Our mission at Colorado Association of Funders has long been to bring people, information, and resources together to promote effective and responsible philanthropy throughout the state. When I landed here almost a decade ago, we were doing this mainly by connecting funders with one another. But we knew that we also needed to figure out how to bridge the divide between funders and the organizations they support.

Thanks to the support of the Fund for Shared Insight and a partnership with the United Philanthropy Forum, we began an effort in Colorado aimed at encouraging openness and feedback in our sector, with the goal of increasing both foundation and nonprofit effectiveness. The premise was two-fold: foundations can make the most difference when they share what they learn from their work, listen to what others have to say, and act on what they hear. Nonprofits also have a role to play in listening to, learning from, and acting on what they hear from the people they’re seeking to help.

We asked a diverse group of foundation and nonprofit leaders throughout the state to be part of a cohort to help us think through what we might be able to accomplish. As much as we were hoping to break new ground, the interviews and conversations kept coming back to basics that still needed to be addressed.

Three general themes emerged:

  1. It’s all about relationships.
  2. Nonprofits want funders to be open and institute practices that mitigate the funder-grantee power dynamic.
  3. Organizations that build an internal culture of learning are more likely to be ready to share what they learn with others.

Read the full article about exploring openness by Joanne Kelley at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.