During my time on the Endowment for Health board, I have been impressed by how seriously the organization takes evaluation and continuous improvement. As stewards of the resources of this foundation, we have an obligation to do so.
In late 2011, the Endowment for Health once again contracted with a national consulting firm, the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), to conduct a survey of our current grantees. CEP had conducted similar surveys for us in 2004 and 2007. In 2011, for the first time, we also engaged CEP to conduct a survey of our external stakeholders—those in the healthcare, media, business, education, advocacy, service, and government sectors. These two groups are critical partners in helping us to realize our mission to improve the health and reduce the burden of illness of the people of New Hampshire. These surveys explore the same themes: what the Endowment does well and what it can do better. Because CEP conducts these surveys for foundations across the country, they also enable us to compare our performance against other health conversion and national foundations.
As always with CEP’s surveys, we learned many things. From grantees, we heard that we continue to be valued for our work to advance knowledge and affect public policy, as well as our impact on grantees’ fields and communities. Our relationships with our grantees are strong: we rate in the top 20 percent of foundations nationwide relative to our interactions with and treatment of grantees. We provide more “assistance beyond the grant check” to our grantees than over 90% of foundations, and the helpfulness of this assistance is rated very highly. We need to do more, however, to support our grantees in their ability to sustain the work we fund after our grant funding ends.
Our work to enhance our communications and streamline our grantmaking processes these past few years appears to have had an impact. Grantees rate highly the clarity and consistency of our communications about our outcomes and strategies; the helpfulness of the foundation’s selection process to organizations was rated substantially higher in 2011 than in 2007. However, grantees tell us we need to do more to reduce the time they spend on administrative tasks associated with grants, in particular evaluation and reporting, especially for those receiving smaller grants. Staff is currently reviewing expectations in this area to identify areas to streamline.
In our external stakeholder survey, nearly 90% of respondents reported interacting with an Endowment staff or board member, and they rated their impressions of the Endowment positively. I was not surprised to hear that staff is the most frequently-mentioned strength of the foundation. Respondents also overwhelmingly report that they believe the Endowment has chosen the right goals, but they feel we need to do more to publicize our efforts and impact.
The Endowment is rated highly for its work providing leadership, raising the visibility of key health issues facing the state, and bringing attention to the needs of the vulnerable and underserved, although stakeholders acknowledge that external factors create challenges to achieving these goals. Stakeholders in particular noted the foundation’s work in public policy—although the Endowment is rated similarly to other foundations for its effect on public policy, the comments reflect mixed views about our work and aspirations in this area. Some suggest the Endowment should do more, while others caution it should pull back. This will be an important topic for future discussion.
We are pleased to be able to share these results and thank all of you who provided your feedback in the surveys. Under the leadership of the new president, the foundation's board and staff will use these results to identify priority areas to address.
NOTE: More extensive summaries of each survey can be found on the Endowment’s website:www.endowmentforhealth.org