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Kresge commits to 10 resolutions to further strengthen grantee relations

General Foundation News

In 2019, Kresge worked with the Center for Effective Philanthropy to conduct a survey to better understand and evaluate grantee and applicant experiences.

2019 Grantee Perception Report graphic

The report found that Kresge has made great strides in areas such as transparency and clarity of grantmaking processes but can improve in understanding the local context and needs of communities where we work.

In response to the report, we have established 10 resolutions to incorporate into our grantmaking.  Kresge President & CEO Rip Rapson shared them this week in the following letter to our grantees and partners. You can also download the resolutions in our library.   

Dear Kresge grantees and partners:

In 2019, The Kresge Foundation enlisted the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct a Grantee Perception Report (GPR) among our grantees. CEP is widely commissioned by foundations to gather actionable feedback from grantees and declined applicants to promote transparency within their organizations and throughout the philanthropic sector.

The 2019 report represents the fourth time since 2007 that Kresge has participated in the survey. The results from our three prior GPRs – administered in 2007, 2011 and 2015 – have been instrumental to the recalibration of our internal processes and external relations during periods of great change and expansion within the foundation.


Admittedly, there has been an initial sense of trepidation each time we’ve embarked on CEP’s “customer satisfaction” survey. The nature of Kresge’s work has been continuously evolving for the greater part of the past two decades. The level of complexity and nuance in our work in 2020 is nearly unrecognizable from our work in 2006. For example, we are increasingly working with cohorts of grantees through specific grantmaking initiatives and are, in many cases, enlisting intermediaries and national program offices to support those cohorts. Foundation-wide, we are hosting – on average – three convening per month, which require significant thought and attention to balance valuable programming and actionable outcomes, all while being respectful of grantees’ time away from their core responsibilities.

The CEP survey nevertheless remains a highly useful exercise – an unflinching, but invaluable, look-in-the-mirror – which requires us to pause, reflect on the nuts and bolts of how we build and sustain relationships with grantees, and discuss among ourselves how we can support each other to be the kind of foundation we strive to be.

The results from our most recent report are rich and highly constructive. Drawing on the responses of nearly 500 anonymous participants, the report plotted Kresge alongside aggregate data from 250 funders, big and small, that have also commissioned CEP reports. We are grateful for the candid responses from survey participants, who perceived both noteworthy improvements and plenty of opportunities for us to do better.

Areas Improved

Respondents agreed that Kresge has made tremendous strides in the transparency and clarity of our grantmaking processes, and in our interpersonal and formal communications with grantees.  The foundation was also commended for establishing a culture of mutual expectation-setting and responsiveness with both grant-seekers and grantees.  And respondents rated Kresge best-in-class for the non-monetary support we provide to many of our partners. Foundation-hosted convenings, introductions to other funders, access to learning opportunities, and elevating grantee work through our communication channels are just a few examples of the kind of support grantees appreciate.

Although the standard GPR survey does not include questions about equity, Kresge added a few custom questions about this topic in the 2019 survey. We were particularly proud that respondents overwhelmingly gave us high marks for alignment with their organization’s racial equity agendas.  It is validating that grantees see and feel Kresge’s six values reflected in our program strategies.

Areas Needing Attention

Respondents indicated a downward trend in the perception of Kresge’s understanding the context and needs of local communities. They also felt more pressure to modify their proposals to fit Kresge’s funding priorities. Even though grantees convey positive perceptions of Kresge’s communication, they expressed a desire for more proactive and frequent contact with Kresge staff and smoother transitions when their program officer changes.

Next Steps

After receiving our GPR results at the end of 2019, we kicked off the new year with scores of staff discussions to dig deep into the feedback. We all took a moment to celebrate our successes, and then quickly pivoted to identify actionable resolutions to implement improvements in 2020. Here are 10 resolutions we are adopting in response to our grantees’ assessment of the Foundation’s responsiveness, transparency and effectiveness:

2019 Grantee Perception Report Resolutions graphic

Nearly every resolution involves a fine-tuning of behaviors and actions our staff have already been actively pursuing. They range from slowing down – deepening our listening and learning with partners – to tactical measures, such as further streamlining and communicating our grantmaking progress. We also collectively pledged to continue to center racial equity in our values, operations, and grantmaking; we vow not to become complacent and will seek ways to support our grantees in their respective equity journeys as we continue on our own.

Responding to the GPR is not for the faint of heart: It requires strong familiarity with our organization, being candid, and – the most precious resource of all – setting aside meaningful time. On behalf of our entire Kresge staff, thank you for your investment in us by sharing your reflections, your positive feedback, and your suggestions to make us better. It is a privilege to work alongside you on our journey to expand opportunities in America’s cities.

With best wishes,

Rip Rapson