
But interpreting a ‘not-about-money’ conversation as not being about funding is normally a mistake. Moreover it’s a mistake that’s especially problematic for equity and fairness.
That’s because for many people asking another person directly for money is incredibly painful, embarrassing or even humiliating. This means that many people who are desperate to talk to us about money but will simply not feel able to raise it in conversation, or even to approach in the first place.
Now at this point some readers will be thinking 'Nonsense! people harass me for money ALL THE TIME'. But just consider - are you thinking deeply about the people who didn't ask? Or are they obscured behind the glare of the confident pitchers?
This really matters because self-confidence and entitlement - the ability to walk into a room and ask for a million dollars - is not distributed evenly within society. It’s strongly correlated with all sorts of the demographic characteristics that make up our 'elites'.
Furthermore, there’s another, completely different problem with Not Mentioning Money, which is that it isn’t great service. Grantseekers will often agonise about whether mentioning or not mentioning money is the right strategy when approaching you, and will guess and triple-guess what they should do, wasting time and tying themselves up in stressful knots.
Don’t make them do that! Approaching a grantmaker should always be straightforward, friendly and clear, even if the answer is a rapid ‘no, sorry’. As grantmakers we can't actually achieve anything without good grantseekers to take our money, and so we should treat them with the respect we give to anyone trying their best to do an important job.
What this means is that as a grantmaker who cares about both service and equity, it’s incumbent upon you to raise the topic of money in calls or meetings when it hasn’t yet come up. It is your job to say ‘You’re probably wondering whether we might fund this…’ or ‘You should know that our approach to funding this sort of project is…’.
So practise being the person who always raises money in grantseeker meetings. If you keep forgetting, try writing it on the back of your hand. Or ask another grantmaker to sit in with you, to give you helpful feedback on your whole conversation afterwards (there’s more on the value of doing this in Modern Grantmaking).
Ultimately, if you don’t always make sure funding is mentioned in every grantseeker conversation, you will miss great new ideas and waste people’s time. Don’t miss out - be a Modern Grantmaker and always make sure the M word gets mentioned.
Join our next readers' roundtable
Since September, we’ve been running free Modern Grantmaking online roundtable discussions about every two weeks. During these free-form sessions, participants have shared reflections and ideas relating to a different chapter from our book
, and they've had some fun too!
The next roundtable and last one of 2021 will be on Chapter 7, ‘What should I do about research?’. It will be held on December 13th at 4PM UK time (08.00AM PDT, 11AM EDT, 5PM CET). Duration will be one hour.
Sign up here - places will be limited to make it a real discussion!
And remember it won’t make complete sense if you haven’t read the relevant bit of the book, so get your copy here.
We offer a range of workshops, facilitation and consultancy services based on the practices in our book. Take a look here.
We’ve also been busy spreading the news about Modern Grantmaking far and wide! Here's some highlights.
- Gemma spoke at the UK Community Foundations Together 21 conference about how any grantmaker can be a reformer and shared practical tips on how funders can rebalance power;
- We were interviewed by Blackbaud Europe, a supplier of grantmaking tech, who are sharing our interview with their user community in video form.
- Meg Massey and Ben Wrobel’s Letting Go Medium blog included a lightly edited extract from our book on What Should I Do About Privilege?
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