We all know the joke about funders: Become a funder and suddenly you’re the funniest, smartest and best-looking person in the room.

Like any joke, there’s an underlying truth to it, one that highlights the inherent power dynamic that exists between funders and nonprofits – a power dynamic that makes it tough to get honest feedback.

Yet the perspectives of individuals and communities who are directly affected (young people, people living in low-income communities or people with disabilities, just to name a few) by the issues foundations are tackling can be quite different than those of nonprofit leaders.

Interestingly, survey data from the Center for Effective Philanthropy shows nearly 70% of foundation CEOs believe that learning from the experiences of those they are trying to help would increase the impact of their work. However, field-wide data from Grantmakers for Effective Organizations shows that a much smaller percentage of foundations have systematic ways of getting feedback from directly impacted groups.

Here are some examples of how foundations have created the conditions for building trusting relationships and eliciting honest feedback, as they’ve engaged directly impacted groups in their work:

  • For one-off efforts, like listening sessions, consider bringing in a trusted community leader as a facilitator.
  • Some foundations have also had success using a human-centered design approach.
  • Some foundations have formed advisory councils of directly impacted groups to inform their work.
  • Ultimately, accountability and trust are most evident when funders and their constituents can connect on an even playing field with shared decision-making power.

Read the full article about feedback for funders by Seema Shah at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.