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Learning from grantees to become better grantmakers

In this Q&A, Matthew Carr, director of Evaluation at the Kauffman Foundation, talks about some of the key insights the Kauffman Foundation learned from grantees in 2018, and how the Foundation will use those lessons to become a better grantmaking organization.


Read the report highlighting key lessons from Kauffman Foundation’s grantees in 2018.

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Whether working to solve some of the most difficult challenges facing our community, piloting promising new approaches to create impact, or working with partners to scale evidence-based programs, the Kauffman Foundation understands that not every project will succeed. In fact, we expect obstacles to arise and challenges to alter even the best-laid plans.

To this end, each year the Foundation gathers the lessons shared with us by our grantees and presents a summary of them in an Annual Learning Report.

Here’s a quick Q&A with our director of Evaluation, Matthew Carr, to highlight the key lessons from 2018.

Why does the Foundation publish a Learning Report each year?

We use the information provided by our grantees to help us better understand the problems we are collectively trying to solve. Their reporting is instructive not only for the individual grant, but for how we do our work at the Foundation moving forward.

What were some of the headlines of this year’s report?

Across all program areas, there were four themes that rose to the top:

  • The changing donor landscape creates new fundraising challenges for organizations.
  • College students, particularly those that are the first in their family to attend or are returning as an adult, need specific additional supports.
  • Building partnerships can often be critical to a program’s success, but require careful planning and ongoing management.
  • Efforts to influence policy tend to be more effective when they include people directly affected by the decision and an array of media tools to spread the message.

The Learning Report provides more detail on each these themes, along with specific examples.

What changes can grantees, and the communities the Foundation serves, expect to see in the upcoming year?

The Foundation is committed to continuously improving our practices. One very tangible change that we’ve already made is streamlining our reporting to make it more straightforward, and more personal, this year. The new approach cuts down on the amount of information a grantee needs to report and also provides an avenue for the grantee to give more verbal and direct feedback to their program officer.

The Learning Report reflects the collective wisdom of our grantees, created through their experiences and the challenges they faced last year. We share these lessons in the hope that others will find them helpful and insightful for their own work.

Follow Matthew Carr on LinkedIn to read additional thoughts and perspectives about the Foundation’s approach to learning and evaluation.


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