As part of the Philamplify assessment of the Walton Family Foundation, we asked the foundation’s grantees and other stakeholders which of the foundation’s practices they would continue to do and what they would do differently if they were the foundation’s executive director.
Among the top issues raised were grantee relationship with the foundation, communications, foundation strategies, performance measurement and convening. Here are a few of the illustrative comments:
Practices to continue:
- “My relationship with the grant officer is fantastic. I can always call her when I have a problem or need to talk through an issue. I can speak openly with her as someone who genuinely supports our work rather than just as a funder. Having a true adviser in that way is invaluable.
- “Maintain the personal, collaborative and open communication between funder and grantee in … creating grants and program outputs and outcomes in addition to reporting.”
- “Regarding the foundation’s environment program goals and strategies, they are exactly on track by being aware that ‘new and unexpected partnerships’ are key to overcoming many a program hurdle and securing true innovation and change. Also, the foundation’s acknowledgement that for environmental programs to be successful, organizations must partner with those who make their livelihoods off of the very environmental systems we are trying to protect and improve for all future generations.”
- “Invest in community organizing and a commitment for charter schools to have boards with true community representation.”
- “The collaborative process to develop performance measures is incredibly valuable to us as a grantee. I would certainly continue to encourage relationships between program officers and grantees that allow for dialogue and feedback as those measures are solidified.”
Practices to do differently:
- “I would listen to what effective organizations need and allow them to provide important grassroots feedback on how the foundation could be more effective in its funding.”
- “As foundations have assumed more of a strategic role they have not yet figured out how to effectively partner with grantees. This is due to a lack of strategic partnership. The current result is that grantees become service providers. My suggestion would have them move to being strategic partners who can also deliver – because they are motivated to deliver.”
- “I would engage all grantees in a continuing conversation about the evolving goals and strategies of the foundation and how the grantee helps meet those goals. An annual meeting of all the grantees within a specific program area would be very helpful to understanding the ‘lay of the land’ in that area, and identifying opportunities for collaboration.”
- “While we believe in the importance of developing a pipeline of strong leaders for charter schools, the vast majority of children in public schools attend district schools. To achieve truly systemic change, we need to improve district AND charter schools to create more high quality learning environments for all children.”
- It would be valuable to bring grantees together periodically to talk about ways to leverage the capabilities of each. I would also use the foundation’s reputation and connections within the philanthropic community to connect grantees with other interested partners.
If you were Walton Family Foundation’s executive director, what would you do the same and what would you do differently? Please share in comments below.
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