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Embracing Continuous Improvement in the New Year

“As we strive to improve our community, we don’t want to forget the importance of improving our own organization as well”

– William Buster, EVP of Community Investments

We are listening and learning.


Last year, St. David’s Foundation commissioned the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to conduct the Grantee Perceptions Report, a confidential survey of our grant partners to assess their experiences with the Foundation and their views of our role in the community. Our goal was to better understand how the Foundation is perceived so that we may build upon our strengths and address areas for improvement. The feedback is much appreciated. Over the past few months, we have been analyzing the survey results and developing action plans to respond to the insights gained. This is what we found.


The Foundation received high marks in many areas, including relationships and impact.

As a learning organization, we sometimes jump to what we want to improve. However, it’s important to note that in most categories, grant partners rated the Foundation extremely high, even after controlling for the positivity that naturally occurs in a funding relationship. By comparing responses to other funders across the nation, we see that our grant partners truly value the relationship-building, openness, and responsiveness provided by Foundation staff. The data also demonstrates that even among geographically-focused funders, the impact the Foundation has on individual organizations and the overall community is perceived as fairly unique in the world of philanthropy.

The Foundation’s depth of understanding of issues facing nonprofits is viewed as similar to other funders.

St. David’s Foundation was rated in the top 3% of all funders concerning the impact we have on the local community. However, when it comes to understanding the unique challenges of non-profit organizations as well of those they serve, grant partners rated the Foundation as average. This is one area where we do not want to be perceived as typical, and we have already begun working on ways to increase our understanding.

One example is the innovative and comprehensive approach to the upcoming 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). In addition to the standard interviews with community advocacy groups and non-profit leadership, we incorporated conversations with the populations we are attempting to serve for the first time. Our goal is to incorporate the voices of community members to ensure our work encompasses their experiences and perspectives. We will explore additional methods to provide our staff more opportunities to be out in communities to talk to the people on the ground, making a difference.

Grant review and reporting processes need to be enhanced.

Feedback highlighted that overall, grant partners enjoy working and collaborating with the people at the Foundation. However, several systems and processes have created challenges during the review, decision, and reporting cycles. From technology glitches, administrative hurdles, and practices that have not scaled well as the Foundation has grown, a clear desire for operational improvements was expressed. We are exploring additional opportunities and will share more soon, but some immediate improvements we are launching include:

  • Dedication to send out contracts and first grant payments faster.
  • Consistently provide more time to fill out new applications.
  • More flexible and user-friendly tool to report metrics (roll out mid-2019)

Looking ahead.

Stay tuned for additional information as we continue to improve our processes and increase community engagement in 2019. We will hold ourselves accountable to our “resolutions” by tracking milestones met, monitoring progress on specific goals, and completing the Grantee Perceptions Report again in two years to compare changes in experiences.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in the comprehensive, and time-intensive, survey which provided such insightful and actionable feedback. It is a privilege to work in partnership with so many outstanding organizations on behalf of our community.