We are proud of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund’s long history of building respectful and effective relationships with our grantees. While the grantor/grantee relationship can be complex, both staff and trustees are guided by a deep understanding that our work as funders has little or no meaning without the incredible efforts of the nonprofit organizations to which we provide resources.
As a grantmaking institution, we think it is important to gather feedback periodically from our grantees to gain insight on their perceptions of the Fund, and to solicit input on how we might continue to improve our work. Thus, early in 2007 the Fund engaged the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), an independent nonprofit organization, to conduct an anonymous survey of our fiscal year 2006 grantees. The decision to survey the Fund’s 2006 grantees was based on the fact that the Fund had experienced a shift in executive leadership in late 2002, and had adopted a new strategic plan in 2003. Staff and board felt that this was an appropriate time to step back and formally check in with grantees on the Fund’s performance. We renewed our look in 2012 after five years of additional commitment to maintain our successes and grow our effectiveness.
Grantee Perception Report
The Fund is pleased to share the results of both the 2007 and 2012 surveys with our grantees and the broader nonprofit and philanthropic communities. What is distinct and particularly meaningful about CEP’s survey approach is that it provides comparative data from thousand of grantees from more than 120 foundations surveyed over the last five years. Thus, the Fund has been able to evaluate its survey results relative to all of the foundations in CEP’s database, as well as a cohort of similarly sized, regionally-focused funders.
Overall, each survey found that the Fund’s staff is well respected by grantees. In addition, a number of indicators reflected the Fund’s ability to influence a field or public policy disproportionate to its relatively modest grantmaking budget. Specific highlights of the Grantee Performance Report include the following:
- The Fund is rated above the median funder on most measures in the Grantee Perception Report, and rates significantly higher on many measures relative to its 2007 report. The Fund receives particularly strong ratings for its understanding of grantees’ organizations, fields, and communities. Grantees describe the Fund as “supportive,” “thoughtful,” and “responsive,” and add that “Haas Sr. has been a true community champion in the San Francisco area in good times and in challenging times.”
- Grantees indicate that the Fund is having a significant impact on their organizations, fields, and communities – all areas that have received higher ratings since the 2007 Grantee Perception Report. In particular, grantees note that the Fund is advancing work in their fields: “The Fund is an innovator in the field, willing to take risks with grantees and support them throughout the process.” However beyond the Fund’s positive impact, grantees indicate that the Fund could still do more to provide assistance beyond the grant check.
- Across the Grantee Perception Report, Haas, Sr. grantees report having many aspects of a positive relationship with the Fund. Many grantees comment that their relationship with the Fund is among the best funding relationships they have, noting that Haas Sr.’s staff is “consistently professional, helpful, and deeply committed.” However, there may be an opportunity for the Fund to improve on one of several characteristics associated with strong relationships: balancing the proportion of grantees that report that they most frequently initiate contact with the Fund.
- Though many grantees express gratitude for the Fund’s “streamlined” processes, they provide mixed feedback around the helpfulness of those processes in strengthening their organizations and programs. Grantees report spending less time than typical on the Fund’s proposal and selection process, but also report spending more time than typical on the Fund’s reporting and evaluation process. Grantees’ perceptions of the helpfulness of these processes vary – grantees that have more involved engagement around these processes tend to rate them to be more helpful.
- The largest proportion of grantees cite the characteristics of the Fund’s grants as a way in which the Fund could improve. A handful of grantees suggest that the Fund consider providing multi-year grants in addition to the operating grants it often provides, and grantees that do report receiving multi-year support rate the Fund higher for its impact on grantees’ ability to sustain the work funded by the grant. (It should be noted that the Fund made a decision to stop giving multi-year grants between 2010 and 2012, but will resume doing so in some cases in 2013).
Overall, trustees and staff are finding the Grantee Performance Report to be a very useful and informative tool. The findings have informed our discussions and continued to shape our practice. We are grateful to CEP for this work, and look forward to conducting a third survey in a few years.