How to end a partnership amicably

Local government grantmakers need to be positive, persuasive and resourceful to bolster the reserve available for community funding. They need to prove the benefits of their programs and they need to be creative about finding funds.

The GrantCraft guide Foundations Moving On: Ending Programmes and Funding Relationships, published by the US-based Foundation Center, provides detailed information on managing the end of partnerships between grantmakers and grantees, tips on communication, and advice on how funders can support former partners. It is free, and it is well worth a read. This is our summary.

Nine steps to ending a partnership amicably

  1. Consider your exit when you enter. Open discussions about motivations, intentions and timelines at the outset of a partnership stand you in good stead for a happy ending.
  2. Be prepared. Write your organisation's obituary. Have a clear idea of the impact you want to have.
  3. Think sustainably early on. What do you need to have in place when a partnership comes to an end? This needs to be discussed with and understood by grantees at the beginning of the relationship.
  4. Talk timelines. You don't necessarily need an official policy or plan, but timelines should be discussed at each stage of your partnership.
  5. Manage irrationalities. If a partner is to become sustainable in its own right, the grantmaker needs to let go. Some want to withdraw too rapidly, while others have trouble withdrawing and allowing a third party to take over. Be aware of these challenges, and manage emotions and irrationalities wisely.
  6. Review regularly. Conducting regular reviews enables grantmakers to consider whether they want to continue, withdraw, or scale up. That way, if they do decide to exit, it doesn't need to happen suddenly.
  7. Consider more than money. Grantmakers should ensure any non-financial contributions made in a partnership are noted, built into the partnership model, and considered as part of any exit discussions. The non-monetary contributions may continue after the partnership has ended.
  8. Communicate. Once the decision to exit a partnership has been made, funders should take the time, and use a variety of methods, to communicate with those involved. Grant managers must take responsibility for the decision and take ownership of the message.
  9. Revisit and relearn. It might be difficult and confronting, but grantmakers should revisit former grantees and partners after some time has passed, and witness the aftermath - it can be enlightening.

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