Aligned with our core value of “learn better, together,” we are continuously revisiting how our Foundation can best support our grantee partners to maximize impact, scale, and knowledge—advancing the field as a whole. Our ongoing evolution, both in the type of work we fund and in the way we conduct our work, is informed by grantmaking data, emerging evidence from the field, close relationships with our philanthropic peers, and importantly, feedback from the organizations we fund.
We know that providing funders candid feedback is not easy, so we’ve partnered with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) since 2019 to gather anonymous insights from our grantees in a Grantee Perception Report. Grantee feedback gathered through this partnership has played a critical role in making improvements to our grantee relationships, grantmaking processes, and impact. To learn more about our journey putting feedback into action, we invite you to read Anu Malipatil and Jon Sotsky’s part one and part two posts on the CEP blog.
Based on previous CEP results, we made public commitments to improve how we impact our grantees and the fields they operate in, as well as our grantmaking processes and systems.
This year, in the spirit of continuous learning, we once again asked our grantees for feedback. We’re extremely grateful for the candid thoughts shared by 74 grantee partners, which will help us better understand how we’re doing and how we can improve. In this year’s responses, we saw improvements in key areas, most notably our impact on the field, and also identified continued opportunities for growth, which we will prioritize in the year ahead.
Below we detail how we did against our commitments following our 2021 CEP survey, highlight other notable takeaways, and share how findings have informed planning for 2024 and beyond.
How we did against 2021 commitments
Commitment #1: Increase thought leadership in the field
We saw noted improvements in grantee ratings tied to our intention to double down on efforts to generate and disseminate knowledge in our fields. Since 2021, our team prioritized more strategic grantmaking aligned with our funding model and communications efforts designed to highlight our grantees’ successes. In 2023, we entered into partnerships that allowed us to reach new district audiences with relevant resources that helped them make evidence-informed decisions, debuted our first-ever all-digital Grantmaking & Impact Report to lift up grantee bright spots, and launched a new Research Repository on our Foundation’s website to elevate timely findings of the research we fund.
These actions have successfully maintained and improved our Foundation’s impact in the field. Grantees rate us in the top third of funders for impact and in the 86th percentile for advancing the state of knowledge.
Notably, we saw a statistically significant increase in perceptions of how our work affects public policy, climbing from the 51st to 77th percentile, which we attribute to more public-facing efforts to share grantee successes with the field at large to better inform decision-making.
Commitment #2: Deepen impact on grantees
In 2021, we committed to increasing our impact on grantees by providing more multi-year General Operating Support (GOS) grants to Direct Impact organizations and supporting more grantees with capacity building.
In 2023, the number of grantees reporting that they received at least one form of non-monetary assistance substantially increased to 80 percent—far beyond what the average funder provides. Additionally, the share of our grantees who report receiving multi-year GOS has doubled since 2021, putting the Foundation in the top 15 percent of all funders. This has translated toward the high ratings we receive from our Direct Impact grantees, who rate us in the 89th percentile for the impact we have on their organizations.
Commitment #3: Improve grantmaking processes and systems
Following the 2021 survey, we committed to improving the clarity and efficiency of our grantmaking processes, notably through the implementation of a grants management system (GMS). The launch of our GMS, GivingData, and our efforts to streamline systems appear to be paying off based on our latest results. We increased from the 11th percentile to the 52nd percentile for the straightforwardness of our reporting process and saw increases in the reporting process being adaptable, relevant, and helpful for learning.
We also saw a five-hour reduction in the median time spent on the proposal process and an increase in perception of the extent to which the process helped strengthen the organization’s work. In terms of grantmaking dollars awarded per hour grantees spend on grantmaking requirements, the Foundation ranks in the 94th percentile.
In addition to assessing progress on our 2021 commitments, we gathered a few other key takeaways from our 2023 survey.
