Resource — Are you a funder thinking about administering a GPR? Read our guest blog post for the Center for Effective Philanthropy:
One of Luminate’s guiding values is integrity. How we work, communicate, and collaborate is as important as delivering our mission. It is critical that we are accountable and that our work and the work of our partners is informed and rigorous. As Pam Omidyar, one of our founders, has said: “We start with the values, not with the impact.”
Part of living this value of integrity is listening to grantee partners: Listening closely, listening with curiosity, and listening in a way that allows them to share their honest, unfiltered views with us. We acknowledge that we hold a lot of power, as a foundation deciding how to allocate millions of dollars and thousands of support hours to incredible organisations around the world. We hope that giving partners the opportunity to anonymously assess us can help us hold ourselves accountable, and continuously improve the ways in which we build partnerships.
After collecting baseline data through the Grantee Perception Report (GPR) survey in 2020, we commissioned Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) once again to listen to our partners about their perceptions of Luminate. For our 2023 survey, we achieved a 66% response rate, which gives CEP and us confidence that we’ve heard from a sufficiently representative population of our partners.
One of Luminate’s guiding values is integrity. How we work, communicate, and collaborate is as important as delivering our mission. It is critical that we are accountable and that our work and the work of our partners is informed and rigorous.
For this year's GPR we invited the majority of our current portfolio to participate. The exception to this is partners from our Luminate Strategic Initiatives portfolio, due to the nature of our support being slightly different, and our exiting partners. For the latter, we commissioned CEP to conduct a separate survey, which can be found here.
Our current grantee partners generously contributed their time and insights, and we are grateful for their participation and investment in this process. Below, we are pleased to share our results, along with our reflections and commitments.
Overall, grantees shared positive feedback regarding their experiences with Luminate and generally rate us in line with, or above, the typical funder. We saw significant improvements on many measures since 2020, including aspects of our grant making process and how we interact and communicate with grantees.
Grantees highlighted strengths in our deep investment in, and impact on, their organisations through our grant making and beyond-the-grant assistance, high-quality funder-grantee relationships, and helpful, adaptable grant making processes. In written comments, grantees note that Luminate support has been “instrumental” and that “staff are always incredible, kind, supportive, [and] thoughtful.”
The largest theme in grantees’ suggestions for improvement was around our approaches to creating impact in their fields. They offered a variety of suggestions within this theme without a strong consensus on a particular approach, noting the complexity of the issues Luminate focuses on and the environments that it operates within.
Grantee feedback also indicated opportunities for us to continue providing a larger proportion of unrestricted and multi-year support, communicating more clearly about our direction and focus, and continuing to streamline aspects of our grant making processes.
Multi-year, unrestricted funding
We provide grantees with multi-year general operating support or unrestricted funding at a much higher proportion than typical. CEP’s research has found that providing this kind of support tends to be associated with more positive perceptions of how a funder impacts a grantee’s organisation. This reflects our aim to provide flexible support to our partners so they can use the resources to deliver most effectively on their mission and grow as an organisation.
84% of grantees reported receiving beyond-the-grant assistance, a much higher proportion than those of the average funder (58%). Grantees also indicated how critical this support is, with 84% rating this assistance as equally or more important relative to Luminate’s financial contributions, a positive leap from 62% in 2020. This non-financial support is crucial when working with smaller, more nascent organisations.
When asked what more Luminate could offer for beyond-the-grant assistance, one respondent said: “We have received so much assistance from Luminate over the years already, it's impossible to identify something further. I mean it – practically the best funder out there for this kind of assistance. Not only does [Luminate] ask grantees to consider organisational development but you offer the means and opportunities. It's incredible. I hope every grantee is using it as much as we do."
Strong relationships with grantees
Since 2020, we have improved in how comfortable grantees feel approaching Luminate when a problem arises and how transparent they feel we are. Grantees rate Luminate as doing better than the typical funder on how often we proactively reach out or conduct site visits.
Areas for improvement
Requirements for funding process
Grantees report spending an average of 52 hours on Luminate processes across a lifetime of the grant. While this is an improvement on the average of 75 hours grantees reported in 2020, it is still significantly higher than the typical funder’s 29 hours. In addition, smaller organisations tend to spend the most amount of time on Luminate’s processes, despite often receiving smaller grants.
However, grantees also report finding the process valuable. In response to the question “to what extent was Luminate’s selection process a helpful opportunity to strengthen the efforts funded by the grant?”, Luminate scored in the top 5% compared to other funders. Also, grantees reported an improvement in how straightforward the reporting process is.
Consistency of communications
Grantees provide some of their lowest comparative ratings for the consistency of information that they use to learn about Luminate from different sources, both verbal and written, placing Luminate in the bottom 10% of CEP’s overall dataset. Upon reviewing the comments from grantees, CEP highlighted that there wasn’t an inconsistency in messages from different people, but rather grantees experience a lack of clarity about aspects of Luminate’s direction and focus.
Looking ahead: Priorities for 2024 and beyond
We will continue to prioritise flexible funding models and beyond-the-grant support wherever possible, as it is clear this is highly valued by our partners and a key strength of Luminate’s offer to the field.
We will look closely at our funding process to better understand what is demanding more time of partners, which of these processes can add value, and where they are the most burdensome, especially for smaller organisations.
We will work to ensure that our communications, both formal and informally via funding leads, are consistent and indicate a clear strategy for the organisation.
Finally, we appreciate the ideas and comments offered by our partners with respect to our impact and strategy, and we will continue to refer to these.
Everyone at Luminate extends a huge thank you to our grantee partners not just for the incredible work you are doing every day, but also for taking the time to help us be better partners to you as we all strive to make the change we wish to see in this complex world.