When Betty McCay finished a 27-year prison sentence in California and approached the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) in Oakland for job placement, the last thing she expected to provide was feedback on running the program. “In prison,” she said, “Feedback isn’t necessary. Feedback isn’t sought.”

Eventually she overcame skepticism and responded to a text survey. McCay’s simple idea for improvement, shifting a daily work-signup call from participants out in the field to counselors at their desks, not only struck a chord, but CEO implemented it within a week.

Stories like Betty’s are just one reason that Fund for Shared Insight, a funding collaborative that includes nearly 100 funding partners, is investing to make client feedback a third, standard element of nonprofit measurement, alongside program monitoring and third-party evaluation.

Over the past six months, we’ve had an opportunity to tell some of those stories and witness their impact as we worked together on the recent Stanford Social Innovation Review “Power of Feedback” campaign, a curated editorial series underwritten by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (also a Fund for Shared Insight funding partner).

The lessons we learned along the way validated our belief in the power of feedback to inform effective storytelling, as well as to advance equity by giving clients means to influence and even own the tale:

  • Clients, not organizations, should be the heroes of our stories
  • The most important story may only surface when you segment client feedback
  • Clients are best able to tell their own stories when you offer appropriate media
  • Human-centered storytelling emboldens the protagonist on his/her next journey

Read the full article of the power of feedback for effective storytelling by Katie Smith Milway and Rick Moyers at The Communications Network.