As COVID-19 spread worldwide in early 2020, almost 800 leading philanthropists signed a pledge to act with ‘fierce urgency’ to support the people, communities and nonprofits hit hardest by COVID-19. Listening to nonprofit partners, as well as the people most affected by the pandemic and by the long-standing injustices that this year has laid bare, was a cornerstone of that pledge. Leading funders recognize that listening and responding to the partners and the people that are closest to the issues we’re trying to address prepares them to craft effective responses. Listening helps funders build the trust and deep relationships with their constituents that drive meaningful action and collaboration. Done well, listening helps build power in the people we ultimately seek to serve.

As 2020 draws to a close, it’s the link between listening and power that looms large in my mind. Many of us hope that 2021 will bring a COVID-19 vaccine and an end to rapidly rising case counts and death tolls. Some of us hope things will go back to normal. I hope we can find a new normal – a more equitable social system than the one that failed so many of us this year.

To do that, we need to build power in people who have been disempowered by our existing systems. And funders, with their control over resources and the high degree of power that imparts, play a critical role in helping shift power. Listening to the people they ultimately seek to serve – and in particular the most marginalized of their constituents – is one important way they can share their power.

For funder listening to help shift power, funders need to recognize and invest in the three main lines of listening between funders, their grantees, and the people they ultimately seek to serve. All three lines of listening are essential, and they complement each other:

  1. Foundations listening to their grantees.
  2. Grantees listening to the people they seek to serve.
  3. Foundations listening directly to the people ultimately meant to benefit from their work.

Read the full article about funder listening by Megan Campbell at Feedback Labs.