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Listening and learning for better partnership: Luminate’s GPR findings

How can Luminate enhance its relationships with the organisations that receive our funding, in order to build more just and fair societies? What does it mean to be responsible, engaged, and compassionate — not just as a donor, but as a true partner? 

These are questions we continually ask ourselves as we strive to become a better funder, enabling significant and long-lasting change. We were pleased to commission the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct the Grantee Perception Report (GPR) survey to gather feedback from our partners and to help us understand their experiences working with us. The GPR is an industry-standard survey that enables a donor to benchmark feedback from their grantees against ratings received by 300+ funders.

Download Luminate’s Grantee Perception Report here, and CEP’s memo on key findings and recommendations here.

Why the Grantee Perception Report is important for us now

The GPR comes at an important time in our organisational development. Since establishing ourselves as Luminate in October 2018, we published our strategy, developed streamlined processes around how we interact with our partners, and established new norms which shape our team culture. Though this survey is our first organisational evaluation after spinning out from Omidyar Network (ON) and making these changes, there are two previous evaluations that we can compare these results to: ON’s 2014 GPR results and Simply Secure’s Partner Perspectives research, which sought feedback from our partners in early 2018. Hearing directly from the organisations we seek to serve is a very valuable tool, and grounding our 2020 GPR findings in these two past evaluations helps us to understand how we have evolved as a team.

Luminate’s key GPR findings

In early 2020, the Center for Effective Philanthropy shared the survey with all of Luminate’s non-profit partners who received funding from us in 2019. 71% of our partners responded to the survey, which ensured that our findings were representative, and exceeded CEP’s typical response rate of 65%.* 

Since our last GPR, Luminate has made improvements in all areas measured by CEP, most notably: impact on partners’ organisations, understanding of partners’ fields and organisations, strength of relationships with partners, and funder transparency.

We have grouped our findings into three main themes: processes, relationships, and impact.

Processes:

  • Partner Support: Most partners indicated that non-monetary support provided by Luminate was equally as important as monetary support; many grantees report receiving intensive non‐monetary support, placing Luminate in the top quarter of CEP’s overall dataset.
  • Grant Size: Luminate provides larger grants and higher monetary return per hour invested in the proposal process compared to typical grants received by our partners.
  • Proposals: Partners reported long wait times between submission of grant proposals and clear commitment of funding, but also reported that the proposal process was helpful as they developed their own thinking.
  • Reporting: Partners gave ratings higher than typical for Luminate’s reporting process’ adaptability and helpfulness for reflection and learning, with typical ratings for its straightforwardness, and lower than typical ratings for its relevance.

Relationships:

  • Pressure: Our partners report experiencing more pressure than is typical to modify their own priorities in order to receive funding. According to CEP’s research, pressure to change priorities is one of the most crucial factors for healthy funder-grantee relationships. Furthermore, CEP’s research shows that when grantees feel pressure to modify their priorities, they typically provide lower ratings for other relationship-related ratings. In our report, CEP found that our partners who reported the most pressure provided significantly lower ratings in nearly all other areas.
  • Interactions: Luminate has high-touch relationships with partners, with frequent interactions; however, Luminate’s relationships with partners (defined by high-quality interactions and clear, consistent communications) are less positive for partners who have had a contact change at Luminate in the six months preceding the survey. These partners provided significantly lower ratings regarding their understanding of Luminate, and in our transparency and communications.

Impact:

  • Understanding: Luminate shows a strong understanding of partners’ fields, organisations, and challenges. 
  • Communications: Partners requested clearer  communications about Luminate’s goals and strategies.

How we’re taking this forward

Two of our core values at Luminate are “dedication” and “integrity”; we view the Grantee Perception Report as an opportunity to deeply examine our work and make changes where needed. We celebrate the positive results related to our understanding of partners’ fields and their challenges, as well as our partners’ appreciation for non-monetary support, and we recognise that we have work to do in other areas to improve our relationships with our partners. We know that our scores are deeply grounded in our partners’ experiences, and we are committed to internalising these findings and improving our practices.

To that end, we are taking the following next steps: 

1) Publish our Grantee Perception Report 

You can find Luminate’s full GPR here, and CEP’s memo on key findings and recommendations here

2) Internalise and act on findings across our entire organisation

In order to fully interact with the feedback, and to develop specific action plans to improve our work, we held GPR workshops with the full Luminate team, and conducted 12 GPR workshops with Luminate impact area, regional, and functional teams. These conversations were productive, and in some cases we emerged with new questions which we will further explore with our partners — especially where there were tensions implicit in the findings.

3) Continue to streamline our funding process

Luminate’s revised funding process was launched at the beginning of 2020, so most respondents had not yet experienced what we believe to be a more efficient and clear system. We continue to streamline our funding operations, and hope that future GPRs reflect shorter wait times and even more valuable proposal and reporting processes. 

4) Build upon our Partner Support options

The GPR revealed that partners value Luminate’s unique non-monetary support offerings, but they also had many suggestions in this area. We plan to bolster this function by dedicating more time and resources into non-monetary support — including more opportunities for partners to gather, network, and collaborate (virtually and, when safe, in person) — and also by making these partner support offerings more accessible and transparent. 

5) Reexamine the pressure that we put on partners to shift their priorities

Some of our conversations with partners may have explicitly or inadvertently put pressure on them. We particularly acknowledge that there is a power imbalance in a funder-partner relationship, as one party’s activities are dependent on the financial support of the other. We strive to facilitate the work of our partners toward a more just and fair society, and we plan to dive more deeply into understanding and addressing the power dynamics inherent in funder-grantee relationships. 

6) Communicating our strategy more clearly

The GPR findings showed that though we published our strategy in 2018, we could make substantial improvements in the way we communicate it to our partners. We are actively looking at ways in which we can be clearer and more conistent in the communication of our objectives and the strategies that support them. 

7) Enhancing our actions and thinking with respect to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ)

We added custom GPR questions around DEIJ in order to better understand our grantees’ experiences and perspectives in this area. Of several characteristics, our highest scores were on “takes risks and supports innovation”, “makes long-term commitments to issues,” and “is committed to social justice”, but our partners ranked us lowest on “convenes diverse perspectives to contribute to conversations” (a 5.14 out of 7). We need to do better on this, as well as on other facets of representation and equity. We have hired a consultant — reporting to our CEO and Senior Management Team — to take a critical look at Luminate’s approach to DEIJ, and we are committed to acting on their recommendations.

8) Continuing the conversation

Luminate’s regional and impact area teams plan to follow up with their partners regarding findings unique to each team, as well as their specific plans to act on these findings. Please reach out to your funding lead if you have any questions or would like to discuss further. 

Appreciation to our partners

We are immensely grateful to all of our partners for engaging in this survey and providing their candid ratings and comments.  We hope they will continue to provide us with real-time feedback and guidance as we continue to develop as a partner and funder. 

In this time of significant uncertainty and change, we are committed to making changes to improve partners’ experiences working with us. We know that the ways in which we work together contribute to our overall impact, and as we continue to evolve and improve we will be better able to support our partners in our ultimate aim: building just and fair societies.


*The comparative dataset for Luminate includes 303 funders. Thirteen percent of the funders in the cohort are primarily based outside the U.S., while 18% primarily fund outside of their own country. Median assets and giving are ~$391M and ~$19M, respectively. Approximately 12% are characterised as high-touch funders, and nearly 14% provide intensive non-monetary assistance.