Mike Kubzansky, CEO
Part of how we in philanthropy make ourselves more accountable is by listening and acting upon what we hear even—especially—when it’s critical. We feel a deep obligation to be transparent and share what we know—and what we don’t know. We are pleased to deliver on these commitments by sharing the full results of our 2021 Grantee Perception Report, as well as the discussions and actions the findings prompted; we do so with deep thanks to our partners who took the time and care to let us know how we’re doing.
Over the past four years, Omidyar Network has significantly redefined our strategy and operations to meet the current moment and our evolving understanding of how we can contribute impact. One thing that has remained consistent is our commitment to listening to our partners. Our last feedback survey was conducted in 2017. Since then, we have been working hard to improve in the areas that report identified. Given all the changes we have made in the past five years and the work we are doing to realign how we realize our goals, we were eager to hear from our partners about their more recent experiences working with us so we can better direct our focus.
We engaged the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct its external Grantee Perception Report (GPR) in early 2021 (our most recent GPR was in 2014) to survey our active grantees as well as a subset of for-profit and contract partners. The GPR is an industry-standard survey that enables donors to benchmark feedback from their grantees against ratings received by 300+ funders. Ninety-eight (51%) of our partners responded with invaluable feedback that has since guided discussions and decisions across Omidyar Network: to mark where we’ve made progress, dig into areas for improvement, and take stock of who we are trying to be and the relationships we are working to cultivate. Most of all, we were reminded that feedback is a gift, and we are profoundly grateful to the thoughtful, inspiring people we have the privilege of working with, supporting, and learning from in this work.
You can read the full Grantee Perception Report results here and a summary memo from CEP here, as well as some of the key findings and actions that have been the focus of our internal discussions below.
What We Heard
The results show that our efforts to improve are paying off, especially in our transparency, responsiveness, and partners’ comfort approaching us should problems arise. While we celebrated this improvement, there was variability on certain measures across teams. We have more to do to ensure the Omidyar Network experience is consistent. Some of the key findings include:
- Strong relationships, even though many are new: In a year filled with internal strategy and staff shifts, new grantee partnerships (65% of respondents), and a dynamic external environment, we were incredibly proud that partners gave Omidyar Network high ratings for our approachability and openness to grantees’ ideas about our strategy. We heard that grantees trust us and have respectful interactions with our team.
- Favorable view of processes: Application and reporting requirements were generally seen as reasonable, with a high dollar return for time spent.
- Non-monetary support highly valued: A much larger-than-typical proportion (nearly 3/4) of Omidyar Network’s partners reported receiving non-monetary support in both formal and informal ways, with most sharing that this has been a major benefit to their work. Comments indicated they particularly value how we’ve championed their work and forged new relationships with other players, particularly funders. This was seen as both a differentiator for how we engage and as area we can continue to build on.
- Good frequency of communications, but lack of clarity on our strategies: Unsurprisingly, given our period of evolution as an organization, partners overall reported that while our frequency of communications was “about right,” they have an inconsistent understanding of what we care about and what we’re learning.
- Shorter grant lengths than peers: On average, Omidyar Network has significantly fewer multi-year unrestricted commitments than peer funders. This was frequently cited as a shortcoming/suggestion for improvement.
- More to do to reflect our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion: 28% of organizations that responded are led by a person of color, and on average, women rated interactions with Omidyar Network less favorably than men. Partners indicated that the most useful thing funders can do to support their equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts is to hire and retain diverse staff.
- Overall, partners said we have not had significant impact compared to other funders…yet. They do see us as a leader that adds knowledge and contributes to public policy debates. Partners recognized that we are new to some spaces, expressing enthusiasm for our potential contributions in the future. They also lifted up areas in which we funded research that has seeded new ideas and advanced issues.
How We’re Responding
We are heartened by the progress we have made. We are also committed to building on and learning from what we heard so we can continue to improve. Below are areas in which we are focusing our attention, recognizing that much of the work is just beginning (and in our commitment to transparency, we commit to sharing more details along the way).
- Continue to build relationships: Developing respectful, trusting relationships with partners is the foundation for our work. These relationships are critical if we want to collectively make progress on the complex problems we are addressing. We are committed to putting in the time and effort we know is required to build on our progress.
- Commit the time and resources necessary to do the work: We will work in partnership with our grantees to provide the support and resources required to achieve our shared goals, including general operating support, multi-year funding, and/or resources beyond the checkbook and traditional grantmaking.
- Share what we are learning more often and more clearly: Part of relationship building is two-way communication, and we hear that partners are looking for more insights from us about how our strategies are evolving and what we’re seeing and learning. We are actively planning more meaningful engagement points with partners and will share more as we roll them out and discover what is working.
- Live up to our commitments to equity and racial justice: Our vision is to build inclusive and equitable societies. To do so, we must examine our internal practices as well as our external strategies. While we have already begun this work, we know it’s a journey, and we have much more to do. Most immediately, we are engaging with a consultant in an organization-wide process to develop and implement an updated Anti-racist, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (A.D.E.I) vision and strategic plan, which will result in more targeted commitments related to our systems, processes, and approaches to grantmaking overall. We look forward to sharing more on our progress. We will also lift up our partners that are centering communities of color and whose strategic goals explicitly advance equity and inclusion, via funding, networking, amplifying and showcasing their work, and continued listening and engagement.
- Approach new issues with humility: Partners clearly expressed enthusiasm for Omidyar Network engaging in new spaces, but also pointed out that it’s too soon to determine the impact we will have. We promise to recognize, listen to, and respect the expertise of people and organizations that came before us. We have begun to engage with partners and stakeholders directly in formative evaluations to help ground our assumptions and guide our strategy processes (see recent example from our New Economic Paradigm work here).
Feedback from our partners is truly a gift. We will continue to ask for feedback formally (e.g., future surveys, evaluations, interviews, etc.) and informally (e.g., during check-in calls). We deeply appreciate our partners’ candor and honesty—that’s the only way we will get better. We know this process takes time and energy, and we thank you for your willingness to give both, as it helps prioritize our strategies and actions to be more aligned with the kind of partner we aim to be. We know we must continue to listen and improve, as our work together is critically important in shaping the future we strive for.