Partnering with Intermediaries

by Tom David

Jun 1, 2007
The purpose of this paper is to explore the dimensions of foundation-intermediary partnerships in order to inform future philanthropic strategy and practice.
  • Four important principles for working with intermediaries that emerged from interviews were clarity, partnership, networks, and the long view,
  • Among the challenges with working with intermediaries are that it may not ultimately be less expensive, has potential for role confusion and loss or independence or financial dependency, and puts the Foundation at a distance from ultimate beneficiaries and from potential learning.
  • Key to managing a Foundation-intermediary relationship are self awareness about the power differential, flexibility and tolerance for risk, open communication and consultation, support for infrastructure, and systems for learning and reflection.
  • Issues of relative power and branding and impatience and institutional ego have often gotten in the way of genuine partnership that is characterized by openness, mutual accountability and shared learning.
  • Foundations have often overlooked the issue of grantee capacity or seen it as merely a marginal cost compared to the core endeavor of implementing a project. There’s now ample evidence that attention to capacity building is an essential element of effective grantmaking.
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