What does it mean to “fund 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 who 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. A charismatic leader, perhaps. But that person is not “people”.

Here at Talent Philanthropy Project, 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 their organization.

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