Technical Assistance Models

Technical assistance – help in all forms for grassroots groups – is an essential component of effective grassroots grantmaking programs. Designing the most effective technical assistance system begins with a close look at your local context: 

  • Is there an organization that currently provides technical assistance?
  • Are there consultants in the area that have experience working with grassroots groups?
  • Are the basic bases covered already, or are you starting from scratch?
  • Does your grassroots grantmaking staffing design call for staff that have the specialized experience needed to serve in a technical assistance capacity?
  • Will staff have sufficient time to spend the face-time with grantee groups that is required for effective technical assistance?

Grassroots grantmaking practitioners utilize several different models for providing technical assistance to their grassroots grantees.  Several of the most frequently used models are described below, with possible pros and cons for each noted.

Model Pros Cons
Staff of the funding organization is the primary technical assistance provider. Staff has an intimate knowledge of and close working relationship with grantees, and is positioned to see trends that can inform program structure and resource allocation decisions. The most staff intensive technical assistance model for the funding organization.Requires staff that has experience working in a capacity building role and specialized knowledge about grassroots groups.

Staff are in the often awkward position of trying to wear two very different hats – the judge/funder and the supportive problem solver.

Funding organization contracts with a local technical assistance intermediary and/or training organization to provide technical assistance and training to grantee groups. Can provide a nice partnership and division of labor between funding organization and local technical assistance provider or training organization.Can build the capacity of the local technical assistance infrastructure for grassroots groups. Can be problematic if the technical assistance provider lacks the capacity or experience needed for the task.If contract is with one organization, that organization may play to its strengths rather than address the technical assistance needs of the grantee organizations.

Technical assistance can protect its reputation by over-stating successes and under-stating challenges.

Unless all parties work to maintain open channels of communications, funder may not have access to information that supports their own learning and informs future programmatic decisions.

Funding organization recruits a pool of consultants to provide assistance to grantee groups. The breadth of expertise and approaches that is possible with this model can ensure that funded groups have access to the specialized help that they need and a style of helping that matches their learning preferences. Staff time required for the active management of the consultant pool is often under-estimated.
Funding organization supports peer to peer technical assistance among pool of grantee groups. Acknowledges and supports the growing capacities and skills that exist within grantee groups.Peers are familiar with grassroots groups and the problems that they typically encounter.

The ability of peers to communicate and empathize are likely to be very high.

Demands of a peer consultant’s own group may limit the time that the peer can provide to assisting other groups.A peer consultant may provide narrow guidance, telling what his/her organization did rather than looking at the bigger picture.

Peers may be excellent at doing but less skilled at guiding.


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