Almost everyone recognizes the importance of relationships among nonprofit board members, donors, employees, and volunteers. Yet, when was the last time any of us slowed down to focus comprehensively on the art and science of those vital relationships? That's why we’re intrigued by the growing attention to the role feedback can play in deepening relationships across the nonprofit community. Whether the feedback is from a foundation, a grantee, an employee, a consumer, or a board member, intentionally listening and learning is a wise investment in our organizations’ missions. In this issue, we’re delighted to highlight practical tips, tools, and resources your nonprofit can use to invest in itself through feedback to advance its mission.
During four programs in four different cities between May and September, 2017, the National Council of Nonprofits partnered with Exponent Philanthropy to investigate – along with nonprofits and funders like those in your community – the “secret sauce” of great funder/nonprofit relationships. At each program, around 100 participants representing both foundations and nonprofits (and many people who represented both) had the opportunity to acknowledge the inevitable power dynamic that affects relationships between funders and those-they-fund, and to explore ways to manage it. Attendees discussed specific steps to encourage candor, build trust, and cultivate strong and respectful relationships. We asked participants to approach the conversations with humility and listen intently to their counterparts. They did – with enthusiasm!
At each of the programs, there was a palpable hunger for better communication between nonprofits and foundations. The program design encouraged feedback and also allowed attendees to clarify what kinds of feedback nonprofits and foundations find most useful. The evaluations we received from attendees confirmed a strong desire to improve communications between grantmakers and those they fund. But how? Participants were not shy about proposing concrete action steps for both grantmakers and grant recipients to take as each person travels his or her own journey towards great funder/nonprofit relationships. We look forward to sharing what we are learning via a free webinar on November 9, 2017. Meanwhile, on our blog, you can take a look at the ingredients for a crowdsourced recipe: The secret sauce of great funder/nonprofit relationships.
One of the trends we’re tracking is an interest in feedback loops. Recognition has grown that while the vast majority of charitable nonprofits may collect feedback from the people they seek to help, those same nonprofits may not have the technology, time, or know-how to make the most of the feedback they are collecting – and they certainly don’t have funding to collect feedback, so their own evaluation activity becomes a slice of unfunded operating costs. Several private foundations decided to change that paradigm by making grants to enable nonprofits to mine lessons learned from feedback loops. Stay tuned for their findings.
Nonprofits are eager to give feedback to foundations – but that’s awkward, uncomfortable, and potentially risky. GrantAdvisor offers a paradigm shift by crowdsourcing feedback about grantmakers, allowing grantees and others to share first-hand information about their experiences with funders through anonymous, real-time reviews that also allow for responses and comments by the foundations. While thinking about how you might provide meaningful feedback to a foundation using GrantAdvisor (it only takes 7 minutes), you might find some inspiration reading the advice nine nonprofit leaders shared with grantmakers about how funders can support grantees in the most meaningful ways. Perhaps your nonprofit is looking for pointers on its own use of feedback loops. And while we’re on the topic… we’d be very grateful to learn more about you and what you would like to read in future issues of this newsletter! (It will take no more than 3 minutes.)
Nonprofit organizations will always need talented paid and volunteer workers. And those workers will always need support to be successful in advancing the nonprofit’s mission. That’s why investing in talent is investing in the nonprofit’s mission. As a funder or charitable nonprofit, how do you know which investments in talent will make the biggest difference? And where do you start? As a nonprofit, how do you succeed in making the case that investing in your nonprofit’s talent is a significant way to build its capacity and advance its mission? Fund the People’s mission is to help us all invest in the nonprofit workforce. Its new (and free) Fund the People Toolkit is designed to help you make the case, dispel myths, consider the range of ways to support those who make a difference in advancing the mission, and decide on the appropriate approach (i.e., one-size-doesn’t-fit-all) to invest in a nonprofit’s talent. Talent investment, just like any other investment, takes time, money, and patience, and should be tailored to each workplace. You’ll want to ask for feedback from staff and volunteers about what types of support are the best investments: benefits, professional development, supplemental workforce assistance (outsourcing, consultants, volunteers, pro bono skilled professionals), or something else. Another new tool for talent development is UST’s (free) e-paper, Nonprofit Talent Sustainability Strategies, which offers a framework nonprofits can follow. The paper encourages nonprofits to ask staff which benefits they most value; to compare the nonprofit’s benefits with those offered by peer nonprofits; and to articulate the value so employees and prospective employees can appreciate (and help improve) the investment your nonprofit makes in its most valuable asset: its people! Of course, another proven way to invest in your talent and advance your mission is to join and take advantage of the educational opportunities provided by the state association of nonprofits in your state. Indeed, it’s one of the best investments your nonprofit can make!
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