We interviewed leaders of 24 of these foundations for our study. What we heard is that one of the main values and benefits of multiyear GOS grants — in addition to building trust and stronger relationships with grantees — is that they enable foundations and grantees to achieve greater impact.
Here, we share what we learned from those interviews in the hopes that this data will help dispel the harmful myth that GOS grants are incompatible with rigorous learning and assessment.
These foundations provide GOS because it enables greater impact.
About two-thirds of the foundation leaders we interviewed say that providing GOS grants builds stronger organizations that, in turn, have greater impact.
These foundations use a variety of approaches to learn from and assess the outcomes of GOS grants.
Most frequently, the majority of foundation leaders we interviewed focus their assessment of GOS at the level of the grantee organization. These leaders find that assessment at this level helps them gain a fuller picture of a grantee’s overall effectiveness.
These foundations’ leaders underscore the importance of having clear expectations for assessing GOS grants and suggest reframing conversations about impact and learning.
As outlined in Making It Happen: A Conversation Guide, which accompanies the report, one of the most frequent recommendations these leaders have for their peer funders is to have clear expectations for learning and assessment. They recommend reframing conversations about impact by recognizing the complexity and limitations of measurement, rewarding grantees’ learning and innovation, and focusing on contribution over attribution.
These foundations’ leaders take issue with claims that it is uniquely challenging or impossible to assess the impact of GOS grants.
Half of the leaders we interviewed specifically took issue with claims that assessment of GOS grants is uniquely challenging or impossible, and underscore the myriad ways in which funders can approach measuring, assessing, and learning from GOS grants.
Read the full article about general operating support myths by Kate Gehling and Naomi Orensten at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.