• Lucie Addison

We Hear You

How Feedback is Influencing Our Work


“It’s so palpable how they could connect the dots between siloes. So many orgs straddle those arenas. I [suggest] a push to break down siloes. That’s where you get supercharged learning.”

Feedback is to strategy what sunlight is to plants. Without it, our best laid plans can miss the mark and come to nothing. And with it, we grow, adapt, and transform. For example, the quote above, and many others like it, pushed us to move from serving a portfolio of organizations accomplishing ambitious but independent outcomes, to instead, building and supporting collaborations among organizations and peers to accomplish shared outcomes. We received this feedback in 2018, when Einhorn Collaborative conducted a “Lookback” on our first decade of grantmaking with the help of more than 250 partners who engaged in interviews, surveys, and meaning making with us. Today, we’re inviting your feedback via any of the avenues below.

“Are there ways that the process could be more efficient and transparent?... The proposal process was different every time.”

More tactical points of feedback are just as helpful. This quote now appears atop our revised due diligence guidelines to remind us how important transparency is in grant-making, especially given how our emphasis on relationships at Einhorn Collaborative leads us to lean into custom process over formulaic process, making transparency all the more important. We heard this feedback via our Grantee Perception Report, which the Center for Effective Philanthropy conducted in 2015 and 2019, studies which opened our eyes to our grantees’ experiences in deep and powerful ways.

Indeed, feedback that has come to us directly and via anonymous means, both unprompted and solicited, has underpinned many of our strategic decisions, including our areas of focus, the types of grants we make, the roles we seek to play, our approaches to learning and reporting, and how our teammates show up (or get out of the way). That’s why we ask for it so often and invite it anytime (for example, right here!).

The challenge with feedback is, everyone wants it! Getting people’s attention and energy is hard, and rightly so when there are so many competing demands. We all are likely experiencing some level of feedback fatigue given the smiley faces in the public restroom, text messages after every purchase, and “5-minute” email requests piling up. I’m always wondering how to solicit feedback that is candid and meaningful without being burdensome. Complicating things further is the asymmetry of funder-grantee relationships that can make honesty difficult.

Yet, if we lack representative feedback, then it’s easy to make choices only on the basis of one’s closest advisors and teammates, or worse, status quo bias. That's why it's important you weigh in, so we can act on the majority of our stakeholders' views, not an unrepresentative sample.

Here are three practices that guide our approach to feedback, which we’ve arrived at by being students of others like the Fund for Shared Insight and Feedback Labs:

1. Make sure it matters

We have established cycles of review, looking for patterns in the feedback in a timely way. It's easy to cling to a single visceral quote, but doing so can also disadvantage the many folks who don’t want us to heed that advice, so we aggregate and look for heat in the number of people who share similar feedback – even if using different words or examples.

2. Make it safe

Even though we work hard to develop authentic, trusting relationships with everyone we work with, we recognize the power imbalance inherent in philanthropy and therefore think it is essential to offer anonymous options for feedback. We strive to ensure that everyone we work with knows that we take feedback seriously and are only asking for it because we are committed to learning and improvement. We hope your experience is akin to this partner’s feedback shared with us in our last Grantee Perception Report: “[Einhorn Collaborative staff] want to hear what’s not working well, but never once have I felt I’d be punished for sharing…. We have had challenges, but I have not felt judged because of that. I’ve experienced empathy. It feels like a real friendship, honestly.”

3. Make it easy, accessible through multiple avenues

We’ve recently taken steps to make feedback accessible whenever someone wants to provide it. There’s now a link in our email signatures for anyone we correspond with to offer their views on how we are providing information and listening.

We also seek to create conditions for authentic relationships to bloom, where our partners feel comfortable to tell us directly about their experience working with us and we can do the same, because partnerships take work and trusting relationships matter.

We’ve included a one-click feedback question in the footer of our newsletters, so readers can give us an idea about the value of the content we share each month.

We will also continue to find ways to invite more formal feedback on specific topics via structured conversations, surveys, third-party interviews, and other means periodically when we feel it is necessary.

Do you have feedback for us? Do you want to help us avoid acting on feedback that is not representative? We’d love to hear from you via any of the avenues above. We’ll pay close attention to what you have to say, because, in both the work that we fund and the work that we do, we believe that when people sit down to listen, learn, and share different perspectives, we unlock entirely new ways of seeing ourselves, each other, and the needs and values we share.

Lucie Addison leads Einhorn Collaborative's Organizational Learning and Improvement strategy. You can learn more about our approach to learning here and more about Lucie here.


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