April 19, 2024

How are we doing? What do our grantee partners really think about the ways we are serving the field? Is our strategy clear, and how manageable are the Trust’s application and reporting requirements?

To answer these questions (and many more) the Melville Trust participated in the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Grantee Perception Report, which offers grantees the opportunity to share completely anonymous and candid insights with participating funders. The Trust invited grantees to feedback on our grantmaking practices  in 2016 and again in 2023. We were excited to learn their perceptions have changed over time and what our grantees think about our current work, particularly our new Grantmaking Strategy for Equitable Results (GSER) and streamlined application. You can read the entire report here CEP Final Report 2023

This kind of information is hard for grantseeking organizations to share directly but is critical for grantmakers in order to be responsive to the needs of grantees, ensure our work is making the most impact, and that our processes are as easy to navigate as possible.

Having a baseline from 2016 also provides us an opportunity to see what we’re doing better, and what we still need to work on. We were excited to learn that, in almost every category, grantees’ perceptions of our work have improved – often significantly. According to CEP’s comparison of the Trust and a cohort of similar funders:

Grantees hold Melville staff in high regard, describing them as “approachable,” “attentive,” “responsive,” and “clearly interested in [grantees’] success.” Reflecting these sentiments, grantees’ ratings now place Melville above the typical funder in CEP’s dataset across all measures related to funder-grantee relationships.

For example, in 2016 grantees rated our impact on the field just above the 50th percentile but in 2023 they rated our impact in the 74th percentile.

We are especially gratified to learn that grantees feel our staff are very responsive and are open to ideas from grantees about our strategy.

“Working with the Trust was refreshing in many ways, we had important trust-building meetings early on that allowed us to move into the work with ease. The trust we built with our Program Officer and all members of the Trust we engaged with allowed us to be open, transparent, and vulnerable about our work and the challenges and opportunities we faced.”

According to CEP’s analysis, “Grantees also share positive comments about the Trust in their comments, writing that they “have fostered a collaborative and constructive relationship,” have been able to “push the envelope… to [create] and [impact] lasting change” and that grantees feel “genuinely supported.” Overall, as one grantee notes, Melville “is more than a funder – they are significant partners in the work.”

Reflections on Our New Grantmaking Strategy and Application Process

Given our new grantmaking strategy and increased communications, we were especially heartened to see such a significant jump in positive perception related to how we have communicated our goals and strategy. Our strategy is data-driven, with a clear focus on addressing the root causes of  racial inequities in rates of homelessness and unstable housing.

“The Trust has been bold (and this is terrific) in naming anti racist policy as a key focus and driver – and this is deeply impactful for the field/sector in addressing housing, systems change and root causes perpetuating the housing crisis and economic crisis.”

Grantees placed the Trust, “in the top 10 percent of CEP’s comparative dataset on all measures related to the Trust’s approach to racial equity, including their agreement that the Trust has clearly communicated and demonstrates an explicit commitment to racial equity in its work, that staff at the Trust embody a strong commitment to racial equity, and that the Trust is committed to combatting racism.”

Our grantmaking process also received high marks, which is good feedback on our new pre-application questionnaire, application, and interactions with program staff.

“I have been very pleased with interactions with our Program Officer as well as the reporting and application guidelines. I actually commented to one of my colleagues that I wish every grant report were as useful, simple and straightforward as Melville’s was.”

Ways to Further Support Our Grantees and the Field

We also learned some terrific feedback about how we can support our grantees more and advocate for greater investments from philanthropy.

For example, many grantees would like us to support them with knowledge-sharing and network development opportunities. According to CEP’s analysis, “seven grantees specifically mention the Trust’s grantmaking and provision of non-monetary support in their suggestions for improvement. Grantees ask that the Trust “facilitate more connections among its grantees,” perhaps through “additional convenings” or “industry conferences.””

Convenings and in-person meetings can support our grantees and bring more diverse funders to the work. As with the development of our new GSER, we welcome input on ways we can provide intimate spaces for grantees and their peers to learn, share and collaborate.   We also look forward to bringing together grantees and peers  to more intentionally target populations  most impacted by unstable housing and dig into the root causes of persistent racial disparities.

We deeply value the opportunity to participate in  CEP’s Grantee Perception Report and offer our profound thanks to our grantees for sharing their wisdom, candor and suggestions.

Published on April 19, 2024
Filed in Blog Posts