In alignment with our updated funding model, in 2022 we reimagined how our program team would work alongside grantees, shifting the focus from transactional to transformational support that we believed would strengthen relationships. Specifically, we encouraged grantmakers and our cross-functional team members to “sit on the same side of the table” with direct impact grantee leaders and teams to help set them up for success in accomplishing their goals and vision.
These changes have paid off. Grantees continue to believe that we have a strong understanding of the challenges their organizations are facing with the Foundation again ranking in the top quartile of funders. And, grantees’ perception of our understanding of their fields has increased, with the Foundation now ranking in the top decile of all funders.
We also saw increased recognition that our team approaches this work with a collaborative and open mindset, and grantees ranked us in the 79th percentile for exhibiting candor about our perspectives on grantee work.
While we’re encouraged by these improvements, we still fell short of our aspirations and declined in some key areas. Most notably, grantees reported feeling significantly more pressure to alter their goals to receive funding from the Foundation. They also reported diminished feelings that we are exhibiting trust in their organizations’ staff, with the Foundation now ranking in the 34th percentile. Lastly, we received lower-than-typical ratings about comfort approaching the Foundation if a problem arises. These results tell us that more work is needed to improve our grantee relationships in the years ahead.
This year, we were pleased to see improvements in our ratings for clarity of communications, which we had aimed to improve based on previous feedback. Grantees gave us our highest-ever rating for clearly communicating our goals and strategy and we saw sizable improvement in our rating for consistency in information for grantees to learn about the Foundation and our work.
At the same time, the survey revealed opportunities to continue strengthening the design and communications related to our grantmaking process. We received below-industry-average scores for clarity and transparency about our selection process requirements, timeline, and funding criteria, something we will aim to improve.
Our 2024 commitments
As our team looks ahead, we are utilizing the valuable feedback from our grantees to guide our Foundation’s strategic planning for 2024. Below are the key areas we plan to prioritize:
1. Strengthen grantee relationships and trust
We’re committed to furthering the vision of our venture-inspired model by encouraging stronger relationships between grantees and our staff, focused on responsiveness, joint problem-solving, and genuine connection. We will seek to increase the amount of time our team spends conducting site visits to deepen our connection to and understanding of grantees’ work, and will support our staff to consistently and clearly communicate their portfolios’ goals and strategies throughout the year to ensure grantees understand how their work aligns with and furthers goals.
2. Deepen impact on grantee organizations
We know that as funders, we have a unique opportunity to support grantee partners beyond grant dollars in meaningful ways. Bolstered by positive grantee feedback on our capacity-building work, we plan to prioritize supporting grantees with deeper capacity building in 2024, strategically pairing organizations with both third-party and internal Foundation supports, which we have seen lead to increased success and impact on grantee organizations. We will also explore hosting additional grantee convenings across portfolios to dive into relevant topics and issues, providing the opportunity for new connections and learnings between grantees and our staff, and amongst grantees.
3. Streamline the grantmaking process
Over the coming year, we commit to improving the grant application experience. We plan to streamline and consolidate our proposal forms to gather the most crucial information we need, and plan to reduce follow-up requests to grantees. Furthermore, we will produce materials for grantees clarifying our grantmaking processes and policies that better set expectations and enable grantees to more easily navigate our systems.
A note of gratitude
Before we conclude this post, we want to again thank our grantees for their transparent feedback, which informs every aspect of our work at Overdeck Family Foundation. Our hope is that you see the imprint of your reflections throughout this blog post, and throughout our priorities for the coming year.
And thank you to CEP for your partnership to gather these invaluable insights.
As always, we welcome additional feedback and ideas! Please share them directly with your foundation contact or anonymously via Grantadvisor.org, a website that allows grant seekers to share their experience with and give feedback to funders.
To explore more highlights from the 2023 Grantee Perception Report, download the report at the link below:
Thank you Lina Eroh, Jon Sotsky, and Brittany Sullivan for your contributions to this post.
Header image by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash