The Ford Foundation’s Hilary Pennington and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Fay Twersky discuss how the feedback movement helps nonprofits build better, more effective programs.

Published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Listening to beneficiaries helps nonprofits learn what doesn’t work

By Hilary Pennington and Fay Twersky

“Prepare to be wrong.” That’s what Roxane White, chief executive of the much-acclaimed charity Nurse-Family Partnership, warned nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders this fall at a White House workshop on the best ways to use data and information collected from beneficiaries to improve social-good work.

Ms. White was talking about her organization’s efforts to systematically solicit feedback from the first-time mothers it serves about how to improve its work. Nurse-Family Partnership’s effort to reach out to the women it serves is a part of a movement gaining ground in philanthropy: the feedback movement.

Sometimes referred to as “constituent voice” or “beneficiary feedback,” the notion is simple: listening to and acting on the ideas shared by people at the heart of social-good efforts.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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