Packard Foundation’s Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned (2002) From 18+ Years of Grantmaking to Support the Organizational Effectiveness of Grantees

The Packard Foundation believes that well-managed and -governed organizations are more likely to achieve their programmatic goals; as such, it invests significantly in projects to develop grantee organizational capacity and effectiveness.

These organizational effectiveness (OE) grants are made to current and recent Foundation grantees to enable them to undertake well-defined projects to develop or refine skills, strategies, organizational systems, or structures. Grants support a variety of projects, ranging from strategic planning and board development to technology assessments and executive transitions. Since beginning this work in 1983, the Foundation has made over 800 of these types of grants totaling over $20 million.

The report summarizes a few of the lessons learned along the way through a process of trial and error, study and reflection, and—most importantly—direct feedback from grantees.

  1. Management challenges are normal and ongoing for all organizations.
  2. Organizational effectiveness grantmakers should insist on thoughtfulness as grantees develop their OE projects, not on what or how grantees should think.
  3. You will get more leverage out of coaching a grantee on how to select a consultant than from choosing the “best” consultant for the grantee. In fact, the more decisions the grantseeker makes, the more committed they will be to the process and the project.
  4. There is no quick fix and there is no permanent fix either. Effectiveness requires ongoing attention because change is the constant.
  5. Renewed, even increased, commitment in times of organizational change can pay big dividends.
  6. Define the relationship and the process up front; “walk the way you talk.” Honesty in reporting and authenticity in the grantee/grantor relationship can either be enhanced or seriously damaged in connection with this work. Trust is not a static condition.
  7. An internal champion for the capacity-building work is vital to the success of the project. Grantees have important, often urgent, work to do. Without a champion for the capacity-building work, it can easily be left on the back burner in the face of other more immediate program-related priorities. Depending on the type of change that is being attempted, there may be a need for a champion at the board level.
  8. Organization-building takes longer and is harder than anyone thinks. Packard heard this over and over again from its grantees as they reflect back on their OE work.
  9. A grant for planning, training, assessment, or evaluation will not help an organization in crisis. A true crisis is not the right time for a thoughtful, comprehensive process.
  10. Not enough is known about how to do grantmaking to promote organizational effectiveness or what its true impact is.

Read the Full Report

Download the 2002 “Lessons Learned” Word doc >

Download the updated 2008 “Lessons Learned” pdf >