This is the second in a series of posts contributed by the Feedback Incentives Learning Group, a group of funders convened by Feedback Labs that are dedicated to encouraging peer funders to listen to the people most harmed by the systems and structures they seek to change and supporting their grantees to listen as well. In this blog series, learning group members share their insight into and experiences with encouraging foundations and nonprofits to listen and respond to the people who are most impacted and often least consulted by philanthropy and nonprofits. The first blog in the series is here. We hope this series provides inspiration and guidance for those looking to listen better and, ultimately, encourages action.

During a site visit to the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, the Plough Foundation asked some “decidedly non-routine” questions about how the center was listening to the people affected by their work. The center had recently upgraded its security system with a grant from the foundation, and when Plough’s director of research and evaluation visited the Center, she suggested the Center ask staff, volunteers, and clients whether the upgrades had helped them feel safer. Having a funder start a conversation about how the Center could listen felt different, according to its executive director, but it also inspired the Center to find more ways to listen to its clients. And while responses to its initial staff survey about the security upgrades were positive, it also uncovered gaps in communication around security.

When a foundation encourages and supports its grantees to listen to the people at the heart of their work, great things happen. But how many foundations start these conversations with their grantees, as the Plough Foundation did? And what support can funders offer to grantees to enable them to listen better? These were the questions that the Feedback Incentives Learning Group set out to answer. They hypothesized that asking grantees how they listen and providing listening-specific capacity-building support were two easy ways that foundations could start supporting their grantees to listen better. But they didn’t know how many foundations were already engaging in those conversations or providing that support.

To find out, the Feedback Incentives Learning Group worked with CFLeadsGrantmakers for Effective Organizations, and the National Center for Family Philanthropy to design and distribute a survey to foundation staff and trustees across the United States and around the world. Together, they surveyed 121 representatives of 112 foundations to find out whether and how they ask their grantees how they listen to the people most impacted by their work, and whether and how they support their grantees to listen better. They heard from trustees and staff at all levels of community, family, private, and corporate foundations.

Read the full article about encouraging grantees to listen by Megan Campbell and Madison McDaniel at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.