Giving Compass' Take:

• The Open Philanthropy project shares their process of checking in with grantees as they see fit and develops practices that they think are the most efficient for grant and impact-giving. 

• What are other ways there to strengthen the funder-grantee relationship? 

• Similar methods to 'checking in' with grantees is conversation-based reporting. 

The Open Philanthropy Project’s mission is to give as effectively as we can and share our findings openly so that anyone can build on our work. When we first started making grants, we tended to assume that would mean conducting and publishing in-depth reviews of the performance of each grant. But as our first grants have wound down, we’ve spent more time evaluating and reflecting on the work we’ve done so far, and have developed a new framework to guide our approach to grant check-ins.

One lesson we’ve learned is that our hits-based approach to giving substantially limits the benefits from a frame that focuses on grantee “accountability” per se.

Given the inherent riskiness of hits-based giving, we have found that closely tracking the performance of each individual grant isn’t very informative, and accordingly, we don’t plan on conducting or publishing the level of individual grant follow-up that we had initially anticipated. Instead, we are generally performing relatively light check-ins, and internally report “updates, lessons, and impact” from each.

What we learn from these conversations about a grant’s execution and results plays a central part in our thinking about whether and to what extent to renew grants, and also informs other grantmaking in a given focus area and across the organization as a whole.We focus our check-ins on gleaning updates, lessons, and impact:

  • Updates are new developments that either lower or raise our expectations for how much impact a grant will have.
  • A lesson learned is an update an investigator makes to their model of how to give as well as possible.
  • Impact means a grant has made the world better (or worse).

Read more about grant check-ins by Morgan Davis at The Open Philanthropy Project.