As anyone who works at a foundation will tell you, getting candid feedback can be difficult. Of course, I understand why. For the most part, people feel like they should be nice to us, especially if they are grantees. But that “Nashville nice” makes it harder to know how we can do better. We receive occasional feedback from our donors, but as CFMT approached a new strategic plan, we knew that we needed to know much more than we do about how to be a better partner.

For that reason, CFMT hired the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) to lead our first-ever Donor Perception Survey to get feedback from you—our donors. We wanted to better understand what you valued about your partnership with CFMT, what we were doing well, and where we could improve. Over the past decade, CEP has conducted this same study from more than 10,000 donors representing 90 community foundations. Part of this study included benchmarking our findings against a cohort of 16 similar-sized community foundations* from around the country.

What We Learned:

In Summer 2023, CEP surveyed 610 donors and achieved a 26% response rate.
In short, our donors gave us positive ratings overall on an absolute scale, but we lagged behind our custom cohort on a relative scale.

  • Overall satisfaction with CFMT was positive (5.9/7.0).
  • The top two most important reasons that donors choose to conduct their charitable giving through CFMT are to place their assets in a community-based fund provider and CFMT’s reputation.
  • While donors appreciate CFMT’s reputation in the community, donor ratings placed CFMT near the bottom of our cohort for clarity of communication around our own goals and what we know about Middle Tennessee’s needs. 22% of donors said they would like to receive clearer and more frequent communications about our goals and collaborations with other organizations (like United Way).
  • The quality of CFMT’s staff scored the highest of all categories (6.08/7.0). However, only one-half of donors said that they have a designated contact at CFMT.
  • While 75% of donors report using at least one CFMT resource to achieve their philanthropic goals, 22% would like for CFMT to provide more resources and opportunities to learn about community needs.
  • 84% plan to give to CFMT in the next five to ten years. As CFMT continues to see donors transition to next generation successors and advisors, two-thirds have said they would like CFMT’s help engaging future generations.
*Our Comparative Cohort included:
Arkansas Community Foundation, Blue Grass Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Greater Cincinnati Community Foundation, Greater Houston Community Foundation, North Texas Community Foundation, Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, The Columbus Foundation

What’s Next?

We have heard loud and clear where we need to improve and CFMT is incorporating the findings (received from more than 50 data points) into our new strategic framework and value proposition for our donor partners. Some of these strategies include:

  • Ensuring every fundholder has a designated contact and biannual check-in;
  • Providing new avenues for donors to understand community needs and opportunities for impact through educational materials, events and experiences;
  • Implementing an outreach and communication strategy designed to clarify mutual goals and objectives;
  • Ensuring every new fundholder and donor has a meaningful, personalized onboarding experience.

We will be sharing more about our new strategic plan, guided by a new mission and vision statement, this spring.

There is an overly highlighted copy of these survey results on my desk, and we are taking the feedback seriously. Ignoring it would be choosing comfort over growth (and I signed up for this job for the latter!) As we move forward into a new era guided by a new plan, please know that we are incredibly grateful for your dedication to this community and your partnership with CFMT.