As an intermediary, The Solutions Project believes in partnerships that are rooted in trust and equity. We wanted to hear directly from our partners and grantees about what is working and what isn’t when it comes to our grantmaking and integrated programs.
The Solutions Project has partnered with Frontline Solutions to design and implement an ongoing evaluation of the impact of our grantmaking work through 2020. In 2017, the evaluation measured a baseline of both the effectiveness of the grantmaking process and grantee partners’ satisfaction with that process. In 2019, this evaluation process will guide us in our continued evolution to ensure we are moving towards 100% clean energy for all and a just transition, together.
Data was collected from Solutions Project’s internal systems and through interviews with grantee partners, staff, peer funders, and philanthropic trustees. Indicators were collected to measure progress in four primary areas.
The primary findings in each of these four areas is summarized below.
Our initial evaluation yielded several recommendations for Solutions Project’s grantmaking moving forward:
- Cultivate stronger and clearer communication with grantees.
- Expand grants team capacity.
- Clarify messaging on the relationship between communications and grantmaking.
- Build the grantee referral system.
- Continue to democratize the grantmaking process.
- Continue to serve as a relationship builder.
Right bet, right time
Solutions Project has positioned its work at the intersection of climate change and equity strategies. Solutions Project’s grantmaking covered much of the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico. Leadership, Fighter, and Ecosystem Fund giving increased from 2015 to 2017 and Fighter Fund grants resourced urgent needs in a timely fashion. Nearly half of grantee partners were led by people of color, and 26% primarily focused on an issue other than environment or climate.
Solutions Project’s grantee partners have grown in impact in 2017. Despite a hostile political environment, the leadership capacity, membership, and political influence of many grantee partners increased. Grantees felt that political leaders on a state and local level were more aware of the issues highlighted by grassroots organizations than were political leaders on a national level.
Meaningful grantee and funder partnerships
Solutions Project has cultivated strong, trusting relationships with grantee partners. Grantees felt that they could be transparent and open with Solutions Project staff and were satisfied with the application, approval, and reporting processes. However, more than one-quarter of grantees asked for better communication from Solutions Project staff at the time of grant completion. Leadership Fund Committee members have transitioned to serving as philanthropic trustees. They are eager to own more of the work, and to rely less on the leadership of staff.
Solutions Project staff collaborate well with peer funders and push the field of philanthropy towards equity and diversity. Staff spoke to more than 20 audiences and published more than a dozen articles. Grantee partners reported that Solutions Project has connected them to new funders and organizations.
2018 Evaluation Snapshot
In late 2018, Frontline Solutions designed a Stakeholder Engagement Interview process which allowed an opportunity to capture and analyze grantee feedback in real-time.
- All interviewees noted that flexible financial support at important programming or growth points is critical for their work.
- Grantees would like to continue to be connected to other movement leaders in order to tell a national story about just transition, and a few noted the need for more cross-sector partnerships with leaders in health and business.
- Interviewees underlined the continued need for The Solutions Project to transform philanthropy by holding briefings, webinars, and helping others to understand the importance of investing in frontline communities with trust-based approach.
- Desired media supports included access to successful messaging on clean energy and best practices for how to shape narratives, including protocols for communications, narrative, and storytelling.
- Many interviewees mentioned enthusiasm about the idea of combining general operating support with media supports, while some expressed concerns about organizational bandwidth to benefit from an integrated approach offered at The Solutions Project.
- And finally, our 2018 data showed an improvement on who benefited from our investments: nearly 60% of our grants went to people-of-color led organizations while half of our grants went to women led organizations.