Updated: Jul 10, 2020
“Have you distributed the funds that we sent in January for the new small businesses?” I reached out on WhatsApp to Small Business Fund Coordinator, Naomi Ayot, to check in on SIA entrepreneurs in Uganda. There were some boxes on my spreadsheet of grants that were blank.
She texted back a minute later. “The funds are still with me. I don’t want to send through the funds at the time that school fees are due. This way I can have the groups use the money in the way it is intended.”
Trusting our Partnerships
Part of taking ‘Smart Risks’ in our grantmaking is being flexible. Naomi knows what happens when school fees are due and the parents are living below the poverty line. The funds are intend to help start a business, which will spark a sustainable source of funds for families to pay school fees.
A more bureaucratic organization might have to stick to strict timelines and rush the grant process.
At Spirit in Action, we can use the local knowledge of our Coordinators so that the funds get used well, not quickly. I know that my relationship with Naomi is built on trust, not strict rules. [Read more about how we brought Naomi into our Board meeting!]
Don’t be bureaucratic
This concept of being flexible and building personal connections was a common thread with my Smart Risks authors when we had a peer-support call earlier this year. Rajiv Khanna of Thousand Currents shared some feedback that their organization received from their partners. The message he received was: Maintain personal connections with us. Don’t become bureaucratic. [Read more about the book, Smart Risks.]
Bureaucratic rules mean that grants have to be distributed in a specific timeframe, whether or not it’s school fee collection time. In fact, a recent report by the Open Road Alliance found that funder inflexibility was one of the biggest roadblocks to successful grant projects. Being overly bureaucratic means that the focus is on efficiency, rather than human-to-human connection. Thankfully, Spirit in Action is willing to take the Smart Risks to learn, and trust, and grow with our partners.