We’re in This Together – Listening and Learning from Grantees


These are the top three words you, our grantees, used to describe the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, according to our most recent Grantee Perception Survey, conducted by The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) in the fall of 2017. This was the fourth time since 2006 we’ve done this anonymous survey. We were pleased to hear from nearly 200 organizations, a 77% response rate. Thank you to those who responded – we genuinely appreciate you taking the time to provide feedback, so that we can improve and better support the work you do in artistic vitality, land conservation, and regional collections.

In our most recent results, we were rated in the top one percent of CEP’s dataset of 276 funders for impact on the fields in which we work. Our relationships with you are rated in the top five percent of CEP’s dataset, significantly higher than our 2012 results. We also received significantly higher ratings than 2012 for our clarity of communications. These results are especially exciting for us, as the two areas for improvement that arose from the 2012 survey were your reluctance in approaching staff and our relative lack of visibility in the fields in which we work. We took that feedback to heart, and committed to improving access to staff and increasing our transparency.

Given the positive feedback, we aspire to expand on what is working:

  • We understand the value of direct and in-person interaction, so we will look for even more opportunities for you to get together with each other and with the foundation.
  • Beyond direct contact with us, our website is your primary tool for finding out more information about what we’re up to. We are updating its design and will communicate more about the work we do beyond grantmaking. You don’t access our social media platforms as much, so we will re-evaluate how we use those.
  • We will begin awarding three-year grants to Chicago arts organizations, and explore ways to expand within other program areas where possible.
  • Finally, you shared that you find value in our proposal and report review process, but you want to hear more about what we’re learning collectively from evaluation. We are exploring ways to share our learning back into the field more thoroughly.

The Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation believes the best way for us to positively impact your good work is to welcome ongoing conversations and learn from you what matters most. We are grateful for the partnerships and collaborations that we’ve built with you, as we work together to support our mission for the people of the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.


Download and read our results here.

Read David Farren’s blog for CEP about our results.

Photo credit Alice Keeney Photography

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