Going Beyond Grantmaking: Using External Help to Extend a Foundation's Core Competencies and Increase Its Impact

by Gwen Walden; Katrina Briddel; Lauren Marra

Mar 1, 2015
The drive to achieve impact beyond grantmaking represents a paradigm shift in the way foundations seek to make social change. By bringing to bear new resources and thinking, this shift has the potential to amplify the impact of the philanthropic sector. Consultants and other intermediaries have critical roles to play in extending and enhancing this impact.

This article explores the opportunities and challenges inherent in foundations' efforts to go beyond grantmaking and examines how they can - and cannot - effectively use consultants and other intermediaries to enhance such efforts. It presents three cases: incubating and launching a new organization, effectively deploying impact investments, and collaborating to advocate for policy change.

Using these cases and other experience as a reference base, the article then identifies five ways funders can use consultants and other intermediaries to pursue impact beyond grantmaking, and explores several common pitfalls.

  • Consultants and other intermediaries can be strategic partners in helping funders not only think big but approach wisely. By acting as neutral sounding boards and thought partners, as sources of issue expertise and technical acumen, and as efficient, nimble implementers, consultant and other intermediaries can help funders boldly and successfully exploit philanthropy’s new paradigm.
  • Five ways to use consultants and intermediaries to extend a foundation's core competencies are to augment strategic planning and help build buy-in; capitalize on issue expertise, technical acumen, and implementation experience; build cross-sector connections and function as third-party facilitators; capitalize on tools and vehicles that lower risks and costs and increase speed to market; and gather and deliver objective feedback.
  • The common pitfalls to using consultants and intermediaries are delegating too much; outsourcing key relationships; sending the wrong message; and underestimating the importance of "fit".
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