Giving Compass' Take:

•  Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation shares its three key learnings utilizing feedback loops to surrender power so that communities can benefit. 

• When funders surrender power to shift dynamics, community leaders, organizations, and partners can achieve more and build authentic relationships with donors. 

• Learn more about the power of feedback here. 

Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation (DDCOF) believes that a healthy mouth leads to a healthy life. Over the past few years, DDCOF has evolved and shifted from being directive in our work to prioritizing partnership and learning in all that we do. Measuring the impact of our philanthropic investments continues to be of the utmost importance. However, now we implement our efforts by sitting alongside community organizations to learn from their expertise.

Our efforts include continuous feedback loops and our evolution includes three big lessons:

  • Communities know best, not us: We conduct site visits with grant applicants and spend time in communities outside of grant review efforts. This is essential to understand the multitude of unique dynamics in communities.
  • Shared learning leads to improved outcomes. Not only do we learn from our grantees; we foster opportunities for them to learn from one another.   Through learning circles, informational webinars and evaluation of DDCOF’s efforts, which we share publicly, we find that the level of collective knowledge increases.
  • Trust is humbling. We work to build trust with our partners so that they feel comfortable being honest with us. As an oral health equity foundation, we appreciate when our community partners point out language or processes we use that reinforce inequity.

When funders intentionally shift the power dynamic, we all benefit. We achieve our missions in far more impactful a manner than we could ever do on our own. We all learn far more than we would individually, and communities benefit. By using systems that promote equity, spending learning time in communities and having feedback loops, we are better as a funder and our partners are more authentically valued for their expertise.

Read the full article about surrendering power by Megan Wilson at FeedbackLabs.