Article by Edmund J. Cain, Former Vice President, Grant Programs

Last year marked the third time that we partnered with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to survey our grantees through the Grantee Perception Report (GPR). As a funder, we recognize that there is often an inherent imbalance of power in the relationship between funders and grantee organizations. This dynamic can make it difficult for grantees to provide candid feedback about foundations. The GPR is a confidential survey that gives grantees a voice while providing the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation with a comprehensive assessment of grantee perceptions of our performance.

The GPR also compares our results to data from other foundations whose grantees were also surveyed. We have used previous survey results to guide our learning in grantmaking practices. These surveys also provide evidence that strong partner relationships are critical to our efforts to improve the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people throughout the world.

We are grateful to our partners who completed the survey and pleased to provide the results of the 2017 survey. The report shows significant improvement in many areas since our last survey in 2014, placing the Hilton Foundation near the top of many measures in CEP’s dataset. Among the number of positive findings, we are proud to share that our grantee partners gave high marks to the quality of their relationship with the Foundation and indicated that our funding priorities reflect a strong understanding of the needs of our grantee partners and the communities in which they serve.

The decision to conduct the GPR coincided with the Foundation marking 10 years as a strategic grantmaker. Looking back, we credit the implementation of the Foundation’s Philanthropic Approach as a key factor in developing productive partnerships with our grantees, ultimately leading to this positive feedback from our partners. The Philanthropic Approach defines what we do: identify priority program areas, establish clear goals, collaborate with partners to create coherent strategies, support effective implementation, and establish relevant indicators to gauge progress and inform improvement. The Philanthropic Approach also informs how we work– employing grantmaking, leadership, communication, collaboration and learning– to achieve impact. We are honored that these results indicate that our partners also value our Philanthropic Approach.

This feedback will also be used to further refine our grantmaking practices. Our partners cite that they spend more time on Foundation reporting processes than they do for other funders. We have taken this to heart, and program staff are now partnering with our Grants Management and Learning teams to redesign our application, reporting forms and templates with the goal to streamline and align our data collection, evaluation and learning processes. Additionally, the Foundation continues to score lower than other funders for the amount of general operating support it provides. Recognizing the critical need for unrestricted funding, we continue to explore how we can provide flexibility to our partners while still achieving our strategic goals.

We are grateful to CEP and our grantee partners for participating in this important process. In an effort to remain transparent, we are committed to sharing these results publicly so that we are not just speaking openly when things go well, but also sharing challenges and identifying ways we can improve. We look forward to applying these same ideals in our future work.

2017 Grantee Perception Report

Center for Effective Philanthropy

Read the full report here