This post originally appeared on the blog in March 2012 and delves into findings from CEP’s report, More Than Money: Making a Difference with Assistance Beyond the Grant. It is re-posted here as part of our Rewind blog series.
Believing that their foundations’ effectiveness depends on the effectiveness of those they fund, many foundation leaders have embraced the idea of adding value “beyond the money.” In the words of one program officer interviewed for our More Than Money research, “It can often mean the difference between making a grant and making an impact.” Yet strikingly little is known about the assistance beyond the grant that foundation program staff and the consultants they retain provide — or the impact of these efforts.
In our research, we learned that more than 80 percent of CEOs and 60 percent of program staff we surveyed indicated that the provision of assistance beyond the grant is important for the achievement of their programmatic goals. Even greater numbers of respondents — more than 80 percent of CEOs and program staff — view assistance beyond the grant as important for improving grantees’ abilities to achieve their own goals.
Despite the high proportion of CEOs and program staff who believe that assistance beyond the grant is important for the achievement of their goals — and their grantees’ goals — few know whether the assistance they provide is helping to achieve the intended result. We asked CEOs and program staff if their foundation follows up with its grantees to understand the effects of the assistance provided, and the responses were sobering.
From our survey of 103 program officers and 98 CEOs at foundations with $100 million or more in assets, only about a third of each say they “always” follow up with grantees to understand the effects of the assistance they provided. Most report following up only “sometimes.” Follow-up activities include conversations with grantees, reading grantee reports, checking whether or not specific aspects of the assistance provided were in fact implemented or useful, and investigating whether or not the project or program receiving the assistance actually succeeded.
Even among those who say they “always” follow up, though, their efforts do not yield much information about the actual effects of their assistance. Only 10 percent of these CEOs and program staff told us that they actually look for evidence of changes to understand the impact of assistance they provide.
Ellie Buteau is vice president, research, at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. Follow her on Twitter at @EButeau_CEP.
For a fuller exploration of non-monetary assistance at large foundations, see the report More Than Money: Making a Difference with Assistance Beyond the Grant.