Skip to main content

Mar 14, 2023

2022 Grantee Perception Report Results Are In!

By practicing Trust-Based Philanthropy, Headwaters Foundation strives to break the traditional power dynamic between funder and grantee and create a collaborative environment that centers community needs and supports listening, learning and adaptation. Our values include putting our partners at the center of the work and soliciting and acting on their feedback.

We partnered with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to compile a Grantee Perception Report which will help us improve as a funder to better serve our partners and community. The report compares Headwaters Foundation to more than 300 foundation peers based on over 50,000 grantee responses collected by CEP to see how we rate on various indicators.

In fall of 2022, CEP administered an anonymous, confidential survey of our grantee partners to ask them how they perceive our processes and partnership. Thank you to all who participated! We had a 71% response rate (which is above the average of 65%) with a total of 99 responses. We have received the report with responses and recommendations from CEP and want to share what we learned from your candid and actionable feedback.

You can dive deeper into the results in this slide deck or this memo which CEP prepared for our team, and/or read on for a synopsis.

Overall, partners had strong, positive perceptions of Headwaters Foundation’s impact on their fields, communities and organizations. We were thrilled to hear that our trust-based approach is working for partners. Here are some highlights:

  • Streamlined processes: Grantees reported spending a median of 7 hours on grant requirements over the lifetime of their grant, which is less time compared to almost all other funders surveyed. Headwaters was also rated in the top 2% of foundations when it came to reporting process; grantees feel that our reporting process is straight-forward, adaptable and a helpful opportunity to learn and reflect.
  • Strong relationships: Headwaters scored comparatively high across all relationship measures, including respectful interactions, trust in grantees and compassion for those benefitting from grantees’ work, and in the top 5% when it came to comfort in approaching and openness to ideas about strategy.
  • Support beyond-the-check: 34% of our grantees received non-monetary support beyond their grant, including thought partnership and communications support, and indicated that the support they received was helpful.
  • Reaching underserved communities: 83% of respondents expressed that they think Headwaters’ funding is meant to benefit historically underserved groups (compared to 73% at the typical funder).

We celebrate this positive feedback, and we intend to continue and codify our trust-based practices. We also deeply appreciate the thoughtful constructive feedback we received. Here is what we heard we could improve on, and some changes we plan to make:

  • Need for Funder Collaboration: Collaboration with other funders on joint funding initiatives was a top need expressed by our grantee partners. We are actively participating in the Funders for Montana’s Children to identify ways to coordinate more effectively, as well as working with a developing effort focused on mental health and wellbeing. We will share this insight with our colleagues and keep this need front-of-mind as we work toward stronger funder collaboration in Montana.
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): Grantees who indicated having people of color in leadership positions provided lower ratings than other grantees on several measures. This is important information as our staff and board are currently engaged in a DEI learning process to help us deepen and externalize our commitment to equity and build trusting relationships with diverse leaders in our community. We will share lessons learned through this process.
  • Staff transitions: 18% of grantees stated that their contact at the Foundation had changed in the last year, which impacted their relationship with and perception of the Foundation. We will create and implement an offboarding communications plan to help mitigate the effects of staff transitions on our grantees and their relationships with the Foundation.
  • Communications: We heard that partners would appreciate more visibility of the Foundation’s work, goals, strategies and accomplishments. We have taken this to heart and will continue to prioritize communicating about our work and approach externally. In December, we launched a new website which better reflects the current scope of the foundation — check out our Learning & Evaluation page, where we publish an annual learning book sharing key insights. Be sure to join us on social media (Facebook, Instagram) and sign up for our quarterly newsletter.

Thank you to all of our grantees who participated in this survey – we appreciate your feedback and your partnership! We will conduct this survey again within the next 5 years to ensure that we continue successful practices and grow and improve as a funder. If you have ideas on how we can do better, we hope you will reach out to us.