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Building Stronger Bridges: Our Commitment To Be a More Effective Partner to Our Grantees

At The Rockefeller Foundation, we believe that our ability to help our grantees make the change they seek relies on our effectiveness as a partner and funder. As we continue to take into account climate change’s effects on our mission and those we serve, we are committed to a culture of learning and growth that helps us become better grantmakers and allies.

One of the key tools in assessing and measuring our effectiveness as a funder and partner is a survey of our grantees, which the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) has administered for us several times since 2005. The CEP survey is the industry standard for obtaining confidential, comparative, and actionable feedback from grantees and is used by more than half of the largest grantmaking foundations in the United States. With the results, CEP produces what is called a Grantee Perception Report (GPR) that compares current data to both the Foundation’s past performance and the performance of peer philanthropies.

We rely on the Grantee Perception Report because it reflects our values: we are committed to transparency, optimism, accountability, collaboration, trust, and equity.

The feedback we receive helps us be more responsible, effective, and accessible grantmakers. It also reflects what the Foundation is: a philanthropy that has been driven by data for more than a century. In recent years, that drive has manifested itself in our work with grantees around the world — and how we measure the impact of that work to learn and improve. In the last few weeks, we have published a report on our impact from 2020 to 2022, and another on our efforts to mobilize financing to help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the Zero Gap Fund. This week, we’re sharing the results of our 2023 GPR because they will shape our work in the years ahead, just as they have in the past.

Following our last GPR in 2018, we made some changes, such as:

  • We began hosting virtual calls with our current grantees each quarter, to give our senior leaders and grantees an opportunity to connect on the Foundation’s strategic direction.
  • We raised our indirect cost rate from 15 to 20 percent to ensure our grantees have the operational support they need to succeed in the work they do with us.
  • We invited our grantees to join media trainings and workshops to bolster their organizations’ communications capacity.

What we learned in 2023

Compared to the Foundation’s 2018 GPR, grantee perceptions in 2023 have significantly improved on many measures, particularly related to our impact on grantees’ fields, understanding of grantee organizations, and aspects of our relationships with our grantees.

We are encouraged to learn from our grantees that:

  • Our reputation has lent credibility to their efforts to achieve greater impact and influence policy change in their respective fields.
  • There is significant value in non-monetary assistance from the Foundation, including convenings and networking with other grantees, field building assistance and connections to other funders.
  • We are more receptive to our grantees’ ideas and feedback about the Foundation’s strategy.

And while we are encouraged by the progress we have made in some areas, we recognize that we still have a lot of work to do in areas that place us below other foundations in our peer group. Going forward, we will focus more deeply on:

  • building stronger relationships with our grantees, increasing transparency around processes, and shortening our response times;
  • ensuring that we communicate staff and team transitions and provide a consistent experience for our grantees; and
  • offering greater clarity and more consistent communications around our vision, strategies, and impact goals.

In addition, the GPR lifted up important differences in grantees’ ratings according to their gender identity; ratings from grantees who identify as women are lower than ratings from grantees who identify as men. This feedback helps us understand where we need to focus our efforts to be stronger partners.

Our next steps

The Foundation will leverage data from the 2023 GPR and other sources to improve our effectiveness as a funder and partner. We’ve assembled a group of leaders across the Foundation who are working to identify and implement actions at both institutional and team levels to address grantee feedback.

Our working group is already considering action in key areas for improvement, including:

  • Being more consistent and transparent in our grantee communications and increasing the clarity of our grantmaking approach.
  • Identifying ways to strengthen communications and partnerships with grantees who identify as women.
  • Examining our policies to ensure our grant officers have the time and resources they need to cultivate more supportive, responsive relationships with grantees.
  • Ensuring that we have clear processes in place to communicate staff and team transitions.
  • Exploring additional opportunities to provide non-monetary assistance to our grantees, such as connecting them to other grantees and funders, including at regular convenings.
  • Engaging with and learning from our peer philanthropies about actions they have taken to improve their engagement with grantees.

We want to thank our grantees for their honest and candid feedback and this valuable opportunity to improve, so that we can continue to meet the changing needs of our dynamic world. And we’re hopeful that when we’re back in a few years with our next GPR, we’ll see positive changes in the areas we’re focusing on — recognizing we may have new areas of feedback that require action.

As a learning organization, we do all our work with the spirit of collaborative learning and growth. We’re always open to new ideas so that we can be the best partners in impact that we can be.