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Philanthropy, open for improvement

Today the Ford Foundation joins with six other funders to launch the Fund for Shared Insight, a collaborative effort to make grants to improve philanthropy. We believe that foundations can make a bigger difference in the world if we encourage and incorporate feedback from the people we seek to help, and understand the connection between that feedback and better results.

Hilary Pennington, Ford’s vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression, and Fay Twersky, who directs the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group, are co-chairs of the Fund for Shared Insight. They announced the new effort in an Op-Ed in The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

How can we learn more about the ways people experience the services and products our grantees provide? Do they find the services useful? Relevant? Are the hours of operation convenient? Is there room for improvement? If we knew the answers, might we also improve the outcomes?

It’s time to make gathering such feedback routine so that all of us, at both foundations and other nonprofits, reliably consider the perspectives and experiences of those we seek to help.

But we know such efforts are costly, in both time and money, and too few experiments have been conducted to figure out the most effective ways to get feedback that matters.

To help elevate the voices of the people our grant money is designed to help, we have joined with five other grant makers to create the Fund for Shared Insight, which will award $5-million to $6-million a year over the next three years.

On Tuesday, Sept. 9 from 12 - 12:30 pm, Pennington and Twersky will take part in a live video discussion about the Fund, and how openness can serve effectiveness. Listen to it here.

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