Rewarding Organizations that Listen

Making feedback the norm across aid, philanthropy, and government is no small task. That’s why Feedback Labs collaborates with organizations that are using their influence to make sure nonprofits and foundations that listen well are supported, rewarded, and celebrated. Together, we aim to inspire all nonprofits and foundations to improve how they listen.

The evidence is clear: listening to the people nonprofits and foundations seek to serve is the right, smart, and feasible thing to do. Yet, the incentive structure for nonprofits and foundations to listen to those they serve is misaligned. Nonprofits in particular have long been incentivized to listen and respond to the opinions and desires of people with power and money – usually their funders and donors. They want to be responsive to the perspectives and opinions of the people they ultimately serve, but struggle to access the support and space they need to do so.  

Feedback Labs network member Sachi Shenoy, Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer at Upaya Social Ventures, notes, “We at Upaya invest in small-and-growing businesses to create jobs to alleviate poverty, and we ask jobholders directly for their feedback on what is and is not working for them. Our stakeholders — funders especially — applaud our methods and regularly request our impact reports. But too few are willing to support our ability to collect this feedback. Though it requires time and resources, we collect feedback because it gives us invaluable insights and helps us refine our programs to optimize impact. I do wish more funders would support this work — it is equally important to support the feedback process as it is to support the programs on which the feedback is being collected.”


“I do wish more funders would support this work — it is equally important to support the feedback process as it is to support the programs on which the feedback is being collected.


-Sachi Shenoy, Co-Founder & Chief Impact Officer, Upaya Social Ventures

To achieve a world in which all nonprofits, foundations, and governments listen and respond to the people they serve, we need to:

  • Celebrate organizations that exemplify excellent listening
  • Reward nonprofits that listen well with more funds and prestige
  • Support organizations to continuously improve how they listen by helping them measure their progress and making sure they have the capacity-building support they need to listen better.

The experiences of leading nonprofit rating platforms demonstrate that this is possible to achieve. For example, when GlobalGiving tied nonprofit visibility on their platform to practices that included listening, nonprofits that demonstrated the highest commitment to improvement received nine times more GlobalGiving-driven funding than nonprofits that didn’t.

Feedback Labs collaborates with feedback experts, philanthropic leaders, and top nonprofit rating platforms to motivate organizations to improve their listening and feedback practices. We work with our partners, and help them work with each other, to:

  • Motivate nonprofits to reflect on, share and improve how they listen to the people they intend to serve. Nonprofits that fill out the How We Listen self-assessment expand their profile on GuideStar by Candid and earn points in Charity Navigator’s Encompass Rating system.
  • Help nonprofits and their funders understand how well they listen to the people they serve. The Nonprofit Pulse, a tool in development, measures, benchmarks, and helps motivate improvement in the quality of a nonprofit’s listening practice so they can be recognized and rewarded by funders. The development of the Nonprofit Pulse is led by Charity Navigator, in collaboration with Ekouté, Keystone Accountability, Listen4Good, and 60 decibels. 
  • Explore how foundations can use their power to encourage and support nonprofits and other funders to listen better. The Feedback Incentives Learning Group is describing the baseline of foundation listening practice and exploring monetary and social incentives that can motivate improvements in nonprofit and funder listening practices. 

Want to join us? 

Have questions? Contact Megan Campbell, Senior Director of Programs & Strategy, at [email protected]