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Grantee Feedback Report, 2011

Voices from the Field

Survey of Regular Grant Program Applicants, March 2011

Reflecting its ongoing commitment to continuously improve its responsiveness to grantees, in March of 2011, the Weingart Foundation asked Learning Partnerships to survey the nonprofits that submitted applications to the Regular Grant Program (representative of grants over $25,000). To learn about successful and unsuccessful applicants’ experiences with the Foundation, separate surveys were sent to the 34 organizations that received grants, and to the seven applicants whose proposals had been declined. The survey represents grantees over a three-month period. Surveys were timed to reach grantees and applicants while their experience was still fresh – and the initial excitement over receiving the grant had begun to diminish. The Foundation will continue to conduct grantee perception surveys throughout the year.

Completed surveys were received from 29 of the 34 grantees (85 percent), and from three of the seven unsuccessful applicants (43 percent). Significantly, a response rate of 60 percent is considered successful for this type of survey, making the overall grantee response unusually high. Since the response rate from unsuccessful applicants was low, we viewed their responses as suggestive and included them for informational purposes only.

Survey Respondents

Among survey respondents, 58 percent were either CEOs or held the number two position in their organizations; a third were development professionals. Approximately one-third of grantees’ annual operating budgets were smaller than $2 million, one-third have budgets between $2 million and $4.9 million, another third’s budgets are $5 million or larger. Significantly, most Regular Grant Program recipients are mature organizations founded more than 25 years ago, with only a few recipients under 10 years old.

Additionally, 17 percent of Regular Grant Program applicants identify themselves as first-time applicants to the Foundation, underscoring the opportunity for an organization having no prior history with the Foundation to still obtain a significant grant.

Respondent Experiences

We received helpful feedback on the clarity of the Letter of Inquiry (LOI), proposal application processes and reporting requirements. One hundred percent of grantees reported the LOI process was either “very clear” (79 percent) or “clear” (21 percent).

 

In the full application process, 60 percent of grantees reported the Foundation’s application process as “very clear,” 40 percent reported the process as “clear.” Several grantees’ comments reflected the overall positive nature of the responses (e.g., “Nothing could be changed to make it more helpful. The process was very clear and staff was very helpful.”)

Reporting Requirements, Timeliness and Time Spent

Grantees cited reporting requirements as either “very clear” or “clear;” since these grants are relatively new, grantees may have more to say about reporting requirements once they’ve submitted progress/final reports. Twenty-three of the 28 respondents reported the three-month timeframe for writing a proposal was just the right amount of time, while five grantees felt it was too much time.

 

When asked about the Foundation’s responses to grantees’ inquiries for funding, 27 of the 28 grantees reported the Foundation’s response was timely.

 

Of grantees’ perspectives on time and effort spent writing their proposals, one hundred percent cited their experience as appropriate, regardless of hours spent, which ranged from 16 to more than 24 hours. All grantee respondents felt their time and effort was appropriate for the size of grant received.

Foundation Responsiveness

Respondents were favorable about their experiences with Foundation staff, and likely to “strongly agree” or “agree” that program officers spent an adequate amount of time getting to know them and their proposal. Twenty-three of the 28 respondents were able to make comparisons with a previous application to the Foundation. A majority of respondents (52%) perceived guidance from Foundation staff as better than before. Significantly, the three declined applicants reported the application process “very respectful” or “respectful.”

Intended Use of Grant Dollars

The majority of grant dollars were used for unrestricted core support, with remaining grants used for program development, capacity building or allocated for capital expenditures. A separate question asked respondents to describe their current organizational needs and responses closely mirrored reported use of grant dollars. The close correspondence between need for—and use of philanthropic dollars—speaks to the Foundation’s responsive approach and strategic deployment of funds that address nonprofits’ most fundamental needs.

Grantees’ Fiscal Condition and Outlook

The Foundation also sought to learn how the economic crisis and subsequent recession have affected Regular Grant Program recipients. Grant recipients hold relatively upbeat perceptions about their ability to fulfill their missions; 20% report strengthened capacity; 60 percent say organizational capacity has remained the same; and 16 percent say it’s been weakened.

Conclusion

Overall, the Foundation is pleased with the positive responses to this survey. We recognize, however, that this is a relatively small sample of our grantee population, taken at a particular point in time. Grantee perception surveys provide an important vehicle to receive feedback from the nonprofit community, underscoring the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to stay in touch with our grantees – an effort that includes our online feedback mechanism (WRfeedback@gmail.com), focus groups and ongoing surveys. All information provided to the Foundation by grantees is used to continuously inform our grantmaking, and improve our practices going forward. To view the full Report, click here.