OTT Funder Portfolio Support Service

16 January 2024

We offer quality, relevant and timely support to busy and mindful funders who want to inform their decision and grantmaking to become more effective and equitable in their giving.

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About OTT

OTT is a global consultancy and platform for change. We support and strengthen the work of research organisations, foundations, governments, non-governmental organisations and international agencies in support of better-informed decision-making.

Through our consultancy work, we develop tailored solutions to specific challenges. With services spanning research, strategy, evaluation, learning facilitation, and organisational transformation, we partner with organisations to drive evidence-informed change. Through On Think Tanks we build, nurture and support a global community of people working in, with and funding think tanks. We create a space to connect, learn and exchange.

Both our consultancy and community work have public good at their heart. We are committed to gathering new knowledge and making it available to everyone. We continuously seek to drive the sector forward. OTT is a global organisation. Our team, from diverse cultural and disciplinary backgrounds, is based around the world.

About the portfolio support service

We offer to support your portfolio, providing you with rapid and useful information to make the best possible strategic decisions.

We’ve spent over a decade supporting and working with organisations that generate, communicate, use and fund evidence, and we have come to know them very well. We also interact with funders in this space and have learned how hard they work to deliver on their missions. They are constantly trying to become better informed about their sectors and geographies of interest, to develop rich and lasting relationships with their grantees and partners, and to develop more effective and equitable approaches to their grant-making. And there is never enough time to do it all.

Over the last years, we have developed a model of support to funders by working closely with some trusted clients: International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Luminate Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Laudes Foundation, Robert Bosch Stiftung, and Echidna Giving, amongst others. We have:

  • Monitored pools of grantees, making sense of their needs, challenges, opportunities and contexts to aid decision-making.
  • Been “on hand” at critical moments, helping clients decide the best way forward for effective and equal grantmaking.
  • Supported candidates to develop better grant proposals that reflect funders’ needs and priorities.
  • Identified and vetted qualified consultants in regions of interest.
  • Worked as critical friends to our clients, raising awareness about blind spots that hinder their work.
  • Consulted grantees to inform funder strategy development processes.
  • Interpreted, synthesised and communicated key lessons from investment portfolios.
  • Explored how changes in the political, economic, and social context of grantees have affected their capabilities to deliver on their missions.
  • Cultivated an understanding of funders’ needs by convening the OTT Funders Circle and the African Education Research Consortium for a number of years.

Why do you need this support?

  • We take some of the workload off you and report back when and as you need.
  • You’ll have more head space and quality evidence to make strategic decisions about your portfolio.
  • Your engagement with grantees will be more meaningful, dedicating time to what matters.
  • You will have peace of mind, knowing that your portfolio is monitored in a way that considers the context in which it is operating.
  • We make sure to access networks of experts based locally, close to the organisations you work with and support.
  • We will help you raise awareness about your agenda and your priorities so that your portfolio achieves its mission.

Sound interesting? This is how it works in practice:

Choose your support package

After having guided different funders through strategic decision-making, we realise most would love more time to engage with their grantees’ work and context more meaningfully.

Managing large portfolios can result in limited time and headspace to know what is happening locally, not only with grantees’ work but with their reality on the ground.

A field visit can turn into a whirlwind of quick-fire meetings with grantee leaders, which may fail to get to the bottom of the issues that matter to them.

We are here to help. Our service is characterised by three unique qualities:

  • We meet you where you are: providing you with the information you need, in the format, and at the time you need it to make better informed decisions. This is about you and your needs.
  • Grantees and their contexts: we know that it is not possible to understand organisations without considering their contexts. We work with local experts and can monitor and assess local sources of information and analysis to offer you contextualised information about your grantees.
  • Evidence-based: we draw from over a decade of working with civil society organisations across the world, lessons learned from our work with funders and new information and insights we collect and generate to inform our work.

The service we offer is bespoke but to help you understand how it may play out in practice we present it on three levels: starter, standard and advanced.


