“What gets measured, gets done.” This is a quote I have long lived by. To me, it rings truest when trying to assess one’s own progress. If we don’t know how we are doing, how will we know how to improve?
Gordon and Betty Moore established the foundation to “tackle large, important issues at a scale where it can achieve significant and measureable impacts.” (Statement of Founder’s Intent)
To that end, the tracking of progress and measurement of outcomes are key to determining the effectiveness of the foundation’s approach to grantmaking. Moreover, the relationship between the foundation and its grantees are crucial in the coordination and alignment of goals and outcomes in the pursuit of tackling these large, important issues. Measuring the strength of the foundation’s relationship with its grantees will ensure we can achieve our expected outcomes by building on what works and mending what doesn’t.
Since 2004, the Moore Foundation has engaged The Center for Effective Philanthropy to solicit feedback from its grantees on the performance of the foundation and prepare a Grantee Perception Report. The most recent online survey was conducted in May and June 2016 of 628 active grantees in 2015 and garnered a 64 percent response rate. Compared to previous surveys of grantee and staff perceptions, 2016 survey results are the most positive in the history of the foundation.
In comparison to the 2014 grantee survey, perceptions of the foundation in 2016 have improved at a statistically significant level on a dozen measures. Specifically, there were significant increases in the perceptions of:
- Understanding of grantees’ fields
- Impact and advancement of knowledge in grantees’ fields
- Effect on public policy in grantees’ fields
- Overall quality of relationships with grantees
- Clarity of communication of foundation goals and strategy
The survey also revealed areas in which the foundation could improve:
- Awareness of challenges grantees are facing
- Understanding the social, cultural, or socioeconomic factors that affect the work of grantees
- Exiting responsibly from program investments
Grantee suggestions included:
- Continue to strengthen relationships through better management of contact changes
- More frequent and collaborative interactions
- Careful consideration of time horizon in grantmaking
In response to the feedback, the foundation will be working to alleviate unnecessary burdens on grantees. For example, the foundation is commissioning a study to document best practices and lessons learned regarding foundation exits so that future exits can be planned and communicated in a more purposeful manner. In addition, the foundation will organize cross-foundational learning on systems change and its application to evaluation.
The foundation strives to be a transparent and learning organization where both effective practices and areas of improvement can be captured, evaluated and shared. Each year we set targets for areas that we seek to improve. Measurement is key to learning and we intend to continuously learn how we can do better. To quote that famous poet Maya Angelou, “when you know better, you do better.”
Debra Joy Perez, Ph.D. is the chief measurement, evaluation and learning officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.