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Grantee Perception Report: A New Landscape and New Opportunities

It would be an understatement to say a lot has happened since the last time we did a Grantee Perception Report with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) in 2017. What hasn’t changed is the Foundation’s commitment to our mission and the inspiring work of our grantee partners.

Logo of the Center for Effective Philanthropy featuring the letters CEP against an organge background and the words The Center for Effective Philanthropy right justified.

The Foundation is more committed than ever to trust-based philanthropy. The CEP survey is one of the tools we use to enhance that approach. Through the survey, organizations can provide us with anonymous feedback about what it is like to work with the Foundation. It’s critical in helping us understand what we’re doing well and how we can be more effective partners in the future.This year’s survey is our fifth time participating.

We recognize that there are inherent power dynamics at play when it comes to philanthropy, including asking organizations we fund to participate in this kind of report, so we’re especially appreciative of the thoughtful and candid feedback shared in the survey. Not only does it provide actionable insights to improve our work in the months and years to come, it also speaks to the levels of trust and depths of relationships with our partner organizations.

We are pleased to share results from this year’s CEP Grantee Perception Report.

Strengths and Positives

Despite the many changes and challenges in the past five years, some key themes remained consistent from previous surveys, including participation rates, perceptions of impact, and level of responsiveness.

    • First and foremost, our partners showed up with an astonishing 76% response rate. We heard feedback from 213 organizations from Chicago to the Lowcountry, in arts, conservation, and collections.


    • We are committed to multiyear general support where feasible, and 75% of respondents are recipients of multiyear unrestricted funds.


    • Ultimately, we do this work to make positive impacts on organizations, in communities, and in our mission areas. We’re thrilled to be among the top funders for impact on grantees’ fields and impact on communities served.


    • Openness and responsiveness are watchwords, and the report shows we are among the top funders for responsiveness, openness, and understanding challenges faced by grantees.


    • The Foundation firmly believes that we can support our partners in many ways, including through workshops and trainings that help capacity building and learning on topics ranging from nonprofit accounting to accessibility in small arts spaces. 73% of respondents report taking advantage of this kind of additional support.


    • New to this year’s survey, and a number we’re especially proud of, is that 67% of grantees report changes to their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices as a result of Foundation support.

Opportunities to Strengthen Our Relationships

We’re not here to rest on our laurels. We received thoughtful and constructive feedback that provides key opportunities to strengthen our practices and is already informing plans and approaches for the coming year:

    • It came through loud and clear: our partners want more interactions and touchpoints with the Foundation. We will be hosting some “Meet the Foundation” events in 2024 to provide more opportunities, and we’ll also be offering more annual data on how we interact with our grantees–from meetings to calls to Zooms to trainings and more–to provide more insight and understanding.


    • Another consistent piece of feedback was showcasing grantee work. We’re thrilled to show off the amazing things these organizations are doing, and we’ll be regularly spotlighting grantees on our digital channels in 2024.


    • One theme was a surprise for some staff—far from thinking it was “boring inside baseball,” partner organizations want more insight and understanding into how we work. We’re always ready to help demystify philanthropy and provide an inside perspective. We’re working toward offering more online content including FAQs, posts, and articles providing insights into philanthropy and our approaches and practices.
    • Another major area of feedback centered on grant processes and award amounts. We evaluate our application and reporting processes each year and will continue to look for opportunities to further streamline while still learning about and understanding our partners’ work. We are also committed to multiyear general support when feasible. It provides consistent and reliable sources of funding over time that is tailored to the organization’s needs and work. We have partnered with many of our organizations for years. This can mean smaller annual amounts, especially when serving a large, diverse pool of grantees. We take feedback about grant amounts seriously and are committed to more internal discussion and evaluation.

This is a brief look at the results and work to come. Reflection and evaluation are ongoing processes, and we welcome feedback at any time to enhance our work and practices.

Finally, thank you to our partners for taking part. The Foundation is grateful for the time you spent and the insight and thoughtfulness you shared with us in this year’s survey.

Read the Summary and Report

Executive Summary (PDF)

Full Report (PDF)

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group.

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