A post to Exponent Philanthropy's blog

Think “Perspective” for Effective Feedback Loops

By gaining the perspective of others, we broaden our own. Although this isn’t always an easy thing to do, it is almost always necessary to move forward, commit to continual improvement, and make an impact.

Relying on our perspective

Two years ago, Foundant introduced this tool for funding and evaluation strategies. Based on our experience working with thousands of different funders and nonprofits, the tool introduced the idea that there were four different “types” of funders: Community Member, Community Partner, Strategic Leader, and Strategic Partner. 

The idea was to help funders identify where they fit into these four quadrants so they could see some commonalities among their closest peers – thereby understanding their strengths, weaknesses, keys to success, and the best ways to engage with their grantees. Our goal was to help funders find alignment within their organization and funding priorities so they could save time and resources – for both themselves and their applicants.

At the time, this made complete sense from our perspective. However, once we started presenting the tool in webinars and live conference sessions, other perspectives gave us pause. This wasn’t resonating with our audience. Funders found it difficult to “bucket” themselves into one area and didn’t connect with the titles or descriptions.

Gaining other perspectives

Feedback loops are an essential part of why Foundant works… both internally with our teams and externally with the philanthropic community. But feedback is only useful if you’re willing (and able) to “tilt your head” and view something from another’s perspective.

In order to get to the next iteration of our tool, we had to do a lot of tilting. We had conversations in the philanthropic community about what stood out, what were the most useful aspects, what was the least useful, what was missing. And we had long discussions and whiteboarding sessions internally to push ourselves into seeing the tool from all angles. The feedback loop was put to the test.

Nearly two years after our initial tool was introduced, we published Funder Styles: Connecting Purpose to Evaluation. What we’d learned was that funding styles weren’t about “labeling” funders as one thing or another, but rather about helping funders define their uniqueness in a way that would help them connect their grantmaking purpose to their evaluation efforts. We couldn’t have seen this without feedback – by putting in the time and staying open-minded, we were able to broaden our perspective.

Our challenge to you

We’re passionate about helping philanthropy maximize its collective impact, which is why we use our feedback loops in everything we do… from internal processes to written content to the software we develop. But a feedback loop is only as good as the perspectives included in it.

We challenge you to use this tool:

  • As a new funder, to define your style and how you’ll engage your grantees and find alignment within your organization.
  • As a seasoned funder, to realign your organization to your funding priorities and drive consistent communication with your grantees.
  • As a framework of different funding styles.
  • As a way to communicate priorities and needs to your board.
  • As whatever makes sense for you.

Our hope is that this tool will be useful to you in your own feedback loop, that you’ll be able to use this to guide your decision making and your communications, and gain new perspectives. Then, we want you to join our feedback loop.

As the Content Marketing Manager for Foundant Technologies, Kristin Laird is passionate about sharing knowledge with the philanthropic community so they can maximize their impact.

Sammie Holzwarth is Foundant’s Product Manager for Grants and Scholarships. Sammie has a passion for youth philanthropy and has spearheaded the Youth Giving Project in Bozeman, MT as well as serving as an Exponent Philanthropy Next Gen Fellow for 2016.

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