Although the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest private philanthropy, awarded $2.5 billion in grants in 2010, CEO Jeff Raikes acknowledges in the foundation's 2010 annual report that he and his staff need to improve how they communicate goals and strategies to grantees, the Associated Press reports.
The Seattle-based foundation, which has more than $37 billion in assets, awarded $500 million less in grants in 2010 than in 2009 — in part, because the foundation extended its payout period into 2011 to give program staff more flexibility. As a result, Raikes noted in the annual report, the foundation's grantmaking in 2011 will be higher.
As for the foundation's communications challenges, Raikes said they were the result of rapid growth in both the size of the foundation and its annual grantmaking budget. Since Warren Buffett pledged the bulk of his fortune to the foundation five years ago, the foundation has tripled its staff, to 957 employees. In 2009, the foundation asked the Center for Effective Philanthropy to survey its grantees. Since the results of that Grantee Perception Report were made public, the foundation has worked to improve its relationships with grantees, with Raikes giving staff until 2013 — and a follow-up CEP survey — to improve its internal and external communications.
In an interview with the AP, Raikes said, "If we can work more effectively with our grantees, that will increase the impact that we aspire to."