What do I mean by patient money? In the grassroots grantmaking world, we have learned to look at the work of grassroots grantmaking with both a long-term and short-term lens. Grants are made today. Relationships are nurtured today. Projects begin today. And sometimes the today-part of the work feels insignificant, maybe even trivial, when we think about the challenges our communities are facing.
But we have seen that those grants, relationships and projects add up to something that takes a long-term lens to see and even imagine. When we talk about patient money, we are talking about a funder's commitment to the long-term with the understanding that long-term results require patience. Patiently maintaining an open door to funding. Patiently listening for opportunities to make a strategic investment that will maintain or build momentum. Patiently nurturing relationships.
When I talk about patient money, I'm talking about a consistently available and accessible pool of money that grassroots groups can tap into from time to time to help move an idea into action. Available and accessible, but not guaranteed or automatic. An invitation rather than a promise. It can reside in one place or in several places. The important thing is that it is always there - somewhere.
As I was listening to the story of young people finding their voice, here is what I heard:
We had this idea and tried it out.......this happened and then we did this.......we got a grant from a program called GINI that helped us to this. By this time, the young people were doing this.......and we had new people and energy and another great idea......and we used a grant from our community foundation to help us get that done......and that led to this. And so this is what we learned.....and this is what we want to do next.
Do you hear the pattern? It's sort of a "follow the bouncing ball" pattern, where grants are associated with just some of the bounces. The grants are important - important enough to be part of the story - but they are part of the story and not the story itself.
To me, this is the sound of patient money.