The Oak Foundation, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, views transparency as a necessary and guiding value in its work. For Oak, being open about what it is learning allows more productive conversations to take place. “I don’t think we’ve ever said, ‘let’s be transparent by putting this information on our website,’’’ says Kathleen Cravero, president of the Oak Foundation. “It’s more that we’re an organization that strives to be consistently respectful of our partners. We’re doing the best possible job we can. We have successes. We have failures. Sharing information is the right thing to do and it might help others. It will allow us to have a more open and honest dialogue, both with our grantees and with peer foundations.”
As part of encouraging that open and honest dialogue, the Oak Foundation posted the full content of a Center for Effective Philanthropy Grantee Perception Report, an anonymous survey of grantees, rather than just a summary, as some foundations do.
In conjunction with the report, the foundation shared the changes it was making as a result of the findings. Those changes included streamlining application processes and making capacity-building and organizational support a more explicit part of its grantmaking. According to Cravero, there was no debate among the trustees about whether to post the report—they thought that not doing so would invite questions about why they had not shared the full report. And they saw no reason not to share it.
The report contributed to internal learning as well. Its findings largely informed a global staff retreat and stimulated an organizational improvement process. “We recognized ourselves in some of what the grantees were saying, and we felt that some of the points they were making were very good,” Cravero says. “We could streamline our processes. We hadn’t looked at our application forms in many years. We said, ‘Let’s make sure we’re respecting everybody’s time.’”
ACTION STEP: Post complete results of grantee satisfaction surveys along with a note about changes your organization is making as a result of the feedback.