In 2011, Great Lakes launched a revamped grantmaking strategy aimed at boosting scholarships for low-income students and students of color. Based on a survey of nearly three hundred grant applicants and grantees, the report (summary, 11 pages, PDF) found that Great Lakes was ranked higher than average in its ability to make an impact on the grantee/applicant's field (i.e., improving college access and success for disadvantaged students). It placed in the top quartile for its evaluation process. And while grantees said they spent more time than average in completing reports for Great Lakes, they found that the reports helped foster continuous improvement in their programs.
The survey also identified areas for improvement for the foundation, including the need for better communications about why a grant application was declined; for more meaningful relationships between program officers and the community; and for a clearer and more consistent focus in its grantmaking. In response, the report outlines the steps Great Lakes is taking to address those concerns and frustrations, including providing specific reasons for declining an application, making program managers available to offer one-on-one feedback, reaching out to grantees regularly, and facilitating knowledge sharing among grantees.
"At Great Lakes we do many things to be effective in our work, but perhaps nothing is more important than self-reflection," said Great Lakes president and CEO Richard D. George. "We asked for a candid assessment to learn what we do well, where we can improve, and how we compare to others in the field. We found the feedback received to be invaluable."