On December 13, 2017, the Elmezzi Foundation held its annual grantee convening in the form of a facilitated half day retreat. Over 35 people were in attendance, including staff from other leading NYC philanthropic organizations. Our goal was to create a space where open dialogue and thought provoking conversation between grantees and funders could happen – this was accomplished. The leading question of the day was: How might organizations and funders work together to develop effective ways of fostering a more authentic understanding of the pressing issues and challenges facing nonprofit leaders, their communities, and their fields?
Participants were invited into the conversation through small group discussions where organizations were able to share challenges they face in their field and then given the space to receive feedback and input from other organizations. Following this, participants also spent time discussing the power dynamics and privilege of philanthropy and the barriers it creates to authentic communication and trusting relationships between funders and grantees. Groups came together to envision a new paradigm for the relationships going forward. The energetic group discussions were positive, honest and reflective, our feedback indicates that and a clear sense of community and camaraderie was experienced by all.
Overall, participants shared that networks and bonds were built between organizations and individuals, and there was strong desire to further these relationships beyond the convening. This initial conversation provided the space to express challenges faced by organizations, from funding and evaluation to recruitment and retention, with other funders and created an opportunity to learn about the realities faced by both grantseekers and grantmakers alike. We are energized by this and look forward to more safe spaces and structure for naming the unnamed.