By Rachel Humphrey, TCC Group
In her previous posts, Rachel made the case for small-staff philanthropy’s niche in international giving, and she shared ingredients for success that may apply to domestic giving as well. Here she shares another key ingredient: conducting effective site visits. Which of her pointers can you apply to your philanthropy, international or domestic?
Take Oprah’s visit to a slum in Mumbai. One can assume that Oprah had positive intentions in her visit, yet, when the piece aired, a palpable tone of judgment and comparison to her reality offended many. When she asked a family about its small home—“I don’t mean to be offensive, but does it feel crowded?”—she was judging the people she visited by the yardstick of her (very different) experience.
No matter how difficult are the living situations of the grantees you visit, undoubtedly you—and they—want to end the site visit with their pride and dignity intact.
How can you avoid such a cross-cultural faux pas?
Know your purpose, and communicate it
To get the most out of a site visit—international or otherwise—it is critical that you define why you are doing the site visit in the first place. Are you visiting simply for the experience of getting to know the grantee and learning about its work? Or does it serve a monitoring purpose? Are you aiming to build trust? Or is it simply a nice thing to do while you are in the country?
What will the site visit do for you? And how will it serve your grantee?
Once you have clarified its purpose, be sure to communicate it to the grantee. If you just want to drop in to say hello, but the grantee thinks it is being monitored, it is unlikely that you will have an enjoyable and productive site visit, and you could damage the relationship with the group significantly. Unless it clearly serves your intended purpose, consider asking your grantee to forgo the usual “dog and pony show.”