A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Find Out What It’s Like on Your Grantees’ Side of the Table

Eager to pilot our new Grantee and Applicant Perception Survey with her grantees, Meg Ramsey (The Ramsey McCluskey Family Foundation, Lincoln, MA) was especially interested to learn what her grantees were thinking about the foundation’s grant process, reporting, and site visits. Anonymity was key, so her grantees did not feel that providing constructive criticism or a negative response would hurt them in later grant cycles.

Invest in learning from your grantees and applicants >>

The results—tallied by our staff and reported to Meg—revealed the foundation to be already involved in some wonderful projects that were appreciated by grantees, such as grantee community convenings, where grantees are able to meet for breakfast and share their best practices in areas such as using social media; and its 3-year Trilogy Grants given to a small set of grantees each year.

Meg also learned some things to improve the foundation’s processes going forward. For one thing, her grantees asked permission to use a common grant application, not realizing the foundation already welcomed that option. Grantees also wished for more multiyear giving opportunities and less paperwork.

To her credit, before the ink was even dry on our report to her, Meg was well on the way to increasing multiyear giving, had sent out communications letting potential grantees know they could use the common grant application, and had removed some interim reporting requirements to streamline the process for her grantees. She will review the report again after the current grant cycle and prioritize some additional process improvements.

Meg exemplifies not only the humility and close connection with community that we see in so many of our members, but she is also “walking the talk.” There’s been a lot of great buzz in philanthropy circles—from colleague organizations to our own members’ survey responses—identifying “listening to grantees” as key to philanthropic impact.

Listening to your grantees via a survey or convening is a powerful way to invite them to step forward and share what will advance your shared mission to create change.

If you’d like to explore the process of listening to your grantees, our new Grantee and Applicant Perception Survey is a terrific opportunity. Your investment is the first step in a personalized and staff-supported process—a structured, straightforward, and effective way to learn from your grantees.

Exponent Philanthropy staff member will partner with you to:

  • Solicit extensive and anonymous feedback from your foundation’s grantees and applicants
  • Compile candid responses about your foundation’s grantmaking process, program strategy, and operations
  • Develop a final report for your board that identifies strengths, areas for discussion, and recommended next steps

Consider taking advantage of this opportunity to learn from your grantees. You’ll find this format to be respectful of your time and provide helpful feedback that affirms, inspires, and encourages your foundation to do even better.

The Grantee and Applicant Perception Survey is available to Exponent Philanthropy members for $1,495 and non-members for $1,995 (including one year of Exponent Philanthropy membership). Save $500 when you purchase the Grantee and Applicant Perception Survey with our recently updated Practical Board Self-Assessment. 

Ruth MastersonSenior Program Director Ruth Masterson works closely with members to create written materials and training curricula, and answers member questions on foundation administration, governance, boards, and tax and legal topics. Prior to joining Exponent Philanthropy, Ruth served nonprofits in her work at Adler & Colvin, the Council on Foundations, Build Community Arts Center, and San Francisco BayKeeper.

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