Opening up channels for grantseekers and grantees to provide you with feedback is not only of benefit to you, the grantmaker. It is also in the interests of those who ultimately benefit from the grants.
What are the options?
You can actively solicit feedback, which might mean conducting surveys or focus groups, or establishing a permanent advisory group.
Alternatively (or in addition), you can take a more passive approach to seeking feedback. This might mean publishing your organisation's telephone number and email address on all communication material, together with an invitation for people to let you know what they think.
You want grantseekers and grantees to let you know whether they think the work that you're doing is relevant and effective and whether they think you're doing a good job of delivering the program.
If you decide to send out a survey, you can use a free online tool such as SurveyMonkey. SurveyMonkey gives you the option of collecting anonymous responses. If you don't get enough responses, send out a reminder letting people know how much you value their feedback.
To get honest information from grantees you need to have a very healthy relationship with them, or you need to give them an avenue through which to provide anonymous feedback. (If you hand out only a small number of grants, they will probably be concerned that you will know who the feedback is coming from anyway).
For a more detailed look at stakeholder engagement, see the guide Do Nothing About Me Without Me from Grantmakers for Effective Organisations (GEO). It encourages grantmakers to ask a series of stakeholder-related questions about four areas of their work: practices, strategies, people and relationships.
- Do you know how your grantmaking and procedures contribute (or not) to grantees' success, and do you know what you can improve?
- Are you doing enough to engage grantees in the design of strategies for change?
- Do your board and staff enable you to understand what is truly happening in the communities you serve?
- What can you do to build stronger, more open and more honest relationships with grantees and other stakeholders to avoid being perceived as an unapproachable institution?
The US-based Center for Effective Philanthropy offers a grantee perception report for a fee. The report provides funders with feedback based on responses to an online grantee survey.