There’s an adage about philanthropists: “when you become a philanthropist you never again eat a bad meal or tell a bad joke.”
Being a funder comes with unusual challenges to activities as simple as gathering feedback, exchanging ideas, and expressing opinions:
- It can be extremely difficult to get honest, critical feedback from potential grantees (who often fear that giving critical feedback could jeopardize their funding).
- Tentative or unconsidered program officer feedback can have more effect than intended in shaping potential grantee priorities, even if the program officer only meant to offer a consideration or idea.
- It is easy to “lead people on” and waste their time, even when we aren’t trying to do so. Expressing even casual interest in something can be interpreted by a prospective grantee as encouragement to put a great deal of planning and work into things they hope we’ll fund.