Funder Feedback: Cycle 4 Report

By: Jessamyn Lau

We rounded up cycle 4 of Funder Feedback on March 31st. In cycle 3 we received one or two critical comments, but the majority of comments were about what grantees liked about working with the PF. 

In cycle 4 I think people are beginning to trust that it's truly anonymous. How do I know? Because we got more critical feedback. Woohoo! This is where the real value in Funder Feedback lies: clear input on what we/philanthropy should keep doing, and what we/philanthropy should change or consider. 

Here's what we learned from you in Q1 of 2015. There's something in here for all funders to listen to and consider. In the "Please consider" list I've included the feedback and our response to each suggestion.

Please keep:

  • Making connections for organizations to other funders.
  • With our interactions with other funders, not only recommending our grantees but also asking how we can help them.
  • Getting back to people in a timely manner (especially grantees and grant seekers).
  • Sending hand written thank you notes after people take the time to come to our office or host us for a meeting or site visit.
  • Providing frank feedback couched in honest care for an organization.
  • Asking "what do you need?" and "how can we help?" questions.
  • Being proactive, particularly in our Local Portfolio (though I don't have specifics about how).
  • Maintaining open communication, especially around problem solving.

Please consider:

  • Provide access to info on pro bono services in graphic design, legal services, etc: We're developing and coordinating with some other funders on a resource list that will begin to include resources like this.
  • Make more introductions to other funders: This is a mixed bag. On the one hand we only want to make introductions when we know there's a strong potential fit and it's going to be a good use of everyone's time. We are selective about the introductions we make, taking in to account timing, fit, and the strength of our relationship. On the other hand we also recognize we still have work to do in building out our network and understanding of other funders' priorities. Our whole team is constantly working on this.
  • Ask "what do you need?"/"how can we help?" questions: If you read the previous list you'll see some people recognize this as something we already do, and here we see that others haven't experienced that as much. This indicates we can be more consistent in asking these types of questions. Message received!
  • Leave more time for exploratory conversations: This is a tricky one. Like most of you we're a tiny team. We grew by 100% in the past 2 years, but we're still trying to punch above our weight with only 4 employees being stretched across many relationships and responsibilities. This is one I'm going to think about more as we manage our team's schedules and consider when and how grantee convenings might be a valuable use of time.
  • Provide ongoing mentorship for grant seekers: Also, similarly difficult to the last point. We're building our ability to do this for our grantees (with our new hires) but know we can't provide much in the way of mentorship for organizations we aren't funding.
  • Create convenings or write blogs to share best practices: Hopefully this blog is a step in the right direction! As mentioned before we're also considering convenings that might provide more of these opportunities for our grantees.
  • Do more grant making to support low-income students in Palo Alto: This raised an interesting discussion for us and our Local Portfolio, where we focus on students from EPA and East Menlo Park. Palo Alto is not a specific area we currently have the mandate to work in. However, Avani, our Local Portfolio Director, recently served on the Minority Achievement and Talent Development Committee for Palo Alto Unified School District, so it is an area we're building awareness in.

We did have one quizzical comment asking us why we'd ask to be rated after each interaction*, as it seemed like we should know if we're doing a good job or not. And that's the thing, we think we know, but we're also aware that we and other funders have blind spots: behaviors or practices that might need addressing. Funder Feedback is both a tool for seeking proactive critique, and a passive safety net for blind spots.