Giving Compass' Take:

• Listening to beneficiaries is key to successful grantmaking. 

• How can more voices be included in conversations? Do conversations need to be restructured to make sure that the most important voices are elevated?

• Find out how co-creation, which relies on listening to beneficiaries, can lead to better programs

Which foundations are indeed staying connected with their beneficiaries? Why is this work important to them? How do they do it well?

CEP’s new report, Staying Connected: How Five Foundations Understand Those They Seek to Help, provides concrete answers to these questions.

My biggest takeaway from this research? Nothing should keep us from listening!

Here are three reasons why:

1. From the nonprofit perspective, in order to be effective, foundations must understand the end beneficiaries of the work they are funding. In my work with Fund for Shared Insight (which provided grant support to CEP for this report), I have spoken to funders all over the country about supporting grantees to listen more systematically to the people they ultimately seek to help. Unfortunately, I often hear funders say it’s not their place or role to listen directly to beneficiaries.

2. Staying connected outside the foundation starts inside with a mindset of openness, curiosity, and willingness to see and do things differently — all of which is within a foundation’s control. Amelia Riedel, of the SC Ministry Foundation, notes, “We have a person-centered approach, not institution-centered. We are less focused on making the institution successful, and more focused on successful outcomes for the people we are trying to serve.” These values and approaches can be cultivated in any foundation.

3. Implementing practices to stay connected is something any foundation can do well. There may be practices inside your foundation that you feel you can’t change — perhaps doing so would be too time consuming or complicated, or maybe you don’t have enough influence or authority. The great news is that listening is not one of these practices. And anyone who wants to be more connected to those they seek to help can find actionable practices in this report.

Read the full article on listening in grantmaking at National Center for Effective Philanthropy Philanthropy