As a national foundation with a mission to improve learning and enrichment opportunities for children and an approach of working collaboratively with others to develop new knowledge and insights into some of our society's most vexing problems, we depend on establishing and maintaining strong, effective partnerships with grantees:
- The organizations we fund to develop and test possible solutions to important public problems;
- The researchers that we commission to contribute to the field's knowledge and to help evaluate what is and is not working; and
- The organizations that help us get both issues and solutions before policymakers, those working in the field and thought leaders.
Because Wallace's mission and approach go beyond grant-making and are focused on building credible, useful knowledge in the fields in which we work, the experience of working with Wallace may be different from your experiences with other foundations. There are several reasons for this.
First and foremost, a key goal of our grants to exemplary organizations is to test innovative ideas on the ground, and then capture and share lessons from that work that can benefit many other organizations. In other words, we seek to be in a continuous learning relationship with all our grantees. For that reason, we ask grantees to help us gather credible evidence about why a particular idea or practice was more or less successful. Further, we place a high premium on regular communication and candid assessment of the ongoing work. This can help grantee organizations and Wallace staff members identify areas that are working well or that call for course corrections on both sides. Finally, we take seriously our own accountability as a foundation for using philanthropic resources wisely and, therefore, we regularly assess whether the work we are funding is creating hoped-for results and benefits.
Making the Relationship Work: a Commitment to Open Communication
The specifics of a grantee's relationship with Wallace are spelled out in grant agreements and scopes of work. Regardless of those specifics, the key to successful partnerships between Wallace and all its grantees is a mutual commitment to open, candid, timely and respectful communications.
From Wallace staff members grantees can expect:
- Clear, consistent communications – Wallace is strongly committed to being clear and consistent in its goals, strategies and expectations at every phase of the work and in all forms of communications with grantees. When we learn something that causes us to change our strategy or tactics, we will explain our reasons for doing so fully and candidly.
- Approachability – Because we are in the "learning and lessons" business, we encourage mutual candor in all aspects of our relationships with grantees. We will seek to make grantees feel entirely comfortable approaching us when funded work runs into obstacles or the unforeseen. This will allow us to take a constructive, problem-solving approach when the work hits inevitable rough spots.
- Responsiveness – It is our policy to respond to e-mails or phone inquiries from grantees within 48 hours and written communications within five business days. If the person needed to respond to an inquiry is not available, we will acknowledge receipt of that inquiry within these timeframes and indicate when we will respond. We will also acknowledge and briefly comment on grant reports within 30 days of receipt.
In addition, we commonly ask grantees to take part in what we call "learning communities," periodic gatherings – virtual or in person – where they discuss experiences and problems they are encountering in their Wallace-funded work, exchange ideas, and meet and hear from experts in their fields. We also often provide "technical assistance" to grantees, that is, the guidance of consultants or others who can help grantees undertake tasks that may be unfamiliar to them, such as figuring out the best measurements of the progress of their endeavors. [Learn more about philanthropic help to grantees apart from funding.]
Wallace, in turn, expects its grantees to:
- Share emerging knowledge with Wallace and other grantees – We will ask grantees to attend Wallace-sponsored meetings to share experiences, expertise and insights with other grantees and to hear from outside experts. Such meetings are also an opportunity for the foundation to learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing its grantees.
- Cooperate in data- and knowledge-gathering activities – Fact-gathering and sharing ideas and information are at the heart of our work with grantees. Therefore, we will make periodic requests for data and progress reports over the life of the grant. In addition, under the terms of the grant grantees may be required to participate in research and evaluation projects commissioned by Wallace.
- Keep in touch with Wallace staff contact – For most routine matters, grantees will be assigned a Wallace contact. Because Wallace works in teams that combine program, research, communications and grant administration staff expertise, it is also likely that on occasion staff members from one or more of these units will be in contact. As mentioned, we make every effort to be accessible and encourage grantees to contact anyone at the foundation as needs arise.
In addition, because the quality of our relationship with grantees is so important, we invite grantees to provide feedback during the year about how well our relationship is working by writing to email@example.com. This e-mail box is regularly reviewed by Wallace's senior management team.