The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is emerging from two years of soul searching about how to solve problems in its interactions with grant recipients.
The foundation has “some work to do to build more productive grantee relationships,” Jeff Raikes, the foundation’s chief executive, wrote in a letter accompanying the Aug. 4 release of its 2010 annual report, first reported in The Seattle Times.
He noted that in 2009, the foundation had asked the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct a survey of its grantees. Although some of the responses were positive, Raikes said, many grant recipients criticized the foundation’s inconsistent and unclear communications about its decision-making process and its programmatic strategies, and said it should be more amenable to their feedback.
In June 2010, the foundation identified five short–term steps to improve its grantee partnerships:
- Better explain how its proposal and approval process works;
- Clearly communicate the point of contact for grants;
- Orient all new grantees, set expectations, and answer their questions and hear their concerns at the outset;
- Provide timely and substantive responses to all the progress reports they submit;
- Open new channels of communication, including more frequent check-in calls with program managers and conference calls that give all grantees the chance to ask questions of foundation executives.
Since then, Raikes said, an internal team has spent a year developing an improvement plan, which he expected to begin communicating to grant recipients in a series of conference calls in the autumn.