Listening to beneficiaries helps nonprofits learn what doesn’t work

"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."

In this piece for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Hilary Pennington and Fay Twersky discuss the benefit of feedback for US nonprofits.

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“The organization has long used the most rigorous evaluation tool, the randomized controlled trial, to test its effectiveness. Until recently, however, it had never taken the most direct path to understanding the mothers’ experience: asking them for feedback.”

About the Authors

Hilary Pennington is vice president of the Ford Foundation’s Education, Creativity and Free Expression program. Fay Twersky directs the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group. They are co-chairs of the Fund for Shared Insight, which is housed at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

Who is it for?

Organisations who are able to source and act on direct feedback from those with whom they work are able to become more responsive in achieving outcomes. Learning what doesn’t work can be a key element of this, preventing time and energy being spent on ineffective interventions.

How could this help/improve services for young people?

Those who work with young people can particularly benefit from putting in place processes that allow feedback to be gathered and acted upon, by not only increasing their knowledge of young people’s issues and experiences, but also increasing the young people’s confidence that these are taken seriously.

Further Reading

Setting the standard: What can social impact measurement learn from feedback?