Headshots of three African leaders: they smile and look directly at the camera
Leaders from Kaz’O’zah Keza, Tai Tanzania, and Safari Doctors pose at a recent African Visionary Fellowship Summit

Becoming Our Partners’ Best Partner

Segal Family Foundation
4 min readSep 6, 2023

by Sylvia K. Ilahuka, Writer & Editor

Earlier this year, we conducted a listening exercise to hear from our grantee partners about the impact and their satisfaction with our funding and services. This was our second such survey, the first having been in 2018; once again we engaged an external evaluator (60 Decibels) to collect and crunch the data. We did this to create a safe space for partners to share their experiences anonymously and candidly, because it can be difficult for recipients of grant monies to speak truth to their funders. Being grantee-centric is important to us as a foundation and is a broader reflection of the kind of giving for which we strive. To the 264 grantee partners who participated in the survey, thank you for frankly sharing your views with us. We were pleased to hear that a lot is working well: according to the 2023 Grantee Perception Report (GPR), Segal Family Foundation’s net promoter score came in at 91%!

We were proud to hear from the 2023 GPR that, because of their relationship with us, our partners are able to raise more money, collaborate with peer organizations, and learn from each other. In one partner’s experience, “We share, brainstorm, exchange notes and benchmark together. We have a great circle of advisers.” This is what we’ve been going for from the beginning. We were also pleased to hear that, overall, our grantee partners are very satisfied with our team and what we offer — especially our unrestricted funding. About this another partner says, “We have been able to reduce our stress and anxiety due to the unconditional support we get from SFF. We have been able to handle our operational costs such as salaries.”

And while there are many areas of strength and achievements to celebrate with our partners, we also heard our partners speak openly about areas where there is room for improvement:

  • When it comes to the quality of interactions with SFF, what came out strongly is our partners value having strong relationships with our team and would like us to be more responsive and available to them. We are a small team doing a lot, and over the past four years have grown substantially as our portfolio expanded from 231 partners (2019) to 385 partners (2022) — a 67% increase. This accelerated growth has led to slightly less attentive treatment, especially for newer partners, which makes sense considering that our programs team has grown by only 11% in that same time. To keep our brand promise of being a responsive funder that builds deep relationships with our partners, we are slowing down our new partner acquisition over the next few years and focusing more time and resources on nurturing existing partners.
  • For many of our grantee partners, the past few years has been a period of many changes for SFF, which has at times made them uncertain about the future of their partnership. In the coming year, we will be trying out some different ways of communicating about our work with partners to ensure they have the most accurate information on SFF’s work and direction. We will be updating our website and other materials to demystify our selection process and make it easier for standout organizations to come our way.
  • We already provide plenty in the way of Active Partnership, but our partners would like more. Active Partnership at SFF encompasses support beyond the dollar, including organizational capacity strengthening services, convenings and collaboration with peer organizations, and other opportunities for leaders and organizations to learn. Fundraising emerged as a top area where many partners are struggling and would like more support. We will be ramping up our efforts to connect peer funders with aligned grantee partners through our newly expanded Equitable Giving (formerly Partnerships) team.

As you can see, we’re committed to learning from our grantee partners and our funder friends. We welcome budding donors and established entities alike to use our experiences to reshape how they approach philanthropy. We welcome conversations from peer funders regarding what they are learning about trust-based philanthropy from grantees and what steps they are taking — our Equitable Giving team is listening via equitablegiving@segalfamilyfoundation.org. As for our grantee partners, we exist to serve your missions and are invested in your organizations’ and constituents’ success; keep sharing your feedback and holding us accountable. We are listening.

A word cloud highlights the words Supportive, Empowering, Turst, Understanding, and Helpful
Grantee partners’ descriptions of their experience working with SFF; “supportive” was also the most common descriptor in the 2018 GPR.



Segal Family Foundation

Social impact funder and advisor building a network of visionary local leaders and global donors to advance positive change in Africa