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2010 Grantee Perception Report

August 2010

Contact info and related links

In a grantee perception survey administered last fall by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), nonprofit organizations that receive funding from The McKnight Foundation rated it highly for its impact on fields, grantees, and communities. However, grantees indicated McKnight could communicate more clearly about specific goals and strategies, especially when planning or implementing program changes. McKnight's full Grantee Perception Report is available online.

The Foundation's Action Plan in response to the survey results is also available online.

"The McKnight Foundation depends on partnering well with our grantees to be successful in our program strategies," said McKnight president Kate Wolford. "To help foster the most effective collaborations, our staff and board recognize the great value of frank, direct grantee feedback."

In October 2009, CEP surveyed 612 of McKnight's 2008 grantees, representing a response rate of 73 percent. The survey gathered anonymous input about various components of McKnight's work, including grantmaking process, communications, and overall impact, and then compared the results to grantee perceptions of other foundations around the U.S. and to McKnight's own results in prior survey iterations (2003 and 2006).

A main goal in inviting grantee input is to maximize performance as an effective and respectful grantmaker. CEP's analysis and peer comparisons provide insights not only into grantee perceptions, but into ways McKnight can better fulfill its mission through strong grantee relationships. In response to results from the 2006 survey, for instance, the Foundation developed a manual of grantmaking standards, adjusted reporting requirements for grantees, and pursued a transition to online grant applications.

With this latest iteration, McKnight's staff and board again see ample opportunities to improve communications and ongoing relationships with grantees.
"Because impact is truly our bottom line," explains Wolford, "we are thrilled that grantees gave McKnight high marks for our impact on grantees, on communities, and on the many fields we support. We will continue to build on strategies we believe contribute to such positive feedback." At the same time, the survey results raise significant concerns about the Foundation's clarity in communicating about its program goals and strategies. To address this issue, staff will research successful communications approaches regionally and nationally and use what it learns to improve McKnight's own practices.

Similarly, McKnight will pursue strategies to continue to improve grantee experiences with the Foundation's reporting and evaluation processes, and make adjustments to improve consistency of grantee experiences across programs in terms of general satisfaction, quality of interactions, and satisfaction with McKnight's grantmaking process.

The Grantee Perception Report is one of several instruments McKnight employs to evaluate and improve the Foundation's performance in programs, operations, communications, and finances. Said Wolford, "Ultimately, we believe outcomes from this process can better equip us and all our key partners to achieve our shared goals and sustain vibrant, resilient communities."

A summary of the Grantee Perception Report is available here. More information about the Center for Effective Philanthropy is available online at


The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grantmaking, coalition-building, and encouragement of strategic policy reform. Founded in 1953 and independently endowed by William L. McKnight and Maude L. McKnight, the Minnesota-based Foundation had assets of approximately $1.8 billion and granted about $98 million in 2009.

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Contact information

Tim Hanrahan, Communications Director, 612-333-4220