MENLO PARK, Calif. – Nonprofit organizations that receive money from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation give it high marks for achieving its goals, but wish it did more to communicate those goals and the strategies for achieving them to grant recipients.
Those are among the key findings of a survey of more than 800 Hewlett Foundation grantees that the Foundation commissioned the Center for Effective Philanthropy to undertake on its behalf. The resulting report compared Hewlett to other big foundations, to the foundation world at large, and to the responses that Hewlett grantees gave in 2006.
“The relationship between funder and grant recipient is an inherently unequal one, and these anonymous surveys offer an invaluable tool for us to learn and improve,” said Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest. “This works to the advantage not just of funders and grantees but of those who ultimately benefit from the grants.”
The Center for Effective Philanthropy, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, received completed surveys from 570 recipients of Hewlett grants in May, June, and July 2009 – a 70 percent response rate – on a broad range of topics. Individual recipients remained anonymous. This is the third time the Foundation has commissioned the survey, the first being in 2003.
The Foundation received plaudits in some areas, and candid critique in others. Its grantees rated it higher than average for large, private foundations on several important measures. That group included comparably sized foundations that, like Hewlett, have a national or international focus. Hewlett was rated above average in
- Impact on grantee organizations
- Influence on public policy
- Understanding of grantees’ goals and strategies
But grant recipients gave Hewlett below the median ratings for communicating its goals and strategies. Brest noted that a 20 percent change in the grantees’ primary contacts at the Foundation in the six months preceding the survey may have played a role in the rating, but acknowledged that those surveyed also said that written material they received from the Foundation was not always consistent with program officers’ messages, and that those messages sometimes varied depending on whom they spoke to.
The Hewlett president said the Foundation staff would incorporate what it learned from the survey into its decisionmaking and reminded grant recipients they don’t need to wait for the next survey to share their thoughts.
A summary of the Grantee Perception Report is available here. More information on the Grantee Perception Report process is available from the Center for Effective Philanthropy at www.effectivephilanthropy.org.
About The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has been making grants since 1967 to help solve social and environmental problems at home and around the world. The Foundation concentrates its resources on activities in education, the environment, global development, performing arts, philanthropy, and population, and makes grants to support disadvantaged communities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
About the Center for Effective Philanthropy
The Center for Effective Philanthropy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing the practice of philanthropy by providing management and governance tools to define, assess, and improve overall foundation performance.
Hewlett Foundation Communications Officer
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