Foundations can take almost any course of action, but they don’t always have enough input to choose the best direction and stay on course. The good news is that there are at least four, readily available feedback sources—four signals—that can help them hone in on the most effective approaches for achieving impact. These include feedback from grantees, foundation staff, other funders, and beneficiaries. Taken together, they can help pinpoint where foundations stand.

Feedback from grantees: Many funders are using third-party mechanisms to capture grantee feedback, and in fact, more than 300 have used CEP’s Grantee Perception Report to collect candid feedback about where grantees think their funders are on course and where they aren’t. What’s more, funders are making changes based on that input.

Feedback from beneficiaries: Hearing from the people funders and nonprofits seek to help is another powerful source of input. In fact, when we recently asked foundation CEOs what they saw as the most promising practices to improve foundations’ impact in the coming decade, 69 percent selected learning from beneficiaries’ experiences. More funders chose this than any other practice, including much-discussed practices like impact investing and scaling proven programs.

Feedback from staff: A third signal can come from regular, confidential staff feedback. Staff have indispensable insight into whether their employer is creating a working environment that engages and empowers them to do their best work. They also have important perspectives on whether or not the foundation’s goals and strategies continue to reflect the needs and developments they observe in the communities in which they work.

Feedback from other funders: Finally, foundations should be getting feedback and input from each other. According to forthcoming CEP research, most foundation CEOs report they have a good sense of what’s working in their efforts. It’s worth finding ways to overcome these challenges to sharing.

Read the full article about using client feedback in philanthropy by Kevin Bolduc & Phil Buchanan at Stanford Social Innovation Review.