Since 2004, Wallace has been eliciting anonymous feedback about the quality of its performance as a philanthropy, through an anonymous survey of grantees conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy. The resulting Grantee Perception Reports have been particularly useful because they compare the results from Wallace grantees with the results from other foundations that survey their grantees. In the first year, results were mixed, with Wallace scoring well in areas such as its ability to advance knowledge in the fields in which its grantees work, but below the median in four other areas:
- The understanding of and overall impact on grantees’ fields;
- Assistance in securing funding from other sources;
- Quality of interactions; and
- The clarity of communication about goals and strategies.
The foundation then set out to fix these perceived deficiencies with methods ranging from staff training to an eventual overhaul of its communications. While the first two areas showed swift improvement, improving the quality of interactions and clarity of communications took longer. But the 2008 Grantee Perception Report saw a breakthrough, and grantees rated Wallace well in these areas as well. Overall, this case study by the Center for Effective Philanthropy shows the need for continuous feedback loops to inform decision-making and strengthen relationships between the foundation and its grantees.
Points of Interest
Continuous, measured feedback loops helped The Wallace Foundation make strides in service to and communication with its grantees.
Periodic anonymous surveys of grantees can help philanthropies assess what’s working—and what isn’t—in their grant-giving, so they can respond accordingly.