Pace Center for Girls and MilwayPLUS research found causal links between participants' feedback and their life outcomes, with the strongest link connecting teacher retention to girls feeling respected and staying longer in the program, which correlated to improved outcomes.

Listening and Feedback Practices

About this collection: This Content Collections share examples and stories of listening and learning practices that value lived expertise and advance equity.

The National Center for Family Philanthropy supports the Fund for Shared Insight’s belief that foundations and nonprofits are more impactful and effective when they regularly and deeply listen to the people and communities at the heart of their work. This Content Collections share examples and stories of listening and learning practices that value lived expertise and advance equity. As FSI notes in it’s Funder Action Menu, “Those who have been the most harmed by the systems and structures we are seeking to impact have the greatest insight into how to bring about lasting, meaningful change that can improve lives in ways people define for themselves.”

Please also see the following NCFP Content Collections for additional information and resources on topics related to this collection:

Board Composition, Diversity, and Recruitment

Participatory Grantmaking

Power Dynamics in Family Philanthropy

Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion


Reports and Guides

Listening & Feedback: A Funder Action Menu

This menu from Fund for Shared Insights offers a conversation-starter to help foundations think in a systematic way about how they can promote listening and feedback across the many dimensions of their work.

Listening to Those Who Matter Most, the Beneficiaries

To become more effective, nonprofits and foundations are turning to various sources for advice. Some look to experts who can share knowledge, research, and experience about what works—and what does not. Others turn to crowdsourcing to generate ideas and even guide decisions about future directions or funding. Experts and crowds…

Bridging The Gap: A Review of Foundation Listening Practices

While much has been written about how funders can pursue direct listening at the local scale, comparatively less has been written about how larger systems-level funders working across multiple geographies can approach this work in meaningful ways. Based on their research, the authors recommend the following as particularly promising and…

Voices and Perspectives from Colleagues

Honoring Time: Grantseeker Compensation

Blog Post
How can funders honor the time that grantseekers spend on application processes in instances where the nonprofit is not selected for a grant? In cases where they are, will the grant award cover the time and expense the grantee spent? Read on to find out how the Walter and Elise…

What Funders Can Learn from Beyoncé

Let’s start listening to (seeking first to understand) our grantees, before responding with answers and solutions. Let’s facilitate the solutions of a problem by asking questions such as, “What are the outcomes you/we want from this situation?” “What support do you need from me?” “How can you hold me, as…
white question mark on an abstract background

4 Questions to Sit With As You Learn to Let Communities Lead

Blog Post
Editor’s note: This article by Walter Howell and Lauri Valerio was originally published on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s website and appears with permission. Good things happen when funders shift power to communities. It’s “regenerative.” We “actually get outcomes that work” and “build a groundswell for change.” But it’s…

Moving from Deceit to Trust: The Necessity of Listening

Blog Post
Courtesy of Christina Morillo from Pexels This article was originally published by The Center For Effective Philanthropy and is re-posted here with permission. A colleague recently asked me how much has changed since I wrote “The Dance of Deceit,” a 2004 Stanford Social Innovation Review article in which I reflected on my…

Looking to 2021: How Funder Listening Can Help Us Rebuild

Blog Post
This article was originally published by Feedback Labs and is re-posted here with permission. Read more about how funders can listen well on GrantCraft by Candid and as part of the Council on Foundations’ series about implementing the COVID-19 foundation pledge! As COVID-19 spread worldwide in early 2020, almost 800 leading philanthropists signed a…

Soliciting Grantee Feedback: a Benefit to Both Sides

To best help the nonprofit organizations that we say we wish to serve, foundations must be prepared to invite open, honest feedback, consider it carefully, and then communicate findings and decisions back to the public.

Nothing Should Keep Us from Listening

CEP’s new report, Staying Connected: How Five Foundations Understand Those They Seek to Help, profiles five foundations that rank among the top 15 percent of foundations that commissioned a Grantee Perception Report (GPR) between 2016 and 2017. My biggest takeaway from this research? Nothing should keep us from listening!

The Gift of Being Heard and Working in Partnership

Blog Post
This article was originally published by Alliance Magazine and is re-posted here with permission. It can be easy to invest money in an attempt to fix problems. But money alone can’t build trust or change. That work starts with how you treat people. Fortunately, for the families of Detroit’s northwest neighborhood…

Why and How Family Foundations Can Advance Equity Through Participatory Measurement

Blog Post
Courtesy of Pace Center for Girls  The recent investment by MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett in funder coalitions Fund for Shared Insight and Equitable Evaluation Initiative—both dedicated to increasing participant feedback in evaluation—is the latest vote of support for gathering evidence of program impact in ways that engage program participants…

Case Studies and Examples

What We Learned When We Listened to Community Voices

Blog Post
Photo credit: Molly Miles This article was originally published by the McKnight Foundation and is re-posted here with permission. As the McKnight Foundation began developing a new program devoted to equity and inclusion in our state, we’ve been mindful that engaging the wisdom and expertise of individuals and communities beyond…
Growing plant put into focus by a magnifying glass

Family Foundation Finds Focus in Grantee Relationships

Blog Post
In recent years, GMA Foundations has worked with the Celia Lipton Farris and Victor W. Farris Foundation to define and hone its grantmaking focus. The process involved deep listening and learning and strengthened grantee relationships.  Cohesive family giving across geography and generations is patient work. Trustees’ willingness to listen to…

Walking the Talk: Striving for Authentic Partnership with Our Grantees

In November, PFF Program Officer Laura McCargar joined Michael Moody of the Johnson Center for Family Philanthropy and NCFP Fellow and Board Member Katherine Lorenz of the George and Cynthia Mitchell Foundation at the Grantmakers for Effective Organizations conference in Houston, Texas to talk about collaboration in the context of…

Webinars and Workshops

man holding out hand - agreement, relationships
July 8, 2021

Grantee Relationships and Power Dynamics

Power dynamics are inherent in traditional philanthropy: a funder gives and a grantee receives. This imbalance has the ability to inhibit productive, honest partnerships and stymie successful outcomes. It is often difficult for a grantee to discuss their needs and concerns when their financial future is on the line. Funders…

Takeaways Blog on Grantee Relationships and Power Dynamics

Blog Post
Courtesy of Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels This blog summarizes key notes from our July Fundamentals of Family Philanthropy Webinar. Power dynamics are inherent any funder and grantee relationship, and this imbalance between giver and receiver can inhibit productive, honest partnerships. Often nonprofits make shifts to accommodate funder guidelines for grant…
July 28, 2020

How Family Foundations Can Listen4Good

Philanthropy is an ever-evolving practice. It's clear that partnering with and listening to the people and communities family foundations seek to serve are instrumental to realizing positive and enduring impact over time. This webinar describes Fund for Shared Insight’s Listen4Good feedback initiative and provides guidance on how you and your grantees…
October 2, 2008

Engaging Stakeholders for Better Grantmaking

We hear more and more these days about working with grantees as partners. But how is that really done? And does it truly make the work of your foundation more effective? Courtney Bourns, Director of Programs for Grantmakers for Effective Organizations offers strategies for authentically engaging grantees and other community…