By: Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Executive Director
Recently on Funder Feedback we asked our grantees to anonymously weigh in on these questions: “What advice do you have for funders preparing for site visits? What makes a site visit easier/better for you?” People had a lot to say on this subject. We got so many fabulous suggestions that we decided to create the PF Grantee Guide to Site Visits: For Funders.
All funders want to have a successful site visit where we get the information we need to make decisions and provide the right kind of support for organisations. How can we prepare for an insightful visit? How do we ensure we see what we need to in a short period of time? How should we turn up?
Those leading host organisations want to make sure funders have the experience they are looking for, while also not being overly distracted from the organisation’s core work. Site visits can take up an enormous amount of time for organisations to plan and run. So, what helps them plan and prepare most efficiently? What helps things run more smoothly? How can a site visit also be helpful for the organisation?
Next time you’re planning a site visit please consider the following suggestions--all from Peery Foundation funded organisations that plan site visits for funders on a regular basis. Or ask your own grantees what might help them given the context they work in. They are the experts!
PF Grantee Guide to Site Visits: For Funders
- When possible plan combined site visits with other funders. This minimises the time grantees have to spend away from their core work planning visits.
- Unless they’ve invited you to pop in anytime, give plenty of notice of when you want to visit and indicate options or flexibility on exact dates and timing.
- Let grantees know who will be attending.
- Have a brief planning call with the organisation’s team for international or complex site visits. It helps to have everyone’s questions and expectations communicated upfront.
- For site visits that involve accommodation and/or travel between sites have an open conversation with the organisation’s team about the costs they will incur to run the site visit, as well as reimbursements you are able to provide to cover their costs.
- Clarify the purpose of your visit, goals you have, and the questions you want to focus on during the visit.
- Talk through with the grantee what you want to see more of or less of. You may have different ideas of what is most useful to spend time on.
- Do your homework so you are well informed about the work and broader context in which the org operates.
- Arrive with a keen interest and openness to learning.
- Be flexible when changes are made to the itinerary. Recognise that you may be getting insight into unforeseen challenges the grantee deals with on a regular basis.
- For rural site visits bring water and a snack in case of unforeseeable delays to travel or meals.
- On international site visits be sure to spend time with national staff of the org, not only expat staff. Local staff can often provide valuable additional perspective and context.
- Encourage questions from the staff and community members you interact with.
- Always be respectful and grateful to all those you meet.
- Write a thank you note to the organisation team you met with.
- Ensure reimbursements are processed efficiently for the organisation.
- If the visit went well, offer to share your notes and observations with other funders.
Anything to add? Please let us know additional suggestions in the comments below. We love learning how to do our work better.