Part of any foundation’s success is its ability to be an effective grantmaker. To do so requires a sound framework, persistent oversight and review, and most importantly, a willingness to build on strengths and correct weaknesses.
During my short time at MFH, it’s clear this organization is committed to being effective. Since its early days, MFH has engaged The Center of Philanthropy (CEP) to gather information about MFH’s grant process, interactions with grantees and perceived impact. Every three years, CEP surveys a cross-section of our grantees. Their candid comments, along with a comparison of MFH’s results against those from other foundations, provide valuable insight for our Board of Directors and staff.
The results from the latest survey, conducted in mid-2011, show MFH continues to rate high in many areas with grantees and when compared to other foundations. The results also show several opportunities to improve our effectiveness.
Here are some of the survey’s key findings:
- MFH continues to be rated very high on its impact on the grantees’ fields and its ability to advance knowledge.
- MFH received lower than typical ratings for its understanding of grantees’ communities.
- Grantees feel they spend more administrative time on MFH grants than for other funders. Grantees suggest “clearer descriptions” or “more guidelines” as a way to reduce their time.
- MFH continues to rate very high on its effect on public policy in the grantees’ fields. One grantee noted, “MFH keeps health and health policy issues in the forefront. That is so helpful to our field.”
- Grantees rated MFH near the middle on its staff responsiveness. A grantee stated, “Interactions through e-mail and phone seem to be extremely helpful. Interactions in person seem to be less so.”
- Grantees also felt less sure about MFH’s future grantmaking, ranking MFH near the middle of all foundations with regard to clarity of communication about goals and strategies. “Over the past few months it has become difficult to ascertain (MFH’s) strategic direction,” a grantee responded. “Funding programs … have been in flux and there has been staff turnover.”
- MFH ranks near the top for its non-monetary assistance to grantees. This includes providing management and field-related help, along with training opportunities and communications help. “Their publications are very helpful too and we have distributed them all over the state,” said a survey respondent.
Because CEP conducts similar surveys with nearly 200 other foundations across the country, we see the report as a credible benchmark of our performance. We’ve made improvements based on previous reports, and we’ll continue to do so in the future.
I’m not surprised our grantees feel unsure about where MFH’s grantmaking is heading. Over the past year and with a decade of grantmaking experience under our belt, our Board and staff embarked on a re-evaluation of our overarching goals and strategies. A stronger grantmaking framework will be in place by year’s end. I’m confident it will be a framework that helps our grantees get stronger, helps MFH be a more effective funder, employs the best strategies for improving the health of the underserved and uninsured in our service area, and engages entire communities in the process of creating a healthier Missouri.
I invite you to view MFH’s full Grantee Perception Report. We welcome your comments as we build a stronger future.
Robert G. Hughes
President and Chief Executive Officer
Missouri Foundation for Health