Blog by Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive 


The great enemy of philanthropic organisations is complacency. For funders, there are no easy or obvious statistics to measure effectiveness. And while we want to build open and candid partnerships with applicants, almost inevitably those seeking funding find it hard to offer critical comment.

Compliments are not unpleasant, but neither do they help shape an improved organisation.

Yet as an organisation we need to be restless and always looking to improve. So, what to do?

Last year we commissioned a comprehensive survey of every organisation who had applied to Wolfson over the past three years. It was important for us to include applicants who had not been successful as well as those with whom we have had long and successful partnerships. 

The aim was straightforward. We wanted to gain insight into the experiences of our applicants. We wanted advice and information to help frame our new strategic framework. And we wanted to identify areas in which we could improve.

Clearly this meant commissioning a third party organisation (in our case, nfpSynergy) to seek views entirely anonymously.  It is gratifying that 329 organisations accepted their invitation to participate, and we are grateful to all of those who invested their time. 

We are committed to being as open a funder as possible and we have therefore made the decision to publish the ensuing report in full.

The survey makes me feel enormously proud of the team here at Wolfson. It is clear that the way in which they understand partner organisations and provide a professional and excellent quality of service is appreciated. 

There are also some important messages for our new strategic framework. Not least among those messages is the overwhelming consensus that it is helpful to have specialist capital funders among the wider funding ecosystem.

But the fundamental aim of the survey was to identify areas of improvements, not receive plaudits (however gratifying those might be). We have published a brief response to the survey. The key area of improvement – an ongoing process – is to make our communications, primarily through our website, even clearer and more focused. 

Listening, reviewing, amending, evolving.

 These are not statistic words. Nor do we see this survey as a one-off process. We will repeat it in the near future. More importantly, we hope to continue a culture of openness and genuine partnership with our applicants – as well as a willingness to change.

 And, not least, we continue to welcome comment in all that we do.


© Wolfson Foundation