Listening & Feedback:
A Funder Action Menu
Talk about feedback in the application and reporting processes
We encourage funders to ask about organizations’ feedback practices because it sends the message that philanthropy cares about feedback and that listening to people and communities is an expectation. We also recognize the power dynamics inherent in relationships between funders and nonprofits, so we encourage you to approach organizations’ responses with understanding. Grantees, for example, may be taken off guard if they perceive a question about feedback as unrelated to the program or project you’re funding. Or they may cite capacity constraints that hinder their feedback collection or ability to make changes in response. Make sure you are asking in the spirit of partnership and with serious intentions to use what you learn to change your own practices.
On the grant application, ask grantees how they collect and use client feedback
Q: Can you explain how the population you serve is involved in the work of your organization, and/or how client feedback is collected and incorporated?
Q: How do you solicit feedback from your participants? Do you have a system in place to make changes to your program(s) based on the feedback received?
Q: How is your approach informed by evidence and the voices of those you’re serving? How is it informed by evidence?
Q: Please describe how voices of historically excluded groups and/or individuals with lived experience are sought out and reflected in program decision making.
Q: How do you incorporate feedback from those impacted by this project? (i.e. How do you listen to the voices of those you impact? How do you engage with the people you seek to serve, help or impact?)
Q: To what extent does your organization listen to and obtain feedback from those you serve? How is this feedback used to inform delivery of programming and services (including your advocacy agenda, if applicable)? To what extent do you let those who provided feedback know how their input was used?
Q: How do you listen and learn from your program participants and obtain actionable information? Please provide an example of an improvement made to your program based on capturing the voice of your participants.
Include questions in your site visits about how the nonprofit listens to people and communities
If your application includes questions about listening and feedback, site visits can offer an opportunity to ask follow-up questions and learn more. For example, you might ask grantees how they close the loop, or what specific changes they have made in response to client or community feedback. And if your application doesn’t include a question about feedback, the site visit offers an opportunity to introduce the topic.
During a site visit to a nonprofit that had applied for a grant to pay for security upgrades at its facility, the Plough Foundation suggested the nonprofit conduct informal surveys among staff, volunteers, and clients before and after the upgrades to inform plans for changes and then gauge how they were received.
Include in your grant reporting requirements questions about feedback and listening
The same questions that can be incorporated into applications and site visits can also be used in final reports. We do not yet have examples of final report questions, but we are particularly interested in finding such examples, especially where funders have used what they learn to inform future grantmaking strategy.
1. Talk about feedback in the application and reporting processes
2. Convene nonprofits and funders to listen and learn together
3. Make capacity-building grants to improve nonprofit feedback practice
4. Use listening and feedback to inform grantmaking
5. Use listening and feedback to inform strategy development
6. Use listening and feedback to inform measurement, learning, and evaluation
7. Employ a variety of tactics to listen directly to people and communities
8. Incorporate listening into other areas of foundation operations