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Fund for Shared Insight

September 24, 2018

Launched in 2014, Fund for Shared Insight is a funder collaborative aimed at improving philanthropy through joint grantmaking. It puts special emphasis on promoting the practice of feedback as a complement to monitoring and evaluation to help nonprofits and foundations be more connected and responsive to the people and communities they seek to serve. Through collaborative philanthropy, Shared Insight pools resources to provide grants, technical assistance, community-building platforms, and inspiration to support a more effective social sector.

The idea for such an effort started with leaders at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation who observed there was too little funding for infrastructure groups to assess and improve grantmaking. In response, Hewlett invited other funders, including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Rita Allen Foundation, The JPB Foundation, Liquidnet, and the W.K Kellogg Foundation, to discuss how to strengthen beneficiary feedback and share best practices and lessons learned in grantmaking. The group committed to pooling $6 million per year into a fund at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) to support efforts to make philanthropy more effective. The collaborative, now known as Fund for Shared Insight, employs a portfolio approach to grantmaking with an emphasis on building nonprofit feedback practice, building foundation feedback practice, building a feedback field, and exploring other ways to help foundations and nonprofits meaningfully connect with the people and communities they seek to help. In 2014, Shared Insight funded primarily higher-capacity nonprofits. Since 2016, with the launch of its signature initiative Listen for Good, Shared Insight’s grant portfolio includes smaller, grassroots, direct-service organizations.

During its formation, Shared Insight put great emphasis on creating norms and codes of behavior that promoted openness, equity, and trust among funders. This organizational culture was established early on following a series of extended discussions on contested issues among core funders. These tough conversations at the outset resulted in a collective trust that permits Shared Insight to navigate difficult decisions.

Shared Insight regularly performs monitoring and evaluation on its programs to assess its impact in meaningfully connecting foundations, nonprofits, and the people and communities they seek to serve. Within the first year of grantmaking, Shared Insight realized that its theory of change needed modification, and that it needed to figure out a way to reach more nonprofits and more funders. As a result, in 2016, Shared Insight established Listen for Good (L4G), a scalable and replicable platform for organizations to systematically collect and respond to user feedback.

With L4G, Shared Insight’s theory of change focused in on embracing beneficiary feedback as an essential complement to monitoring and evaluation in order to improve philanthropic and nonprofit practice. Around the same time, the collaborative’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) was evolving. In seeking to change philanthropy, its end goal was always that people and communities, especially those whose voices are least heard, will be better off in ways they define for themselves. But Shared Insight learned along the way that simply having foundational values of EDI was not enough, and so it created targets and an explicit focus on EDI learning to better encourage listening in line with these core values.

Shared Insight has been successful in promoting meaningful user feedback practices and in supporting a more effective social sector because of its collaborative structure and willingness to trust, learn, and improve. With no lead funder, Shared Insight is an independent entity with a dedicated management staff. It actively incorporates lenses of equity, diversity, and inclusion into its work and continues to evolve as a funder collaborative dedicated to systems change that promotes more effective grantmaking through meaningful communication and connection. In less than four years, Shared Insight has not only developed a proven and universally adoptable feedback tool, but has also united 78 funders to grant $21.1 million to 184 nonprofits nationwide.

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