4 reasons why grantmakers need feedback to create meaningful change

Date

August 6, 2019

4 min read

It’s hard to imagine a for-profit company that does not incorporate customer feedback into its business model. Whether it’s Apple smoothing out glitches in a software update based on user experience or hotel staff responding to comments posted on TripAdvisor, customer reviews are integral to a company’s success and in turn enhance those customers’ engagement and empowerment.  

In this light, it’s odd that there is not a similar integration of feedback in the non-profit sector. Non-profits serve clients just as businesses serve customers, and their impact is closely tied to understanding those clients’ needs. However, feedback is often obtained anecdotally or in an ad-hoc manner, and it’s very rarely embedded into non-profit programming. This gap may be at least partially attributable to the cost — surveys can be expensive to administer and analyse, and grant budgets may constrain their use — but grantmakers should not overlook the value of feedback in achieving meaningful impact.

Two AVPN members have begun incorporating feedback into their partnerships with grantees: the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation with Women’s Property Initiatives (WPI)–a social enterprise which promotes housing opportunities for women by capping mortgages at twenty percent of their income–and the Expedia Group with Daughters of Tomorrow, a Singapore-based non-profit dedicated to facilitating livelihood opportunities for underprivileged women. To do this, they piloted the Listen4Good (L4G) program in Asia. An initiative of the Fund for Shared Insight, L4G supports nonprofits through a five-step feedback process designed with the recognition that philanthropists cannot perfectly understand the needs and experiences of their beneficiaries without hearing directly from them. 

These AVPN members’ experiences highlight four reasons why feedback is vital to meaningful change: 

  1. Insight – Feedback allows non-profits to better understand the needs of their clients. 

    According to L4G’s research, organisations that collect feedback gain insights that generate new knowledge and confirm prior beliefs with data. At 12 and 24 months after implementing L4G, organisations report gaining insights into clients’ needs, trouble spots, and reasons behind differences in client satisfaction. 

    For WPI, feedback results were surprising in a few ways: first, they learned that the program was boosting women’s confidence in ways they hadn’t previously considered. However, the results also revealed that WPI beneficiaries felt the focus was too short-term. These findings were vital to WPI’s development and improvement. 

  2. Effectiveness – Insights lead to changes in programs, operations and services offered, which in turn lead to greater effectiveness.

    According to L4G, gaining insights is significantly and positively related to program effectiveness. At 24 months, 63% of organisations made changes to program offerings, 45% made changes to operations to better reflect client preferences or experiences and 31% introduced new services.

    Daughters of Tomorrow used feedback to investigate differences in childminding networks across Singapore. Their results caused the organisation to shift their leaders’ outreach strategy, focusing on a more community-driven approach and adjusting their techniques of communication. 

  3. Inclusion – Collecting feedback gives clients a seat at the table and ensures more equitable service.

    L4G enhances equity, diversity and inclusion by ensuring that organisational decisions and programs respond to client needs. The results show that organisations are working on more equitable service provision by better understanding and addressing the needs of different types of clients. 

    Perhaps the most meaningful impact of feedback for Daughters of Tomorrow was the change in attitude among their beneficiaries: the women felt empowered as a part of the organisation’s decision-making and planning. 

  4. Culture – Feedback elevates the value of client input, and organisations’ intentionality in implementing inclusive practices, leading to changes in organisational culture.

    The Expedia Group found that incorporating feedback into their grantmaking not only impacted beneficiaries but also staff, changing their language around impact and inspiring greater empathy for those they serve. L4G’s research indicates that in addition to improved program effectiveness, organisations also report a positive impact on organisational culture, values, and decision-making processes. 

Has your organisation gathered feedback from beneficiaries or is looking to leverage the Listen4Good model in your giving efforts? If so, we would love to hear from you. Write to us at marketing@avpn.asia.


About Author
Lucy Moore
Lucy Moore Knowledge Associate AVPN

Lucy Moore is a Knowledge Associate at AVPN and a Master in Public Policy candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Prior to Harvard, Lucy was a Policy Associate at the Biden Foundation in Washington, DC, and served as Special Assistant to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Southern California and is originally from Seattle, Washington.