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2020 Grantee Perception Report: Listening and responding to our grantees

Listening to those we serve is core to who we are at Irvine. We strive to ensure that our strategy and work reflect the voices of our grantees, partners, and working Californians who are paid low wages.

In August 2020, we partnered with the Center for Effective Philanthropy to conduct our fourth Grantee Perception Report (GPR), a confidential survey of grantees that asked about our relationships with them, our grantmaking processes and types of support, our impact, and our practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We value this feedback and use it to help us assess our strengths, identify areas of improvement, and support us in being accountable.

2020 Key Findings

This GPR is the first under our new focus: a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. Since our previous GPR in 2014, we have made a strategic pivot, entered new fields of work, culminated longstanding grantmaking areas, and adopted new ways of working with grantees and across the Foundation.

Despite the significant changes in what and how we fund, grantee ratings on most measures remained stable overall, with improvements in some areas. Ratings from grantees who are part of our current strategy tend to be higher than grantees in our culminating work, and are mostly consistent with, or higher than, peer funders.

The results indicate that, compared to 2014, our grant processes are more streamlined and the burden on grantees has been reduced, including a 50-percent decrease in time spent on grantee proposal and selection processes and a more than threefold increase in grant dollars received relative to time spent on grant requirements. We are also glad that grantees reported funder-grantee interactions as positive overall, including seeing Irvine as treating them fairly, as being responsive and transparent, and as exhibiting compassion for those affected by their work. They also rated their grants as having positive impacts on their communities and organizations.

As in previous years, grantee feedback highlighted areas we can strengthen and improve. In response, we have pledged to make the following adjustments:

  • Improve communication with grantees. Overall, grantees are pleased with the clarity and consistency of Irvine’s communications. But they want to better understand the Foundation’s strategy, including the role of their grant within an initiative and connections across initiatives. We will focus on communicating more regularly and consistently with our grantees, including more information in existing touchpoints, and supporting consistent messaging across the foundation.
    Grantees also expressed a desire to hear more from Irvine on our commitment to DEI, particularly racial equity, and implications for their work with Irvine. We will continue to communicate about our commitment to DEI and racial equity specifically, create opportunities for grantees to provide input on our efforts, and identify ways to hold ourselves accountable to our racial equity work and progress.
  • More fully fund indirect costs. We believe in funding the full and true costs of what it takes for grantees to do the work. As a result of our 2014 GPR, Irvine increased the amount of indirect costs (overhead beyond direct project costs) we cover in grants, but 40 percent of grantees receiving project support reported that their grant did not cover that project’s full cost. As a next step, we will review our indirect cost policy with all grantmaking staff and provide training and tools to support conversations with grantees about indirect costs. If needed, this could also include support for grantees in more fully determining and requesting the full cost of their projects.
  • Examine funder-grantee interactions. Though grantees rated their interactions with the Foundation positively overall, there are two areas within funder-grantee interactions that we must pay special attention to. First, Irvine grantees reported greater pressure to modify organizational priorities compared to peer funders. This is not a complete surprise, given our recent strategy change, but we will examine how we engage potential grantees in the proposal processes, especially past grantees with whom we are exploring new areas of work.
    Second, we are very concerned that grantee respondents identifying as women rated Irvine lower in regard to some grantee experiences (e.g., understanding grantee’s goals and context, strength of relationships, and overall transparency). While women are overrepresented in culminating grants, it does not completely explain the difference. We are humbled by this feedback and take it seriously. We will seek confidential feedback from a selection of our female grantees to understand what would improve their experience and make changes accordingly.

We are grateful for this opportunity to hear and learn from our grantees, and we thank everyone who took the time to provide feedback. We invite you to read the 2020 Grantee Perception Summary Report and all the results. You can read our previous GPRs on our website.