The Barr Foundation in Boston has released the results of its 2017 Grantee Perception Report.
Based on a survey of grantees and declined applicants conducted last year by the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the report (89 pages, PDF) found that ratings for the foundation's overall impact on grantees' fields and communities were "typical" of similar foundations, though down slightly from its last survey in 2012. While ratings improved significantly on how well the foundation understands the fields it works in (59th percentile), the extent to which it has advanced the state of knowledge (77th percentile) and affected public policy (83rd percentile), and how well it understands the social, cultural, or socioeconomic factors that affect grantees' work (66th percentile), they were down significantly with respect to how well it understands intended beneficiaries' needs (34th percentile) and how well its funding priorities reflected a deep understanding of those needs (39th percentile).
The report also found that ratings for the overall quality of the foundation's grantee relationships improved from the lowest quartile in 2012 to a more "typical" level (37th percentile), driven by higher scores in foundation communications and responsiveness. Ratings for various aspects of the foundation's reporting process, however, fell significantly from 2012 levels.
According to the report, grantees that have received multiyear grants rated the foundation more highly for its impact on their fields, communities, and organizations, as well as on their sustainability. But while a higher-than-typical percentage of Barr grantees reported receiving intensive "field-focused" or "comprehensive" non-monetary assistance, those grantees rated the foundation more highly in only two areas — the extent to which it has advanced the state of knowledge and affected public policy.
In a blog post, Barr foundation president and trustee James E. Canales and vice president Roger Nozaki shared three lessons from the report: that the foundation's application and reporting process isn't always clear; that while staff are engaged during the selection process, they can be less responsive during the grant period; and that its processes can feel inflexible. In light of these lessons, foundation staff are planning to go through the application process themselves to identify how it can be streamlined to be more relevant and useful; be clearer about what grantees should expect and what the foundation's priorities are; and minimize restrictions while maximizing flexibility and customization.
"We know our effectiveness depends on quality relationships with our partners," wrote Canales and Nozaki in their post. "Across the multiple relationship measures in the survey...we also saw wide variation among our programs. So, in addition to exploring opportunities to continue improving, part of our challenge is to identify the strong practices that exist and make them more consistent across the foundation."
(Photo credit: Barr Foundation/Matt Conti)