Listening to Beneficiaries: Why Are We So Bad At It? (CEP)

The power of feedback is almost universally acknowledged. Every day, millions of people turn to reviews written by end-users in Yelp, Trip Advisor, GreatNonprofits, and Global Giving to inform their purchasing and philanthropic decisions.  The end-user’s perspective on their experience is seen as an asset just about everywhere—except in the world of foundations.

Consider a recent report published by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP). The State of Foundation Performance: A Survey of Foundation CEOs, updates work CEP completed a decade ago, looking at the types of data foundations use to assess their performance.  While the report shows that foundations are increasingly looking to a range of indicators, notably surveys of grantees, only about a quarter of funders gather feedback from beneficiaries in any way. This, despite analysis showing that it may be among the most valuable types of feedback. CEOs of foundations who collect beneficiary feedback rate themselves as having a better understanding of the progress their foundation is making against its strategies and a more accurate understanding of the impact the foundation is having on the communities and fields in which it works.

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