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How to Staff: Pros & Cons of Four Common Models

There are several commonly-utilized models to staff grassroots grantmaking programs – all with their pros and cons, with the right model dependent on a funding organization’s local context, program goals, and internal capacity.  Here are several of the most common staffing models and the associated pros and cons.

Model

Pros

Cons

Frequency*

Program Officer staffs program as one responsibility among many Staff can readily bring insights, perspectives and relationships gained from the grassroots grantmaking program into other grantmaking and strategy conversations within the funding organization Program may suffer from insufficient staff time, with staff time concentrated on the squeaky wheel responsibilities associated with making grants.  Time constraints may require staff to shortcut face to face time with grantees and minimize opportunities to capitalize on learning moments for both the grantees and the funder.

Staff may not have the cultural competence that is required to build relationships and trust with grassroots groups and leaders.

Staff may have little knowledge or experience with grassroots groups and the context within which they are working in the community.

57%
At least one staff member at the funding organization exclusively serves the grassroots grantmaking program. Staff with specific skills and experience can be hired to staff the program and expand the funder’s internal capacity to effective reach and work with new constituencies. Program may become increasingly isolated from the funder’s other grantmaking, with diminishing opportunities over time for insights, perspectives, and relationships from the grassroots grantmaking program to inform strategy development.

Staff, with significant amounts of “in the field time”, may feel marginalized within the office.

Dedicated staff requires more administrative dollars for the program, which can be difficult to justify unless senior leadership (staff and board) understand the requirements and benefits of grassroots grantmaking and are fully invested in the program.

33%
An outside consultant is hired to staff the grassroots grantmaking program. The funding organization can utilize existing capacity with the community (hiring local people who have the experience, skill-base and passion for work with grassroots groups) to expand their own  capacity to manage the day to day work of the program.

The Program Officer who is responsible for the program can build a positive team-oriented relationship with the consultant.

Internal buy-in, commitment to, and learning from the program may diminish over time if the program does not have an internal champion who ensures information flows from the program into other program areas and works to continually build internal allies for the program. 11%
Funding organization contracts with a nonprofit organization to manage the grassroots grantmaking program and provide technical assistance. Can be a win-win for small -staffed private foundations that want to invest in informal resident-led groups.

Builds the capacity of a local support system for informal resident-led grassroots groups and leaders.

Strengthens the connection between grants and technical assistance.

Taps into existing expertise.

Removes the funding organization from direct interaction with grassroots grantees.

The nonprofit as grant manager can serve as a filter for information – decreasing the opportunities for learning for the funder.

Success of this model is highly dependant on the capacity of the nonprofit organization and open communication between the funder and its nonprofit partner.

Internal buy-in, commitment to, and learning from the program within the funding organization may diminish over time if the program does not have an internal champion who ensures information flows from the program into other program areas and works to continually build internal allies for the program.

% N/A

* Information from 2006 survey of grassroots grantmaking programs.

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