A Message to Our Grantees


A Message to Our Grantees

Reporting Back on Grantee Perception Survey Results

The mission and goals of the William Penn Foundation rely on the expertise, commitment, and hard work of our grantees. We are able to do our work, only because of yours.

To continue to improve and enhance our relationships with grantees, we again engaged the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct a grantee perception survey. We expanded the survey to include questions about the quality and consistency of interactions with Foundation staff, grantees’ experiences with our new online portal, and the Foundation’s role in the region and perceptions of unmet needs. We appreciate the input from the 300 organizations that completed the survey and believe it’s important to share the feedback we heard with you.

We were pleased to see that grantees think the Foundation’s openness and transparency have increased significantly in recent years. Many noted our staff’s openness and deep engagement in the work as a partner, and also mentioned the notable increase in direct communications. We will continue to share information about the Foundation’s work by hosting convenings around important issues in our three program areas; through ongoing blog, website, and social media content to help illuminate your work; and by generating regional and national media to draw attention to important work happening in our region.

The survey also revealed important areas of concern, including low ratings among many respondents for their level of comfort in approaching the Foundation should a problem arise, as well as of their perceptions of the strength of their relationships with Foundation staff. Let’s talk about these.

We fully appreciate the sensitivity grantees feel regarding their relationship with the Foundation. The stakes are high. We also know that conditions and circumstances change, and that new challenges and opportunities arise during the life of a grant. We welcome candid conversations when unexpected situations come up, when plans are no longer workable, or difficulties emerge. It is in those moments that important learning and experimentation can occur. Please raise questions and concerns with Foundation staff regarding current grants or proposals. If you share bad news, we can learn along with you and become a more effective funder.

On the note of relationships with Foundation staff, many of you also expressed how much you value these relationships and wish for more frequent contact with our team. Candidly, due to the limitations of our capacity, the more frequent contact with program staff that many grantees desire may not always be possible. Our 15 program officers currently manage relationships with over 460 active grantees throughout the region. Our lean program team is intended to maximize resources available for our annual grant budget. Nevertheless, we encourage grantees to continue to reach out to Foundation staff and to consider them a resource. Additionally, we are exploring new channels of external engagement and communications such as grantee open houses and expanded information on our website about the grantmaking process.

Lastly, survey respondents expressed concerns about the length and complexity of our application process and reporting requirements. In response we are now reviewing the information we request from grantees; a burdensome process is not our intent. We plan to streamline our processes to incorporate many of your suggestions and expect you will see some improvements on this front over the next year.

We greatly value our relationships with you. We will never know your communities as well as you do. Nor can we contribute to advancing meaningful change in this city and region without your knowledge, commitment, and leadership. Your feedback is a gift to us. By sharing your insights openly, even when that’s difficult, you increase the impact of the work we do together. 



Janet Haas, M.D.

Shawn McCaney
Executive Director


This blog post is adapted from an email that was sent to organizations that participated in a Grantee Perception Survey conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy in May of 2019.

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