Smarter Relationships, Better Results: Making the Most of Grantmakers' Work with Intermediaries

by Alice Cottingham

Apr 8, 2013

This briefing is for grantmakers who want to understand how grantmaking intermediary organizations--some of whom consider themselves grantmakers first and intermediaries second--operate and view their work with funders. In it, we suggest ways that grantmakers can increase the odds that their partnership with intermediary organizations will be consistently productive and share recommendations from intermediaries about how grantmakers can ensure that intermediaries can apply their best efforts on the funders' behalf. Above all else, grantmakers must craft and sustain the most appropriate relationships with the intermediaries with whom they work.

  • Grantmakers turn to intermediary organizations when they need or want to disburse money; tap a skill set, knowledge, or technical capacity not existent within the foundation; place development and management of an initiative in external hands, benefit from an independent perspective or place-based expertise; work with other funders in a grantmaking collaborative; acquire credibility; or try out a strategy used by an intermediary.
  • Regranting via an intermediary organization can help grantmakers to mitigate risk or provide cover for controversial grants, demonstrate a segregation of responsibilities, ease a foundation's exit from funding program, and reduce funder's overhead.
  • While intermediaries report that they are generally happy with the work they do with grantmakers, many identified issues related to funding as significant problems, with inadequate or inflexible funding limiting intermediaries’ impact. Additionally, the majority of comments about hindrances were about relationship problems.
  • The right relationship between an intermediary and a grantmaker is one based on clear-eyed and explicit assessment by both about what is wanted and needed from this specific relationship and a clearly, articulated, shared commitment to jointly agreed-upon results.
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