Naming Names: Five of the Best Program Officers

On Monday, we’ll be releasing a new report, Working with Grantees: The Keys to Success and Five Program Officers Who Exemplify Them. The report is the culmination of new analyses conducted primarily by CEP Vice President – Research Ellie Buteau and CEP Research Analyst Tim Chu on our dataset of surveys of thousands of foundation grantees.

In the report, we describe how five key questions in our grantee survey get at one underlying measure: Relationships. We looked at what most powerfully predicts strong performance on this measure. These keys to working with grantees are the focus of our report.

But we take it a step further, naming names of program officers who are among the best on the Relationships Measure.  Our survey asks grantees to rate foundations, but we have often seen tremendous variation in grantee responses for the same foundations.  One big reason for that variation?  It’s as simple as the luck of the draw –  which program officer a grantee happens to have been assigned.  (For a flavor of the ends of the spectrum of grantee experience, see my colleague Kevin Bolduc’s recent blogs on positive and negative grantee comments.) Building on CEP’s 2007 Stanford Social Innovation Review article, we have segmented our data based on primary contact for those foundations that have asked us to gather that information, selecting five program officers who are among the very best performing on the Relationships Measure to profile – with their permission, of course.

On Monday, we’ll release the report and the names of the five program officers – along with video interviews with three of them.  We hope this well-deserved recognition inspires foundation leaders and program officers to focus with renewed energy and determination on what our analysis shows to be the keys to strong funder-grantee relationships.

These relationships matter.  Wallace Foundation President Christine DeVita puts it this way: “Because foundations like ours can only achieve their mission through the work of others, it is important that we have strong and effective partnerships with all our grantees.”  It’s a simple point, but one that gets lost, all too often, within the walls of foundations.

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