Updating Shared Insight’s Funder Listening Action Menu

Funder Listening Action Menu

Fund for Shared Insight’s Funder Listening Action Menu features dozens of real-life examples of foundations’ listening practices that center the experiences and voices of the people and communities at the heart of our work. To keep this tool fresh and inspiring change in the way philanthropy builds relationships and makes decisions, we are always on the lookout for new examples.

This week, we introduce the latest in a series of updates, including highlights from:

  • The Indigenous Women’s Flow Fund, which convenes Indigenous women to shape the themes of grantmaking, identify groups to support, and make final grants decisions.
Get inspired by this collection of ideas and insights to spark the changes you want to see
Funder Listening Action Menu
  • The Freedom Fund, which, before launching new grantmaking programs, collaborates on strategy with local organizations, advisors, and community members.
  • The Bush Foundation, which consulted with community leaders to design an open process to find organizations to steward funds it set aside to support wealth-building in area Black and Native communities.
  • And ReWork the Bay, which transformed from doing work as a traditional funder collaborative to a collaborative led by what they call “proximate leaders,” 17 people with experience in economic justice, education, workforce development, small business, and philanthropy.


For nearly a decade, Fund for Shared Insight has been promoting the value of listening — as an essential complement to other forms of monitoring and evaluation; as a way for funders to build connections and trust with the people and communities most affected by their decisions; and, more recently, as a critical step to sharing and shifting power.

Along the way, we’ve fielded a lot of questions, such as, Why is it important for funders (and nonprofits!) to listen? What do we mean by listening well? And exactly when and how should funders listen? Our Funder Listening Action Menu, which we first published in 2021, grew out of those kinds of early questions, along with our sense that funders were increasingly convinced on the why of listening and had moved on to looking for more guidance and resources on the how and the when.

We had been collecting examples of foundation listening over the years — focusing on examples reflecting listening practices that go beyond simply seeking input — keeping an internal document for our own reference. But with more funders appearing hungry for insight and inspiration, and with input from our Funder Listening Community of Practice, we created an online tool that has evolved into our current Funder Listening Action Menu.

The menu is not intended as a step-by-step guide to listening, or as an exhaustive inventory of all the possible ways funders can listen. Instead, it’s a conversation opener to help funders understand that there are many ways to listen; that listening can support a variety of goals; that it can happen at many different points throughout a foundation’s operations and grantmaking and strategy cycles; and that listening can lead to a positive culture change within an organization.

Over the last few years, hundreds of funders have viewed, printed, and downloaded the Funder Listening Action Menu, and we are happy to continue spreading the word about it as it remains a work in progress. With ongoing updates, we aim to keep the examples current and expand the breadth and variety of highlighted practices. We welcome ideas for new examples, and are eager to hear from you about how you are using the menu and ways it can be improved. Please be in touch with Shared Insight’s communications team at rick@fundforsharedinsight.org.

We also understand that the menu’s short examples may raise more questions than they answer — about how to listen without being extractive or burdensome; how to reach people and communities that have been historically marginalized; how to close the loop in a meaningful way; and how to build internal support for changes in response to what is heard. We want to stay in discussion with you — on our blog here and everywhere we do our work — about these issues and others, especially as we continue to build out the menu and other funder tools. Our blog will also showcase the good work of other initiatives and organizations developing quality tools to help funders listen, respond, and shift power.

We hope the Funder Listening Action Menu continues to spark conversations, creative thinking, and action, and that you will follow our efforts as we continue to develop a roadmap guiding philanthropy to listen well.

About the author: 

photo of Rick Moyers
Rick Moyers
Communications director, Fund for Shared Insight