We keep you informed with the latest information available about your grantees and the field and contexts in which they work. We make sure that your grantees also understand your priorities. +


Besides keeping you and your grantees informed, we monitor your grantees strategies checking in with them regularly and steering learning between them. We also connect you with local networks and experts to have a clearer picture of what is happening locally. +


In addition to keeping you updated, steering learning and connecting you with local networks and experts, we monitor your grantees’ work plans closely and offer recommendations where necessary to maximise the impact of your and their work. We organise a sensemaking workshop annually to summarise learning and give recommendations for your next phase of planning, which we will capture in a report. +

In each case, instead of being disconnected from your grantees’ work, you will be able to maximise your time with them, having the information you need to make the most of your engagements.

Across all levels, as an additional benefit, you will gain access to our community and services including:

  • The OTT Funders Circle +
  • The OTT Global Conference +
  • A private briefing on the annual think tank state of the sector report
  • One place for a nominated grantee to join the School for Thinktankers

How we will work together

If you decide to work with us, we will follow three fundamental steps: first, we will go through an inception phase, setting the basis of our collaboration.

Inception phase

During the inception phase, we clarify your expectations, understand the characteristics of your portfolio based on available data and documentation and understand your grant-making cycle. We also identify key moments of decision-making, decide which angles or questions should be prioritised for grantee monitoring, and define the key learning questions you have about your portfolio, your grantees and their work. Examples of such questions could be:

  • What are the social, cultural, political, and socioeconomic factors that affect grantees’ work?
  • Are there any salient news or emerging events that affect their work?
  • Are there any innovations in the field they are working in?
  • What events are grantees holding, and who are they meeting?
  • What are the latest publications about and in which formats?
  • What are the difficulties and challenges grantees are facing – internally as well as externally?
  • Are there any relevant changes or trends in their organisation or in their staff?
  • What are the grantees’ beneficiaries or audiences’ needs – and are they changing?
  • What is the state of disadvantaged groups in the grantees’ context?
  • How is diversity, equity, and inclusion understood in the grantees’ context – and by the grantees?

In this phase, we will agree on ways of communicating and identify any possible risks or challenges we might encounter.

In addition, we might carry out interviews to complement the documentation and data available. We will finalise this phase with a brief description of the state of the portfolio and a summary of the client’s needs, what we understand are the main criteria, questions that will guide our work and a detailed work plan.

Implementation phase

Collaboration: We will deliver the agreed package of service to support the funder’s portfolio.

Continuous feedback: Candid relationships with our clients are very important. We take feedback seriously as we believe in the power of conversation, adaptation and learning. We need this to adjust and improve the work, making it useful for decision-making. We welcome feedback from grantees too, ensuring that the service we offer is useful to them. Feedback, for us, is the base for learning and fosters a continuous and collaborative relationship.

If we work together, you’ll need

  • A principal contact person to liaise with the team at OTT and time from staff to accompany the process.
  • Clear communication to grantees about the scope of OTT’s work, its role, and responsibilities.
  • A willingness to share appropriate information about your organisation with our team in a trusted space.
  • A willingness to share ongoing candid feedback.
  • An openness to being supported so you can focus on your core activities while we keep you informed!

Additional services to support your grantmaking process

We are aware that some funders have very specific needs at different stages of the grantmaking process. That’s why, in addition to our core services, we have developed a menu of additional services that have proven to be useful to funders in the past. These are organised by the different stages of grantmaking to help you think about which elements might support your work. They can be added to your package at a convenient add-on fee.

Our Research Support Service

The Funder Portfolio Support Service complements our Research Support Service (RSS), offering quality, relevant and timely research services to support busy organisations with strategic and day-to-day decision-making. The RSS is a model we have built over the last four years through work with the Open Society Foundations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Learn more.

Get in touch

If your team or organisation could benefit from our service to funders, get in touch! We’ll schedule a call to hear more about your needs and respond with a short proposal.