Too often in America, as people achieve success, they seem to think they need to listen less to others around them. That’s why we hear creeping bombasticism in politics, religion, business, and the world where we work: big philanthropy.
Indeed, both elite, old-line philanthropy, like our institution, the Ford Foundation, and the new donors who made their fortunes in high tech and finance suffer from the same malady: talking to peers in an echo chamber of ideas and theories about how best to put charitable donations to work to solve big problems.
How can more of us in philanthropy burst this bubble and tune our ears to the real needs of those we seek to serve?
One way is to do more listening to our grantees — ask them how they are doing, including asking about their financial needs and the success and obstacles they are facing in carrying out their programs. Another is to listen to ultimate consumers of our grantees’ services — the people we and grantees both seek to help.
As we listened more closely to our grantees, we learned that we were exacerbating these problems by our approach to grant making. For example, where we had multiyear relationships, we were still funding one year and one project at a time, creating short runways for our grantees to plan.
Beyond listening and responding to what grantees say, philanthropy needs to listen to the ultimate beneficiaries of nonprofit services and advocacy.
Addressing this dire need is the explicit goal of the Fund for Shared Insight, a donor collaborative that aims to find ways to make listening to clients a feasible measurement norm in the nonprofit world. Today, nearly 100 grant makers and more than 200 nonprofits are advancing this movement, and 80 percent say they have made changes to their services based on feedback from clients and beneficiaries.
Read the full article about how grantmakers can listen to nonprofit needs by Hilary Pennington and Kathy Reich at The Chronicle of Philanthropy.