The San Francisco Foundation has shared findings from a Grantee and Applicant Perception Report and separate Donor Perception Report commissioned from the Center for Effective Philanthropy as well as steps it is taking to address issues raised by the reports.
In a survey of SFF grantees, respondents said that they spent a relatively limited amount of time responding to the foundation's grant requirements; that the foundation has done a good job of funding work that grantees were already doing or planning rather than pressuring them to modify their priorities; and that grantees understood and connected with the foundation's focus on racial equity and economic inclusion. Areas where there was room for improvement relative to SFF's peer foundations included understanding grantees' goals, strategies, and contexts; its responsiveness to grantees' questions and comments; and the clarity of communications about its goals and strategies, especially around its grantmaking focused on equity and inclusion.
"Grantees told us that they do not have sufficient clarity about our strategies nor where they fit into those strategies, and we have work to do to clarify those priorities in the years ahead," San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell notes on the foundation's website. "We have been in a period of profound change over the past few years, and we are about to enter another growth phase as we ramp up partnerships with a number of large foundations and donors."
To address the issues raised by the report, the foundation plans to take steps to ensure that staff are adequately trained on new technology and systems that can improve their responsiveness; identify a single point of contact for each grantee; better articulate its goals and strategies and work to help grantees better understand how they fit into its People, Place, and Power strategies; and develop and implement a prompt response protocol for inquiries from grantees and applicants. The foundation already is working to simplify its grant application process and speed up the grant approval and disbursement process, put applicants at the center of the redesign of its Open Cycle grants process, conduct focus groups with grantees to test and refine its communications, increase the number of site visits to new grantees, and host convenings and consultative sessions with grantees to deepen those relationships.
In the survey of SFF donors, respondents recognized the foundation's commitment to equity but felt the foundation needed to do a better job of responding to donors, understanding their goals, and communicating the value of its work and how it supports their philanthropic priorities. To address those issues, SFF is adding staff with experience in philanthropic advising; implementing new technology to better recommend and track grants; conducting evaluations of and listening tours to gauge donor satisfaction; exploring new ways of communicating its work and the role donors and grantees play in advancing change in the Bay Area; and deepening donor engagement through its Community Impact Department.
"Nobody enjoys hearing challenging feedback, but we have been very careful to receive that feedback in the spirit with which it was offered — as a way to help us improve our ability to serve our donors, our grantees, and to make the Bay Area a place where everyone can have a good job and an affordable home in a place where they feel that they belong," Blackwell writes. "Our commitment to building deeper, stronger relationships with our donors, our grantees, and the communities we collectively serve extends across the institution."