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Sharing Back What You Learn from Grantees

Date: June 21, 2018

Austin Long

Senior Director, Assessment and Advisory Services, CEP

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Feedback is important for every funder — and so is closing the loop to share what you learn and how you plan to respond.

Funders of every type and size work with CEP to listen to and learn from grantee feedback through the Grantee Perception Report (GPR). Though it’s not required, many funders choose to make their GPRs public and also share their reflections on what they see to be key takeaways.

In the past few months, we’ve seen several funders who have surveyed their grantees through the GPR share thoughtful reflections about what they learned, how they are planning to respond, and why they believe this process of listening to grantees in a confidential and rigorous way is so essential for their effectiveness. (Each published its GPR results in full as well.)

Below are excerpts (with bolding added for emphasis) from the reflections of four of these funders: Barr Foundation, the California Wellness Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation.

And if you are interested in learning more, Donnelley Foundation Executive Director David Farren will be joining me next Tuesday, June 26 at 3 pm ET for a webinar conversation. We’ll be discussing what the process of collecting and responding to grantee feedback looks like, and David will also share how the foundation has used what it has heard from grantees to strengthen its work over time.


Barr Foundation

“’Typical’ Isn’t Good Enough”

By Jim Canales and Roger Nozaki

“At the Barr Foundation, we aim for excellence in every facet of our work. And we know that fulfilling that aspiration requires a healthy dose of humility and a willingness to ask for and listen attentively to feedback from those who know us best. The GPR has become an important tool for us to do that.”

“In the results we received, it was encouraging to see improvement on the strength of our grantee relationships, a priority for us since our last GPR in 2012. We also received high ratings in areas such as advancing knowledge, impact on public policy, and impact on organizations. Nonetheless, in the end, as CEP reported to us, Barr’s overall ratings for grantee relationships are now similar to those of a “typical” funder. We aspire to so much more than typical.”

“Realizing our potential as an institution committed to justice is about engaging honestly and authentically with organizations we believe in, and working to serve their missions as much as our own.”

Read the full post here, or the full GPR here.

The California Wellness Foundation

“Honest feedback: The Greatest Gift a Funder Can Receive”

By Judy Belk

“As a funder, we’re responsible and accountable to the communities we serve. As we go along, we can either assume that we’re doing well and heading down the right path, or we can ask people we’re serving to tell us how we’re doing so that we can correct our course if needed and double down on what’s working well.”

“As a funder, it’s not our place to impose our grand ideas from above; our responsibility is to use our judgment and expertise while relentlessly listening to the communities we serve. We have to listen even when the feedback is not glowing and even when it doesn’t meet our expectations. Actually, that’s when we have to listen the hardest.”

Read the full post here, or the full GPR here.

Ford Foundation

“In our Grantee Perception Report, there’s room for improvement—here’s how we’re responding”

By Darren Walker and Hilary Pennington

“We all know it’s complicated for grant-receiving organizations to be completely honest with the organizations that give them grants. Yet without candid, substantive feedback from those we fund, we don’t always know how we’re falling short — or how we can improve.”

Read the full post here, or the full GPR here.

Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation

“We’re in This Together – Listening and Learning from Grantees”

By Susan Clark

“In our most recent results, we were rated in the top one percent of CEP’s dataset of 276 funders for impact on the fields in which we work. Our relationships with are rated in the top five percent of CEP’s dataset, significantly higher than our 2012 results. We also received significantly higher ratings than 2012 for our clarity of communications. These results are especially exciting for us, as the two areas for improvement that arose from the 2012 survey were reluctance in approaching staff and our relative lack of visibility in the fields in which we work. We took that feedback to heart, and committed to improving access to staff and increasing our transparency.”

“The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation believes the best way for us to positively impact good work is to welcome ongoing conversations and learn from what matters most.”

Read the full post here, or the full GPR here.

Austin Long is director, assessment and advisory services, at CEP. To learn more about working with CEP to survey your grantees, contact him at

Register for next week’s free webinar here.

Editor’s Note: CEP publishes a range of perspectives. The views expressed here are those of the authors, not necessarily those of CEP.

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