In Spring 2014, the Foundation conducted its first Grantee Perception Report (GPR) through the Center of Effective Philanthropy (CEP). The GPR uses a confidential survey that gathers grantee perceptions across several assessment categories and provides comparative data from over 300 other foundations. The GPR furnished us with highly valued feedback on how grantees perceive the quality of our relationships, the helpfulness of our processes, the clarity of Foundation communications, and many other factors. Equally as important, the data helps our team consider ways for improving our practice and effectiveness.
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The Rogers Foundation clearly understands their community and its needs; they have a significant impact not only in education, but in many areas of Oakland life. – GPR participant
Our grantees were very generous with their time, resulting in a 75% response rate from the 73 active grantees surveyed. We are both humbled and honored by the results. In many ways, the data confirms that our investment of staff time and grant funding are where they need to be in order to move our goals forward. Here is an overview of some key findings:
Based on the GPR results, CEP developed four recommendations for us to consider. Our team spent some time together to dive into these areas for continued improvement and came up with the following course of action:
Identify, maintain, and cultivate the secrets to successful grantee relationships. We see the strength of our relationships with grantees as arguably the key aspect for ongoing success. We know that our efforts to improve Oakland’s education landscape is more than just “writing grant checks,” and comes down to making lasting connections with organizations and individuals working to effect change every day. As a team, we developed a catalog of what we value and how we put those values into action with each of our grantees and key partners. This catalog was used to define the values in our Oakland Education Strategy 2020. Our team feels strongly that these updated values will help sustain our high caliber relationships with our grantees.
The staff is small but mighty and very committed to Oakland and making public schools better in this community. Moreover, they put their resources where their mouths are. Anytime I need advice, help, support, or a question answered. . . they are there. – GPR participant
Beyond The Grant: Increase intensive non-monetary assistance where appropriate. As described above, our team already views our work as extending “beyond the grant check.” How we support and work with grantees, as well as key partners, varies between initiatives, strategies, and team members. Our staff has identified that our strengths and interests lie in providing assistance beyond the grant that drives impact in our fields of work. We will continue to focus on providing field-related, beyond-the-grant assistance as our capacity and time allow. We also recognize that our ongoing non-monetary assistance impacts the strength of our grantee relationships, both of which are core to what we value.
Consider grantmaking patterns given the Foundation’s resources. We do not foresee a shift in our grantmaking budget as we implement our Oakland Education Strategy 2020. As we implement this plan, we will continue to monitor how to balance our grantmaking resources with our strategies to best support our grantees and have the highest impact possible on Oakland education.
Consider the helpfulness of processes based on the Foundation’s strategy. We know that our grantees’ time is limited and highly valuable. We have made a deliberate choice to streamline our grant application and reporting processes to honor the time of our grantees and free them up to improve education in Oakland! We also want our team members to have flexibility in securing the necessary information they need from prospective grantees within the context of individual initiatives. In that regard, we are comfortable with the GPR results around our grant processes but are always open to suggestions for improvement. This is an area where “scoring low” in the comparative dataset may actually be preferable and again reflects where we want grantees to spending their time.
Our staff and board are very pleased with our first experience with the GPR, but know that we have room for continued improvement and a responsibility to our grantees to sustain these largely positive results. We are grateful to CEP’s talented staff for helping us understand our grantmaking practice and how successful relationships help drive mutual strategic goals. More importantly, we thank all of our grantees for their participation in this survey and their extraordinary efforts on behalf of Oakland’s students and families.