February 25, 2015

What does it mean to “fund the people”?

Many funders will earnestly and forthrightly state, “when it comes down to it, we fund people.”

That alway sends a good kind of shiver down my spine. It is a recognition that below all the talk of strategy, the power of relationships, intuition, and passion are still alive. It is a reassurance that despite all its technocratic  window dressing, organized philanthropy still has a humanistic soul.

Yet that statement, “we fund people” tends to refer to the fact that many funders make grants based on one leader they respect, with whom they share a trusting relationship, and/or whose big idea they admire. The person they fund is likely a great person. And a charismatic leader, perhaps. But that person is not people.

When we say #FundThePeople, we are talking about a range of interventions that help nonprofits to develop the systems needed to build a “deep bench” of leadership across their ranks – not just investing in individuals at the executive or leadership level.

We want to see funder help their grantees to move cadres of nascent, emerging, mid-career and senior-level workers across the experiences of recruitment, development, retention, and transition or retirement.

So, we want to be clear. Funding because of one leader is not the same as intentionally investing in the human capital needs and competencies of that leader’s organization.

So what does #FundThePeople mean to you? Let us know in the comments!

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