As we begin 2011, I wanted to be among the first to offer you best wishes for the year to come. I hope it is a very successful and impactful one for you.
At the Longwood Foundation, we recognize that we only succeed when the non-profit organizations in Delaware and Southern Chester County (PA) succeed. So we are always looking for ways we can help you execute better. Obviously, that involves the funding decisions we make twice each year. But more importantly, it involves the conversations we have with you on a routine basis. We want to understand how you define and measure success – and hold you accountable for it whenever we make a grant. Further, we want you to understand how we approach our grants and what our expectations are when we make a grant.
With this in mind, we hired the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to survey many of you last year. We were thrilled that 76% of our grantees and 61% of our applicants (those who applied for a grant, but were turned down) responded to the survey – CEP told us these are unusually high response rates. CEP provided a means to maintain the confidentiality of your answers, but also compared Longwood’s survey to their database of thousands of survey responses for over 250 funders over the past few years so the Trustees could understand the relative importance of your responses.
The survey showed that our grantees and applicants see Longwood as having a strong impact on your fields, your local communities, and on your organizations – giving us top quartile responses in all areas. Further, you were very satisfied overall with the Foundation. Finally, you were very pleased with the quality of interactions you have with the Foundation and its staff.
Opportunities for the Foundation were identified in the areas of frequency of contact with the Foundation, clarity of communication, and flexibility of funding opportunities. While we take great pride in the small staff that we maintain, the simplicity of our grant application process, and the cost efficiency these bring; we hear the desire for more contact and better information. To address this, we have launched a website (www.longwoodfoundation.org ) where we will keep up to date information and where you can submit your grant applications. Further, after this Fall’s grant decisions, I had brief phone conversations with all grantees and applicants to share the reasoning behind the Trustees’ decision and some guidance on how to improve future requests. I expect to continue these calls after future grant decisions.
We also have increased the breadth of applications that we will fund. Historically, Longwood would only fund capital requests. Now, we will consider operating program requests too. In fact, the capital/operating distinction is a secondary factor. The primary factor in our grant making process is how well you define, measure, and execute against your success measures. Some of this success is clearly financial, but more important is the impact you are having on your constituencies (people, animals, and the environment to name a few). The Foundation is seeking to fund requests that accelerate a non-profit organization towards its success. We will favor applications that lead to greater and more sustainable impacts on your constituents and applications from organizations that have a track record of setting ambitious goals and achieving them. Please contact us for guidance about a specific request.
Thank you for your input and interest in the Foundation. We look forward to working with you in 2011 and beyond. My best wishes for a successful year.