Foundation leaders believe to increase their impact they need to listen to the people they are supposed to serve. There is concern among US foundation leaders that this is not currently happening.
These insights come from a report by Centre for Effective Philanthropy commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to mark its 50th birthday. It makes interesting reading – particularly where CEOs highlight the need to listen and learn both from the people supposed to benefit from their money and their grantees.
The CEOs surveyed believed that the top two practices for increasing foundation’s impact were –
“Foundations seeking to learn from the experiences of those they are ultimately trying to help.” (69%) and “Foundations seeking to learn from the knowledge or experience of grantees” (67%).
More than half of the CEOs interviewed raised, unprompted, their concerns about a lack of listening to those they are seeking to help or about their current efforts to engage more deeply with their grantees of the communities in which they are working.
One CEO said, “I can appreciate the need to have more accountability, more structure, and drive impact. But the foundation world has gotten more top-down instead of thinking about how to listen to those they serve, entering into a dialogue, and trying to receive insights from those that they serve.”
Darren Walker, CEO of the Ford Foundation responded to the report: “Listening can help us more intimately understand our institutional ignorance and biases, and allow us to learn about how we can do better for our grantees and communities. This level of humility and vulnerability may be difficult, but it will be necessary to improve our foundations and accomplish broader, systemic change.”
One of the questions that the report suggests that CEOs should be discussing is
“If many foundation leaders believe, as they do, that learning from grantees and those they are trying to help will lead to greater impact, how can foundations do this more and better?”
Keystone Accountability was the first organization (as far as we know) established specifically to look for answers to this question. We feel like we are still just beginning to mine a deep vein of exciting answers, and have brought what we have found to work best for systematically collecting and listening to feedback from those you seek to serve into a method that we call Constituent Voice™. Those who are using it report consistent improvements in performance and outcomes. We record our journey and describe our services on this website.