At SHINE, we strive to be more than a grantmaker, and more than a process.
Although we are incredibly proud of the financial support we provide to our teachers, schools and partners, other aspects of what we do are a great source of pride as well.
We are proud of our relationships with grantees, our standing in the field and our ability to provide a voice and speak on issues for hard-working practitioners in education. We are also proud of our ability to build on the knowledge of what does and doesn’t work in education, and our support for grantees around everything from evaluation and scaling, to networking and communications.
However, we can’t fully understand whether we are getting things right unless we are willing to ask our grantees about their experiences of working with SHINE and respond meaningfully to this feedback.
So, in 2022 SHINE commissioned a second Grantee Perception Report (GPR) from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). This was a follow-on from a previous report, commissioned in 2019, which reviewed grantee experiences as we stepped from our original London base to working in the North of England.
This time around, we hoped to get a fuller picture of how we’ve settled into our new home in the North, and how our work is received by our partners around the region.
The GPR aims to understand the experiences of SHINE’s grantees across a number of realms.
Some questions related directly to our work with grantees: we asked about how approachable SHINE was to our grantees, how well we responded to their concerns and ideas, whether we were providing the right kind of support and how helpful or onerous our processes were.
Other questions looked at SHINE’s broader position within our grantees’ work. We asked how well SHINE impacted on their organisations, fields and communities, and whether our grantees’ felt we understood the people, socio-economic environments and contexts in which they work.
The results were benchmarked against other grantmakers, and against our own results from 2019.
Overall, we were thrilled and humbled by the responses to the survey. We were genuinely overwhelmed by the positivity and faith demonstrated to us by our grantees.
SHINE staff go out of their way to [be] helpful, approachable and supportive — we feel comfortable approaching SHINE staff with questions and are confident we will be effectively supported. Staff are a pleasure to work with.
FEEDBACK: Our grantees felt that we were approachable and responsive.
Our grantees felt that we responded with respect and candour to conversations, and that we exhibited compassion towards the people we hope to serve. We also scored highly on how we respond to our grantees’ ideas through our strategy. On these metrics, we scored more highly than the average for other organisations, and demonstrated an improvement on our scores from 2019.
ACTION: We will continue to build on our positive relationships with grantees, creating an ever-stronger SHINE family in the North of England. We have been very glad to be able to resume project visits and in-person conversations, and have prioritised this in our yearly planning.
It would be good to connect with other educational organisations in these areas, such as universities, or other teaching organisations. At the moment I feel quite isolated in terms of my project in my area.
FEEDBACK: Our grantees reported that we had a good understanding of and impact on the fields in which they work, and their organisations and their strategies.
Again, we were pleased to rank above the average for other grantmakers, and to have scored more highly than the ratings we were given in 2019. However, there were some small but marked differences in the breakdown of these results by region, and we scored more highly with grantees in Yorkshire and the Humber on this metric, and less well with grantees in the North East. SHINE’s original home when we first moved North was in Leeds, however, we are now a remote organisation with staff based across the North.
ACTION: We have worked to broaden our networks, particularly in the North East, by building partnerships and reviewing our Trustee arrangements. We will continue to work to make sure all the brilliant geographies and contexts of the North are represented in our work.
SHINE places an emphasis on educational innovation to address disadvantage and inequality. It does this very well and leads to a creative landscape where people try, develop and share new ideas and solutions.
The survey also asked about experiences of SHINE’s grantmaking processes.
FEEDBACK: SHINE grantees rated us highly on whether our application process represented an appropriate level of effort for the funding awarded, whether our selection and approval processes were clear and transparent, and whether our process provided a helpful opportunity to strengthen the efforts funded by the grant. However, we scored less well on whether grantees felt pressure to modify their priorities to receive SHINE funding.
We are pleased that our processes work well for most people, while conscious that this survey was sent to successful applicants. Perhaps unsuccessful applicants may not have felt so positively! We understand that teachers’ and schools’ time is precious, and that every bid for funding risks detracting from work that could be happening elsewhere.
ACTION: We will continue to review why some applications are not successful and how we could have supported these proposals differently. We are currently reviewing our grant-making strategy and reflecting on how our funding parameters may create unhelpful barriers, and we will centre this feedback from grantees in our discussions and decision-making.
Without the support of SHINE, we would not be able to fund our project. The project will provide much needed support to families and children in our local area.
On average, SHINE awards smaller grants than similar organisations, although nearly all of our funding goes to multi-year projects and we rarely award grant funding for just a single year. This distinguishes us from many other similar grantmakers, who have a higher proportion of grants that are awarded for just one year.
SHINE funds early-stage work that we hope will grow and flourish into interventions that may impact more widely across the North. It may be that this smaller grant amount reflects the often developing and exploratory nature of many of our projects when they first apply to SHINE for funding.
FEEDBACK: A majority of our grantees expressed ambitions to scale their work more widely, and felt that SHINE should offer more follow-on grants and support around scaling.
SHINE does offer follow-on grants and support around scaling, but we hear that the routes to these and our ambitions for our projects may not be clearly understood by our grantees. We hope to be able to accelerate our ambitions to support our grantees to scale as we emerge into a post-COVID environment.
ACTION: We will refine and promote our opportunities for grantees, including providing a clear pathway to responsive follow-on funding and a more structured trajectory to scale.
SHINE has helped my organisation in terms of training on running an educational programme, developing a theory of change, as well as planning for effective reporting and evaluation. These are all key skills that I did not previously have from my teaching career, so were essential in setting up our programmes.
Finally, we asked our grantees about their experiences of SHINE’s reporting and evaluation procedures. grantmaking processes.
FEEDBACK: We scored very much lower than the average on how straightforward our reporting processes are, but very much higher on the extent to which SHINE’s reporting process provided a helpful opportunity to reflect and learn.
We believe at SHINE that effective evaluation is a cornerstone of understanding impact and potential across our projects, but that it should be proportionate to the scale of a project, and responsive to the contexts and conditions in which our often very early-stage projects work. There is often a fine balance between useful reporting and work that can be seen as hoop-jumping to satisfy the needs of a funder, and we are not confident that we have this balance right at present. Though our grantees also reported that they found our processes relevant and adaptable, the amount of time spent on reporting was higher than average for other similar grant-makers and for the size of SHINE grants.
ACTION: We will review our processes to ensure that reporting and evaluation serves the needs of our grantees as well as the needs of SHINE as a funder. We will commit 5% of every grant award to the time and resource needed for evaluation.
The support we offer around evaluation and reporting should be beneficial in exploring, developing and refining projects, rather than adding additional burden with little purpose. We will work to ensure that, together, we’re gathering all of the information we need, but no more.
On a practical note, we have committed to ensuring that every grant award we make will include a minimum of 5% of the total amount ringfenced to support the time and resources needed for evaluation and reporting, to recognise that this is not cost-neutral work, and that it should not be at the expense of the time and resource needed for development and delivery.
I think there is clear evidence that SHINE is making an impact on supporting and promoting innovative approaches to education, targeted at the three key strands they have identified. The number of successful educationally innovative organisations that are running today and owe their origins to SHINE is remarkable.
As we move into the next phase of SHINE’s work in the North, we want to say a heartfelt thanks, again, to our wonderful teachers, schools, practitioners and partners who make everything we do possible.
Your feedback means everything to us, and we will reflect and build on the information you’ve given us to make sure the impact of SHINE’s work across the North is ever stronger in the coming years.