Be an Octopus! Reflections from an engaged donor, a new publication released by MAVA

Just like an octopus can adapt to the environment, solve problems, and use different arms simultaneously, an engaged donor has additional and unique capabilities that go beyond grantmaking.

We are used to saying that MAVA Foundation is “an engaged donor”. After more than 25 years of activity, and one year before our closing, a small group of MAVA Foundation staff wanted to take a step back to reflect on what it really means to be an engaged donor. What added value a donor could bring to its partners and funded projects, beyond just signing a check?

Based on our own experience, and with the support of Book Sprints team and methodology, we have written a new booklet where we explore ways of engagement for donors, reflect on those we have experimented, and share key lessons learnt along our long journey of grantmaking… and engagement!


Reflections from an engaged donor

Our objective is to inspire other donors to look at their way of operating, how it relates to the wider system and its needs, and to eventually consider new fields of action where they could add more value. In this booklet, we try to objectively present what we have experienced, putting an emphasis on improving project design and implementation, supporting partner organisations and high potential individuals, and increasing the system connectivity.

Our lessons learnt, where we dig more the pros and cons of our ways of engagement, are presented around the issues of optimal timing, depth of engagement, human relationships, appropriate staffing, decision-making model and communicating vs labelling a donor-partner affiliation. We try to address the concrete questions we face in our engaged donor day-to-day life: when does micromanagement start? Is our relationship an institutional or a personal one? Is there a recipe for an elegant exit? Do we need more staff for more engagement?

Take a seat, learn more about how we have used some of donors’ unique capabilities, get inspired and share your insights! The world calls for more “octopus donors”!


Download the publication here.

To see some ‘behind the scenes’ photos and learn more about the process of writing this booklet, read Book Sprints’ blog.

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