Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Strong Relationships With Grantees: Working With the Gates Foundation

June 12, 2013

“Sure. Let me show you.”

That’s what one partner said to me when I asked him about his organization’s business model and recent financials. He then proceeded to open up his laptop and walk me through the latest financial reports and projections. And this was over spontaneous, casual conversation, not at a grant review.

It was a simple gesture but it stuck with me. It was representative of the strong relationships that we are striving to build and sustain with our partners – there’s a mutual understanding of our goals and strategies, open communication, and trust. 

We know that we cannot achieve results and ultimately, transformational impact to beneficiaries, unless we have quality partnerships. That is why we are committed to strengthening relationships with our partners.

 As one committed partner working to improve teacher effectiveness in the U.S. said, “A grant from the Gates Foundation is the greatest gift and challenge that you’ll ever get!”

We have just received an indication of how we are doing.  Results from the latest Grantee Perception Report (GPR) survey, which the Center for Effective Philanthropy conducted on our behalf in March of this year, show that while we have made some progress over the last few years, we still have significant room for improving our partnerships.

We have heard that giving us feedback can be difficult and we greatly appreciate our partners’ candid input, both the encouraging comments as well as the constructive criticism.  I am particularly struck by the positive tone – our partners really want to improve how we work together just as much as we do. It’s only through collaboration around our shared goals that we can reach the impact we aim to achieve.  As another partner recently told us, “When our relationship is strong, we can do great things together.”

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit grantees in the Washington, D.C. area.  In a series of honest conversations, I learned a lot about what it’s like to work with us. 

I heard that we can seem internally uncoordinated at times, that our communications can lack clarity and consistency, and that grantees don’t always feel sufficiently understood by the Gates Foundation.  I also heard that working with the foundation can be “phenomenally enabling”, that our program officers are close and trusted colleagues, and that it’s clear that we are listening to our partners. In many of these conversations, I heard about the “ups” and “downs” of working with us in the same sentence. 

As one committed partner working to improve teacher effectiveness in the U.S. said, “A grant from the Gates Foundation is the greatest gift and challenge that you’ll ever get!”

Whenever I meet with our partners – whether in the U.S. or in the many countries around the world in which they work -- I am inspired by their passion, ingenuity, and drive to change the world for the better.  I am confident that together, we’ll be able to do our best work

 
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