Grantee Perception Reports
A Note from Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer about the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s 2013 “Grantee Perception Report”
Since 2003, the Hewlett Foundation has commissioned a “Grantee Perception Report” every few years to get feedback from grantees on how we are doing and what it’s like to work with us. The survey is conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), which guarantees the report’s independence. By using the same survey with other foundations and their grantees, CEP has established useful benchmarks through which we can interpret results. In fall of 2013, we commissioned our fifth survey.
Given some important transitions that have taken place at the Foundation since our 2011 survey—including the arrival of a new president and the merger of two major programs—we were not sure what we would find. We are pleased that our ratings remain generally constant and continue to be relatively high. There are, however, a number of areas in which our grantee ratings dipped or are not as high as we would like. We take these results seriously and are making changes to address the issues that surfaced.
The full results of the survey are available for download. CEP’s Executive Summary highlights the most important points. It says:
Overall grantees’ ratings of and experiences with The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are similar to those from past surveys in most areas, and grantees continue to provide ratings above or similar to those of the typical funder on many measures in the “Grantee Perception Report.” Ratings trend up on consistency of communications and fairness, and trend down for measures of impact on grantee organizations, clarity of communications of the Foundation’s own goals and strategies, and the helpfulness of Hewlett’s selection process.
Specifically, on the positive side, CEP’s Executive Summary notes:
- Ratings for understanding of grantees’ fields are among the highest in CEP’s dataset.
- As in the past, grantees rate much higher than typical for the extent to which the Foundation has advanced the state of knowledge and affected public policy in their fields.
- Time spent by grantees completing process requirements has decreased.
- Grantees rate statistically significantly higher than they did in 2011 (and higher than is typical) for fairness with which the Foundation treated them and the consistency of the Foundation’s communications.
The Executive Summary also identifies areas for improvement:
- Ratings have declined statistically significantly from 2011 for the Hewlett Foundation’s impact on grantee organizations and are now similar to those of the typical funder.
- Ratings for the clarity of the Foundation’s communication of its own goals and strategy have decreased statistically significantly since 2011, and are similar to those of the typical funder.
- Grantees rate the Foundation’s selection process slightly higher than typical in strengthening their organizations/programs, but statistically significantly less positively than in 2011.
- The reporting/monitoring process is rated typically.
- Ratings for Hewlett’s impact on grantees’ fields have decreased statistically significantly since 2009, but continue to be above typical.
- Grantees continue to rate the Foundation’s impact on their ability to sustain the funded work in the future typically.
We have already begun taking steps to respond:
Improve communication of our goals and strategies. After our 2011 ratings showed a marked increase in the clarity with which grantees felt we communicate our goals and strategies, the most recent ratings fell back close to where they had been in 2009. To address this issue, we are ensuring that our website has accurate, up-to-date, and easy to find descriptions of our strategies. We are also posting more information about the specific grants and how they fit within our strategies. Finally, some program officers are planning meetings of and with grantees who partner on specific strategies.
Impact on grantee organizations. We want grantees to feel that our grants matter to their organizations in useful ways. We looked at the data to see what we could learn from grantees who perceive the Foundation as having a positive impact on their organization. We found that grantees that received a supplemental Organizational Effectiveness grant, those that received a general operating support grant, and those that received consistent funding tended to rate the impact on their organization higher than those who had not received these things. We are considering refinements to our organizational effectiveness grantmaking program and will take these results into account as we do so. Likewise, we are looking closely at general support and the length of grants we give as mechanisms for increasing impact on grantee organizations.
Transparency. The question of transparency was not highlighted in the Executive Summary because this is the first time CEP asked about it, so there is little comparative data. We nevertheless want to improve our rating, which is 5.73 (fifty-ninth percentile) because transparency and openness are key commitments of ours. We aim to be even more open with the field about our work, the grants we are making, and our successes and failures. We are doing this, among other ways, through our new blog Work in Progress, through more open dialogue with grantees and other partners, and through the routine posting of our evaluations and lessons. These efforts are new, and will grow and improve in coming years.
Among our Foundation’s guiding principles is to use the data we collect. To that end, we are enormously grateful to our grantees for taking the time to complete the CEP survey and we will strive to learn from what they said. We plan to continue using CEP’s grantee perception survey in coming years, as we have found it helpful to get the big picture, including comparative and trend information. But we’re interested in hearing from grantees and partners at any time. Our institutional skin, so to speak, is thick when it comes to hearing criticism, adapting, and adjusting. We’d much rather be told what we’re doing wrong or could do better than be left in the dark—and we are committed to taking action on what we hear.
Download the full 2013 Grantee Perception Report.
Download the presentation given to Hewlett Foundation staff about the 2013 Grantee Perception Report.
Download previous Grantee Perception Reports: