Effective Matters: Volume 6, Issue 1
FUNDERS MAKE SIGNIFICANT CHANGE BASED ON GRANTEE FEEDBACK
Funders are making significant changes in their work based on results from their Grantee Perception Reports® (GPR) according to a just-released study that CEP commissions annually from third-party LFA Group. These changes tend to be in areas of grantee communications, interactions, grantmaking processes, and grant characteristics.
While nearly all 2009 recent GPR users surveyed report that their GPR results prompted changes, substantially more than in past years said they made significant change in at least one area of organizational functioning.
Furthermore, the survey found that GPR users are more satisfied than ever with the GPR process. All respondents indicated that they would recommend the GPR to a friend or colleague and that it is a good value in terms of cost — a finding consistent with past years.
The study also showed some opportunities for improvement. For example, user satisfaction with the clarity of GPR charts and the report on its own, without CEP facilitation, dipped in 2009 compared to past results. In addition, repeat GPR users rated the helpfulness of some aspects of the GPR process less positively than first-time users.
"While this year's report gave us much positive reinforcement about the power of the GPR to facilitate positive change in funders, there is more we can do to even further improve the value of the GPR and process," says Kevin Bolduc, vice president — assessment tools. "The GPR was originally designed in consultation with funders, and it will only remain an excellent tool with their input."
Read the full report.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ANNE WARHOVER, CEO, THE COLORADO HEALTH FOUNDATION
The following is excerpted from an interview that was published in Essentials of Foundation Strategy, a report on CEP’s latest strategy research. Anne Warhover will be joining CEP President Phil Buchanan on a panel at the upcoming GEO conference where they will discuss the challenges of implementing foundation strategy.
CEP: What are the key goals your foundation is working to achieve?
Warhover: We are trying to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation, and everything we do is tied to that overall vision. We have three goals. The first is that all people of Colorado have access to the components of healthy living, nutritious food, and the opportunity to be physically active. The second is that all people of Colorado have health coverage. The third is that all people of Colorado receive quality, coordinated health care.
CEP: Focusing in on your first goal, what are the strategies you use to achieve that goal?
Warhover: Under healthy living, [our] strategies are to create healthy schools where students are served healthy food, where physical activity is part of the school day, and where they learn about how to stay healthy, and where they can get medical services through school-based health centers. We also promote healthy communities where people can buy fresh fruits and vegetables and where it’s safe for children to play outdoors and for adults to be more active.
CEP: How does the external context — what’s going on outside of the foundation itself — inform your strategy?
Warhover: We started with an environmental scan to get the basic facts around barriers to becoming the healthiest state in the nation and determined that those barriers start with healthy living. There are a significant number of people in Colorado who simply do not have access to or knowledge about the components of healthy living. We get a lot of our information from the people working in the trenches, the grantees themselves, and other community interests like the business community. We go around the state frequently. Two or three of us will go into a community, we’ll get somebody in the community who knows who to invite and we bring them all together in a roundtable and have them give us information, and we just are sponges. It is amazing to me how different it is from community to community.
We also look to research and best practices. One of our policies in developing strategies is that they should be evidence-based. Most of our program officers are content experts, not philanthropy experts. So they’ll do the research, and they’ll say, well, this shows that it has some possibilities or that it was tried and it worked in West Virginia. Enrollment is a great example of that — how outreach and enrollment work to get people into public programs. There are things that have been tried that just do not work, and there are other things that have been tried that do work. We know what those are.
CEP: What are the underlying hypotheses that guide how you make decisions to ultimately achieve your goals?
Warhover: We think that access to the components of healthy living is the key goal to achieving the status of healthiest state. If people have access to healthy living — to food that is healthy, to opportunities for physical activity — they are likelier to be healthier. That’s part of our hypothesis. What we found in our research was that there are many underserved, which we define as either poor or living in communities in Colorado that are without access to healthy food. Some may be middle income but they are underserved because they do not have access.
For example, in parts of southern Colorado and in Denver neighborhoods, the impediment is simply a lack of access. When there is a lack of access to opportunities for healthy living, it is easy to adopt a culture of fast food eating and snacking. There aren’t enough grocery stores. There often isn’t good nutrition in the schools. Many schools are not prioritizing the health of their students, which we know is very important to their ability to learn. So that’s why creating healthy schools is one of our key strategies.
We know from research that if kids learn to eat well early on, they will continue those habits. So why is school the place to teach them and not parents or somewhere else? Because it’s a place where they all are and you can have rules in schools that you can’t have in homes.
CEP: How do you assess your strategy(ies)? Do you use performance indicators, metrics, or other tools to assess your strategy(ies)?
Warhover: Measuring healthy living is very difficult because you have to wait for a long time to see if what you’re doing works. We came up with six interim indicators to tell us that we’re going in the right direction:
• Increasing the number of children and adults who engage in moderate or vigorous physical activity
• Number of people who eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables
• Increasing access to healthy food and drink in vending machines
• Increasing access to recreational exercise
• Increasing the number of parents who are educated on child development, nutrition, and preventative health care
• Increasing the number of people who are self-managing their chronic disease(s)
If we can show the needle changing positively in those directions, we think that will be some indication that our interventions at the school and community level are working.
CEP: Why is it important to assess your strategy(ies)?
Warhover: Everybody has to be accountable in this world. We start by thinking about who is our customer, who is our stakeholder, to whom do we owe our accountability, and that is the people of Colorado. This isn’t our money. This is their money. And so how can you possibly be accountable without showing results and having some objectivity to your results? You can’t just fling your money in all different directions and hope that some of it sticks. You have got to have strategies that will help you get to those results.
The Colorado Health Foundation, located in Denver, Colorado, was established as HealthOne Alliance in 1995. The name changed to The Colorado Health Foundation in 2006 when the Foundation adopted its new strategic plan. The Foundation has $1 billion in assets.
DONOR PERCEPTION REPORT OFFERS COMPARATIVE DATA
The Donor Perception Report has now been used by eight community foundations, allowing CEP to put results in a comparative context. For the first time, community foundations can understand how their efforts to motivate and engage their donors compare to those of their peer foundations.
"Community foundations can understand areas of comparative strength and weakness, allowing them to chart a path toward continuous improvement," says CEP Vice President — Assessment Tools Kevin Bolduc. "This feedback from a foundation’s donors and fund holders allows community foundation staff to focus on the activities that are most highly valued and the ones that will lead to increased engagement and future giving."
The Donor Perception Report is based on a standard set of questions developed through close consultation with an advisory group of community foundation leaders. It also includes customizable modules.
Early adopters of the Donor Perception Report range in size, age, and geographic focus, and include, among others, the Chicago Community Trust, The San Francisco Foundation, Orange County Community Foundation, and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice. The James Irvine Foundation has provided support for the development of the Donor Perception Report.
STUART FOUNDATION LENDS ITS SUPPORT TO YOUTHTRUTH PROJECT
The Stuart Foundation has joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in supporting an ambitious and innovative project that brings funders the views of those who should matter the most — the people whose lives they seek to improve.
"YouthTruth aligns so well with our efforts to keep young people at the center of all we do," said Rhonnel Sotelo, Stuart Foundation's Vice President for Program & Operations. "The Center of Effective Philanthropy's survey assessment and analysis tools are among the most comprehensive and respected in the field, and this project will give us firsthand knowledge of YouthTruth's potential applicability in our work with districts and systems of schools to drive student engagement, learning, and achievement."
YouthTruth is a national survey project that provides comparative data to schools, districts, education networks, and funders summarizing students’ perceptions of their high school experiences. This initiative grows out of CEP’s experience surveying grantees, declined applicants, and other foundation stakeholders and represents an attempt to move closer to the ultimate impact a foundation seeks to create.
The Gates Foundation approached CEP about the potential to survey students in schools it funds in 2008. Since then, more than 20,000 students from 92 schools comprising 12 networks and districts have participated in YouthTruth.
“Ultimately, we hope that YouthTruth serves as a proof of concept for a larger vision of decision making that is informed by the rigorously collected and analyzed perspectives of intended beneficiaries,” says Valerie Threlfall, Director, CEP West Coast Office, who leads the YouthTruth effort. “Too often, decisions are made without an understanding of the realities experienced by those a funder or nonprofit seeks to help. We’re grateful for the Stuart Foundation’s support and endorsement of this project."
Since its creation two years ago, YouthTruth has spurred tangible improvements at many schools. For example, schools have implemented new student programs, bolstered curriculum planning efforts, and revamped approaches to school-wide discipline as a result of the comparative feedback they have received from YouthTruth.
CEP is seeking additional education funders to join the Gates Foundation and the Stuart Foundation in this effort. To participate or learn more about YouthTruth, contact Threlfall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 391-3070, ext. 136.
DEEP POCKETS AREN'T ENOUGH: FOUNDATIONS ALSO NEED GLASS POCKETS
CEP is helping promote greater foundation transparency by providing content to Foundation Center for the new glasspockets.org website, which helps foundations to become more transparent and accountable.
“We believe strongly in philanthropic freedom, the kind of independence that allows foundations to be innovative, take risks, and work on long-term solutions to some of the world’s most vexing problems,” writes Bradford Smith, president of Foundation Center, in his blog post introducing the website. “But the best way to preserve philanthropic freedom is not to hide behind it; rather, foundations increasingly need to tell the story of what they do, why they do it, and what difference it makes.”
The website provides basic facts about the nearly 97,000 foundations in the United States, examples of philanthropy’s impact, and information about ways foundations are working to be more transparent. A section entitled, “Who has glass pockets?” evaluates foundations against a series of criteria, from governance to grantmaking to performance measurement.
Among the 22 practices glasspockets.org catalogues for individual foundations is whether they survey their grantees and make those results public. Eight out of fourteen foundations currently profiled participate in the Grantee Perception Report® (GPR) and have elected to make their results public. Links to those reports are available on the site.
“We at CEP are proud to have worked as a partner with Foundation Center on this effort,” wrote CEP President Phil Buchanan in a recent blog post. “It is an impressive initiative that can serve both as a great resource to those interested in learning about foundations and a spur to foundations themselves to be more open and communicative about their work.”
CEP BLOG GETS THE CONVERSATION GOING
Is experimental research design an appropriate tool for nonprofits? How will today’s populist fervor impact foundations? Should foundation staff take occasional zingers in their Grantee Perception Reports® (GPRs) seriously?
These questions and others have been aired on the CEP Blog, sparking debate and fostering information sharing. If you haven’t yet visited the CEP Blog, here is a taste of what you will find:
• Ellie Buteau, PhD, vice president — research, takes on those who disparage experimental design, explaining its value and urging funders to step up and help grantees use the right tools to assess their work.
• Guest blogger Joel Orosz, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Philanthropic Studies at The Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Grand Valley State University, explains why foundations avoid transparency at their peril, and warns that the current wave of populism is a threat to philanthropy that funders must not ignore.
• In his column, “A Dose of Honesty,” Kevin Bolduc, CEP’s vice president — assessment tools, shares anonymous survey comments and gives readers an inside view of how CEP interprets and weighs them against quantitative information.
Coming up are posts from guest bloggers Jim Canales, president and CEO of the James Irvine Foundation, who will blog about Irvine’s annual performance review, and Kathleen Enright, executive director, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, who will share insights from the 2010 GEO conference.
COMING SOON: FIVE OF THE BEST PROGRAM OFFICERS
This spring CEP will publish an issue paper that identifies best practices in funder-grantee interactions. The first in a series focused on new analysis of CEP’s comparative data set, the paper will identify five program officers who are among the highest performing in CEP’s data set of grantee ratings of hundreds of foundations.