Nonprofits are facing increasing expectations from their funders to demonstrate progress and effectiveness. Most foundations strive to understand their own impact in large part through the successes of their grants and grantees, and many within the philanthropic community are pushing to obtain evidence of effectiveness from the nonprofit organizations they support.
At the same time, a number of foundations are also working to simplify reporting and evaluation processes. Project Streamline, for example, is an effort aimed at "reducing the burden on nonprofits" and freeing up "more time and money for mission-based activities." Recommendations to trim processes include funders "right-sizing" reporting and evaluation requirements, enabling web reporting, creating standardized reporting processes, and making other operational improvements.
There can be tension between these dual emphases -- on better understanding effectiveness and on streamlining processes -- and at the center of this tension is how best to structure reporting and evaluation processes. Some funders push for a more rigorous and often time-intensive process, while others seek to trim it down to free grantees' time, resources, and energy for their core work.
But how are grantees experiencing foundation required reporting and evaluation processes? How helpful do they find them? What actually matters most to grantees? To shed light on these questions, the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) collected survey responses from more than 24,000 grantees about their views of 130 foundations.
We learned that:
- On average, grantees do not find current reporting and evaluation processes to be very helpful in strengthening their organizations and programs.
- Strong relationships between grantees and their funders are central to helpful reporting and evaluation processes.
- Grantees who report discussing their report or evaluation with their funder perceive the reporting or evaluation process to be more helpful -- yet nearly half of grantees say no discussion occurred.