An anniversary is always an important moment to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and what you intend to do next. We’ve been accompanying our grantee partners in their daily struggles and triumphs for 50 years, refining a comprehensive model for international development at the local level. Over the coming year, we’ll be sharing the stories of 50 years of grassroots successes, highlighting grantee perspectives to show why we’ve developed our unique model.
To launch this series, we’ll explore why our grantees consider us one of the best funders of international development, according to the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), which surveys grant recipients’ perceptions of their funders, analyzing grantees’ anonymous responses and comparing each set of results to those of similar foundations.
What is our “secret recipe,” from the grantee perspective?
It comes down to knowledge, accompaniment, and impact. Ours is a unique approach that has been recognized as effective by experts and innovators in the field of development.
Nothing makes us prouder than knowing our grantees consistently score us in the top ten percent of funders. We take their feedback seriously and have improved our already-high scores from our first CEP survey in 2011 to the most recent in 2017.
Our grantees have signalled some truly special characteristics that differentiate the Inter-American Foundation from other private and governmental organizations doing excellent work in funding international development. These are three areas where our grantees say that we stand out:
1. We understand the contexts where our grantees work.
Our grantees appreciate our staff’s technical and geographic expertise, recently placing us in the top five percent of comparable foundations in CEP’s most recent report for understanding the challenges grantee organizations face.
“The communication and interaction with the IAF’s personnel is very fluid,” one 2017 respondent opined. “We get a feeling of mutual trust and of being a team.”
Grantees also value our responsive approach to determining where aid is most needed, respecting grantees’ local expertise. “Other agencies have programs already designed that they look to execute, sometimes without considering the needs of the community,” wrote one grantee in 2014. “They mostly give immediate help for a short-term problem. In my opinion, the IAF acts in the opposite way.”
2. Our monitoring, evaluation, and auditing procedures help organizations grow.
Auditing seems like a process that most grantees would dread. But we work intensively with our grantees, many of whom are first-time grantseekers, to fulfill our rigorous reporting requirements. Our best practices were highlighted in an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2016, “Evaluating Grantees: Learning from a Top-Performing Funder.”
“The tools that the Foundation manages are quite agile, not cumbersome,” said one grantee in 2017.
Our evaluation processes and reports were more complex than other funders’, stated one grantee in 2017 with experience working with other international development organizations. However, they underscored that we also provided our grantees with “a greater degree of follow-up, support, close communication, and availability.” This grantee appreciated how adhering to these strict processes helped them improve their planning, efficiency, and administrative and accounting procedures, which then had a “very positive effect” on improving their impact and ability to build relationships with new funding entities. Being a successful grantee of the IAF has been a “calling card” for their organization, they shared, valued by other funders.
3. We have an excellent track record for transformative impact.
We provide seed funding to incipient civil society organizations and those that have new or innovative ideas for creating opportunity and solving development challenges. According to our grantees, their collaborations with us are a game changer. In our most recent CEP report, grantees placed us in the top one percent of funders for our impact on their focus areas. They credit us for believing in their models before these went on to be implemented by municipal or national governments. And they also appreciate our encouragement to scale their impact through partnerships with other stakeholders, such as municipal governments and community organizations.
“Because of the Foundation’s support, our organization can participate in discussion spaces with public or private entities,” acknowledged a grantee in 2014. They credited the IAF with helping their indigenous group not only bring indigenous issues and political recognition to the national discourse, but also gain recognition as an ethnic group for the first time.
“In our region, very few resources are allocated to our issue, which is generally forgotten,” shared another grantee in 2017. “Thanks to the support of the IAF, this has been changing substantially.”
But the most important comment of all? A grantee commented in 2011, “If we hadn’t received the Foundation’s support, our achievements would only be a dream.” This impact is what drives us to partner with grantees in their own efforts to improve their lives and ultimately create a more just, peaceful, and prosperous Latin America and Caribbean.