Navigating Game-Changing Grants

People And Culture

Centering People And Preserving Organizational Culture During Growth
“It was very important for us to anchor our...internal messaging around celebration, recognition, and validation. We [understood] that not out of arrogance, but for our own resilience and survival that this gift is a recognition of the hard work that we've done over the past decade, and it's a recognition of the ambitious, systemic change goals that we're setting with [a] long-term perspective.”

- Sonia Park, Director of Strategic Engagement, Namati 

People and culture are the foundation of any organization, and organizational growth requires investing in people. This is especially the case in  social impact organizations, where the work is demanding, challenging, and fraught with challenges unsolvable by one individual and organization, reliant on global systems. Employee morale, restoration, and well-being are central to the work and organizational operations.


  • Acknowledge and celebrate! The unrestricted funding offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the collective wins of the organization and address fair and equitable staff compensation.
  • Invest in talent by strengthening internal staff and bringing in additional capacities and skill sets. During staff expansion, prioritizing internal and external connections across the organization is crucial to a successful organization.
  • Humanize hiring operations. Relationships are infrastructure. Designing human-forward systems of operation for hiring, retention, and communications that are less impersonal and more meaningful can accrue social capital for the organization.
  • Invest in a people-centric organizational culture that supports the well-being of staff by prioritizing work-life balance and connection.

Acknowledge and celebrate! The windfall gift offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the collective wins of the organization and address fair and equitable compensation.

What truly makes the windfall gift unique is the room it offers organizations to determine their priorities outside of formal programming—a luxury compared to the traditional grants these organizations routinely work with. This gift is an opportunity for organizations to acknowledge their team’s hard work, making time and freeing up resources to celebrate their valuable contributions. It was also crucial to address the issue of pay equity, especially given rising economic inflation.

Lived Experience

Organizations celebrated staff accomplishments through in-kind or monetary support and benefits. When receiving the financial windfall, an organization reported giving one-time cash bonuses (not salary increases) to recognize their contributions. Another organization organized a collective bargaining agreement with their staff, which included a reassessment of salary and benefits.

Invest in talent by strengthening internal staff as well as bringing in additional capacities and skill sets. 

Despite this diversity, a resounding message across gift recipients has been the acknowledgment that investing in talent could not be more important during this period. As organizations reach out to new potential hires, it is imperative to not underestimate internal talent. A significant source of tension can be between the front-line staff who tend to feel devalued by "corporate” staff being brought into the organization. Ensuring a symbiotic relationship between these staffing groups, guided by an agenda where both sides interact and learn from each other is deeply valuable. This should also be coupled with valuing and paying front-line staff fairly, adopting transparency and respect.

Humanize hiring operations.

The world is a small place, and this is especially true in the social impact sector. Designing human-forward systems for hiring, retention, and communications that are less impersonal and more meaningful can accrue social capital for the organization. These systems also help recognize and encourage the interconnected nature of the social impact movement. It helps challenge the traditional understanding of what infrastructure is supposed to mean or look like and reaffirms that relationships are infrastructure. Leaning into those organizational relationships and building on them is essential to strengthening organizations. Creating people-centered systems can remove some of the inherent biases associated with hiring. Investing in HR systems aligned with organizational mission and values can make a significant positive impact.

Lived Experience

An organization noted that hiring has been essential to maintaining culture – being intentional and strategic to ensure hiring the right people helps to create a high-achieving and cohesive team.

Invest in a people-centric organizational culture.

Growth, accelerated by gifts and grants, means more work for organizations. Instituting and maintaining an organizational culture can encourage work-life balance for staff and facilitate connection across geographies and time zones, while continuing to serve communities, achieve impact and work towards long-term systemic change. Organizations that implemented cultural compacts helped to enable and strengthen a people-centered culture that fortified organizations during change.

Lived Experiences

An organization shared that they center their culture around key terms: happiness, politics, agility, inclusivity, and innovation.

Several organizations offered periods of structured rest: two weeks off at year-end (e.g., homework is to deepen the connections to the people you say you love), a four-day mid-year break (e.g., homework is to feed your spirit and your soul), three re-set weeks, ‘Disco Fridays’: every other Friday off to disconnect.

Others offered meeting-free weeks to build trust with their staff in a remote setup.

An organization Included staff wellness and diversity, equity, and inclusion in organizational programming across all levels, from leadership to the front line.

Some organizations used small group cohorts for employee orientation, including time with the CEO to discuss their personal history (wins and losses), monthly in-person meetings, and quarterly retreats.

Case Studies

Tools & Resources

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