Grantee Perception Report: Positive Feedback, but also Room for Improvement

The Duke Endowment is committed to making a measurable difference in the lives of people in North Carolina and South Carolina. With complex challenges vexing our communities, achieving this lofty goal is no small feat. Still, we believe a relentless attention to results, effective grantee partnerships and a commitment to learn, adapt and improve will enable the Endowment to fulfill James B. Duke’s vision of a better life in the Carolinas.

Since 2002, the Endowment has commissioned periodic Grantee Perception Reports to improve our partnerships and grantmaking. The survey, administered by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), examines the Endowment’s relationships with grantees, impact in communities and grantmaking procedures. Results are benchmarked against our findings from previous years, as well as the performance of 250 foundations who have also used the survey.

In 2017, more than 150 grantees provided feedback about our performance. The report shows grantees have positive perceptions of the Endowment, particularly in grantee relationships and advancing field knowledge and practices. Grantees’ ratings place the Endowment among the top 25 percent of foundations in CEP’s dataset in nearly every measure on the survey.

However, in our drive toward continuous improvement, we are turning our attention to findings that show where we have more to learn. Just 57 percent of respondents reported having a substantive discussion with staff about their submitted grant reports. 

Grant reports are a tool to promote shared accountability and learning between the Endowment and our grantees. While this proportion is about average for the CEP dataset, it’s much lower than the Endowment would like and shows that we are not maximizing the value of grant reports.

In the coming year, we will identify strategies to better leverage grant reports to learn and continuously improve in partnership with our grantees.

In response to this finding, our President has directed staff to reconsider our approach to grant reviews. In the coming year, we will identify strategies to better leverage grant reports to learn and continuously improve in partnership with our grantees. The Endowment will implement changes to our grant reviews that facilitate dialogue between program officers and grantees about successes, challenges, and lessons learned.

To accelerate this and other learning efforts, the Endowment has created a new staff position. In September 2017, I joined the staff as the Associate Director of Learning and Evaluation. In this role, I will support the Endowment’s drive toward greater results by cultivating intentional opportunities for staff to listen, collect information, reflect on lessons learned and share insights across program areas to improve our performance. I look forward to sharing updates on this blog about our pursuit of results through learning and continuous improvement.

Thank you to all grantees who participated in the perception survey. We deeply appreciate your time and thoughtful feedback about how the Endowment is doing and where we can do better. You can read the full 2017 Grantee Perception Report here.