TRUST, RESPECT, ETHICS, GROWTH
You read that title correctly, returning funds for noncompliance can be rewarded. Yes, rewarded. It happened to me.
Several years ago, I was working as a grant manager for a county who was a fiscal agent for nonprofits in the community without their own capacity to manage grants. It was an incredible job and we did amazing work in the community building capacity, helping organizations reach goals, and filling gaps in services.
To decide if we became a fiscal agent, we had developed an internal scoring matrix. Did the agency share our mission? Did they have the capacity to implement the grant they wanted to apply for? Did they have collaborative partners? Were they financially stable? You know the drill.
We were awarded a foundation grant once, where it became pretty clear to me early on that there were internal challenges in the nonprofit which resulted in outcomes not being achieved. I had been attending community meetings and monitoring activities, and after two months, my first meeting was with the executive director to discuss what I was seeing as a worrisome pattern. Given this was only a one-year grant, I gave them very specific short-term goals to work on with deadlines, and strategized ways to overcome the challenges they faced. When four months arrived and the outcomes were not met, I again met with the executive director to discuss the situation. With no change in sight, I made the decision to contact the funder.
It was not a call I had ever made to any funder, and we had received previous awards from this portfolio managed by this funder and were hoping to receive many more in years to come. I felt it was not only ethical, but showed that we were serious in stewarding the funds we were responsible for. The funder appreciated our concern, met with the nonprofit, outlined a corrective plan, offered technical assistance and set short-term deadlines.
Some progress towards goals were made at six months resulting in new goals and deadlines by the funder. After several interventions, unfortunately, at nine-months the grant was withdrawn for noncompliance. The nonprofit was forced to dissolve shortly after. It was not the outcome any of us wanted, but these situations do occur and I do not regret my decisions.
A few months later, the county had a need that fell within the area of interest of this funder. I made a call, and we were immediately awarded funds to meet the need. The trust I had built due to being a good steward of their funds was my reward, and it is still paying off to this day even though I am no longer in that role. I continue to nurture this relationship with the donor and am honored to be a partner in their philanthropy with many of my clients.
Have you ever returned funds? What has your experience been?
This article was written for publication in the Grant Professional Association November 7, 2017 Grant News Weekly