Earlier this year, The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation partnered with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) and invited our grantee community to provide feedback about our work. As the foundation continues our fourth decade of grantmaking, it is important for us to have evaluation from our grantee community about the work we are doing.
Through CEP’s assessment tools, we asked our MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture grantees about the quality of interaction with the foundation, the perception of our knowledge about the issues and communities in which you work, and the effectiveness of our grantmaking process. The resulting Grantee Perception Report not only summarized those opinions but also benchmarked our performance against the CEP database containing responses from more than 40,000 grantees and 320 funders over its ten-year history.
The survey achieved a 78% response rate from 135 of our 175 MacArthur-Driehaus grantees – an unusually strong participation rate – and we sincerely thank each and every one of the organizations that took time to provide this valuable data. We value these relationships and it is important to us to share findings from the report including its positive conclusions, areas where we have an opportunity to refine our process, and efforts that are already currently underway.
Impact and Understanding of Grantees Fields and Organizations
“The Driehaus Foundation has always tried to understand the challenges of small arts organizations. Their funding history and the value placed on the artist’s voice is evident.”
It was reassuring to learn that grantees have a particularly positive perception about the foundation’s understanding of its fields and communities and rated it in the top ten percent for its impact on those communities. Overall, on key measures
including perception of impact, understanding, and funder-grantee relationships, the foundation rated in the top 25 percent of the CEP dataset.
Cultivating Strong Relationships with Grantees
“Engaging with the program officer has always been a high point of the funding program. It is always a useful opportunity to talk about the evolutions, growth and challenges in the work and hear about Driehaus’ perspective on funding cultural production.”
The foundation is committed to fostering strong relationships with its grantees to support each aspect of an organization’s development. We strive to provide clear and consistent communication that conveys our goals and strategies, and to be responsive when problems arise. Grantees view the clarity with which the foundation communicates its goals and strategies more positively than is typical and rated the consistency of its communication resources in the top 3 percent of CEP’s dataset.
The survey feedback also offered some specific suggestions about how we can enhance our communications to better serve the needs of grantees and foster even stronger relationships. While perceiving the staff to be responsive, grantees felt they interact with their program officer less frequently than they do with other funders and expressed a desire to have additional personal communication. At times, staff caseload can impact this ability; relative to our size, the foundation awards almost twice as much funding and processes more than four times as many applications as similar foundations. We also recognize that recent staff turnover has had an impact on grantees and their comfort level in approaching the foundation. The staff understands these challenges, and plans are in the works to create a more personal, formalized and consistent communications plan. We are thoughtful about all comments received and look for every opportunity to enhance our communications to best support all grantees.
Grantmaking Characteristics and Process
“Driehaus’ commitment to general operating funding and organizational development is a key factor in the health of the Chicago arts and cultural community. There is no other organization providing consistently and reliable access to general operating funding on predictable timelines.”
While recognizing that many of the grants funded by the foundation are small, we are grateful for the appreciation that they consistently cover general operating costs and are often multi-year in length. We also received positive feedback about the streamlined, online application process and that grantees spend less time on requirements over the life of our grant than they must with 80 percent of other funders.
We appreciate how valuable time is to each organization and continue to refine our process with the intent of making it less burdensome and time-consuming. Overall, grantees gave our reporting process higher than average ratings for being straightforward, relevant and an opportunity to learn. We recognize that reporting, combined with discussion about the work and how it will be assessed, is an opportunity to make it even more helpful to grantees.
The Grantee Perception Report also provided thoughtful insight confirming the value of non-monetary support. The foundation recognizes this as well and will continue to offer Professional Development grants and capacity-building workshops on topics most relevant in assisting grantees to support their organizations. We believe wholeheartedly that building organizational capacity strengthens an organization’s ability to perform well artistically. We also see an opportunity to expand this support in the form of convenings and forums, and providing time to spend with the foundation staff and other grantees.
This is the first time that we have offered a survey to our grantees and have found both the quantitative and qualitative data as well as your thoughtful comments to be most valuable. It provides us with an accurate assessment of our work, and some direction in how we can continue to refine our processes and grow as an effective organization in the coming years. As the new Executive Director, it is important to me to build upon the efforts of prior staff who were instrumental in furthering the work of the foundation. I have had the pleasure to meet many of you and learn about your organizations, and I look forward to continuing to do so in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you again to everyone who provided their thoughtful comments and insight. We invite you to explore the results of the Grantee Reception Report and please do reach out if you have any questions.
All the best,