Foundation Feedback

Inside Foundations, the anonymous blog by an employee at one of the country’s largest foundations, wrote on Friday about the best way to decline a nonprofit’s request for funding. She ties it into the recent debate here and asks for feedback.

Don, an anonymous foundation employee leaves a comment on the subject here:

Our foundation has a policy of calling applicants who have been declined funding roughly a week after the decline letter is sent.

During those calls, the lead reviewer takes the time to discuss in detail the reasons why their proposal was not funded. We see it as a valuable way to build relationships as well as improving transparency with respect to our review process.

The calls can be uncomfortable (applicants sometimes try to get us to reconsider their application on the phone), but it helps both parties understand the other better.

So does Mark Peterson, the head of Bridgeway Foundation and author of the blog Open Hands:

Yesterday I spent 1.5 hrs with a NPO leader giving them the straight goods on why their org did not qualify for our support. I don’t put it in writing, but I invite them to call me for feedback if they wish it. When they do, they will get my honest evaluation.

At the same time, I am convinced that the messenger needs to deliver the ‘bad news’ with tact and grace.

From my perspective of someone running a growing business, I think it is invaluable to get feedback. We actively solicit feedback from our clients and other people in the field and when all they give is positive comments, we ask them specifically about ways we could improve.

Holden Karnofsky also recently wrote about the importance of feedback to people who want to be the best they can.

One Comment

  1. Obviously any kind of honest feedback is terrific. I also think the nature of the feedback depends on how the grant request was initiated. If a foundation invites an organization to apply and then declines support, it has an obligation to spend some time helping the organization understand where it fell short and what kinds of things it could do to make itself more competitive in the future.