What is the Fund for Shared Insight?

A: Fund for Shared Insight (“Shared Insight”) is a collaborative effort among funders that pools financial and other resources to make grants to improve philanthropy. Shared Insight emerged from our belief that foundations will be more effective and make an even bigger difference in the world if we are more open – if we share what we are learning and are open to what others want to share with us, including grantees and the people we seek to help. 

Shared Insight aims to do this by providing grants to nonprofit organizations to encourage and incorporate feedback from the people we seek to help; understand the connection between feedback and better results; foster more openness between and among foundations and grantees; and share what we learn.

Download the Fund for Shared Insight brochure (pdf)

Listen to Melinda Tuan, Project Manager of the Fund for Shared Insight, explain the Fund for Shared Insight (Business of Giving Podcast, 15 minutes)

 

Who is involved with Fund for Shared Insight?

A: Core funders are: the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The JPB Foundation, Liquidnet, the Rita Allen Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, and The Rockefeller Foundation. Additional Funders who provide project specific support include the James Irvine Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Also, through our Listen for Good initiative, we have engaged dozens of other funders in our work to hear from the people we seek to help. We welcome other funders to join this effort which will unfold over several years. Fund for Shared Insight is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

 

How did the Fund for Shared Insight come about?

A: The Fund for Shared Insight is a collaboration between eight funders that formed organically in 2013 and 2014. Shared Insight officially launched in July 2014, and operates with a rigorous, but emergent approach to strategy and commitment to measurement.

In 2013, Fay Twersky, the newly appointed Director of the Effective Philanthropy Group at the Hewlett Foundation engaged other funders in small groups across the country. The goal of these meetings was to hear from other foundations about how we could improve philanthropy given the relatively small pie of funding for philanthropic infrastructure organizations and the simultaneous growth in the number of foundations. We knew this challenge would be best tackled through collaborative funding – bringing not only more dollars, but also more attention to improving philanthropy.

The plan for creating a pooled fund to support improving philanthropy was also shaped by some funders’ experience with the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation’s capital aggregation work. The group of interested funders believed creating a pooled fund will be an effective and efficient way to learn together, signal seriousness and commitment, and ensure continuity of funding beyond any individual at any single foundation. The group also believed pooled funding can streamline the grantmaking process for prospective grantees, leverage resources, and distribute risk for individual funders.

In February 2014, we held a preliminary meeting of interested funders and the group agreed that our strategy to improve philanthropy would focus on increasing openness in foundations and in particular hearing from the people we want to help. We set up a fund at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and officially kicked off the Fund for Shared Insight at a July 2014 meeting in which we formalized our strategic framework, theory of change, and plan for making the first year of grants in Fall 2014.

 

Why are you focused on improving philanthropy?

A: We believe foundations and philanthropy serve as a means to an end. We aim to make social and environmental impact on the world. Private foundations with at least two paid staff control nearly $40 billion of giving. We believe we can make an even bigger difference in the world with that $40 billion dollars if foundations encourage and incorporate feedback from the people we seek to help; understand the connection between feedback and better results; foster more openness between and among foundations and grantees; and share what we learn. 

For more background on our thinking to date please see Sharing Our Grantmaking Process.

 

How much money will the Fund for Shared Insight give away each year?

A: We have pooled approximately $20M over three years and expect to grant a majority of that over the lifetime of the initiative (2015 – 2017). Over time, as more funders join the Fund for Shared Insight, we expect we may have more money to give away and funders who will align their own giving with this work. Details on our past grantees and specific award amounts can be found on Awarded Grants More details on the request for proposals and criteria for funding can be found on What We Fund, or contact Melinda Tuan, project manager, at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org for more information.

 

What does the Fund for Shared Insight support through its grants?

A: We want to increase openness in foundations in the U.S. by providing grants to support 501c3 organizations to:

  1. Advance the practice of using feedback loops to hear from the people we seek to help
  2. Advance the research base to identify how feedback data may be best collected and whether there may be some perceptual and/or experience data that can serve as leading indicators of change 
  3. Support efforts to increase foundation openness in service of effectiveness 

Nonprofit organizations may apply for grants in all three of these categories above. 

We will not make program-related investments, enter into contracts for this work, or invest in for-profit organizations. We anticipate the overall portfolio of funded work will be more domestically focused. 

Please reference What We Fund for more detailed information about our grants or contact Melinda Tuan, project manager, at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org for more information.

 

What is “openness” and why did you choose to focus on it?

A: By “openness,” we mean how foundations share about their goals and strategies; make decisions and measure progress; listen and engage in dialogue with others, act on what they hear, and share what they themselves have learned.

We chose to focus on openness because there are currently very few examples of private foundations listening to those we want to help in a rigorous or systematic way, and using what we hear to inform our work. Few examples exist of nonprofit organizations systematically soliciting feedback from those they serve. Philanthropy has historically resisted efforts to incorporate feedback from grantees and the people they seek to help. Philanthropy is also resistant to openly examine failures and share lessons learned. Without a focus on this emerging practice or grants to help us explore this uncharted territory, we believe this work will not happen on its own. 

 

What do you mean by “the people we seek to help”? 

A: When we talk about "the people we seek to help," we are referring to, for example, the students served by charter schools, the recently released prisoners benefiting from job-training services, and the low-income first-time mothers participating in pre-natal through birth programs. In our first two categories of grantmaking (see What We Fund), our focus is providing grants to increase the practice of and research on hearing from the people we seek to help. 

 

What are some examples of the kinds of activities you fund?

See Awarded Grants for a list of past and current grantees and their specific activities.

A: Examples of the types of activities we fund in the practice area include:

  • Efforts to consistently collect feedback from the people we seek to help across multiple sites of an organization or across a network of organizations
  • Efforts to evaluate current feedback mechanisms that then inform systematic feedback design and approach to ensure end beneficiaries have a voice and help drive decisions
  • Efforts to create a commons for feedback for organizations to openly share data they’ve collected from the people we seek to help for comparison purposes

Examples of the types of activities we fund in the research area include:

  • Efforts to advance the research base by testing and identifying the most successful methods for rigorous, systematic collection of client feedback to then be rolled out across a broad network of sites
  • Efforts to incorporate hearing from the people we want to help into existing research on program outcomes
  • Efforts to look at the relationship between perceptual feedback from the people we want to help and the outcomes that are achieved down the road
Examples of the types of activities we fund to increase foundation openness and promote more listening and sharing include but are not limited to:
  • Foundation sharing and dialogue on what works and what doesn’t
    • Regional or national organizations sponsoring series of events about failure or “when things don’t go right” where foundations and nonprofits are sharing and learning together
    • Efforts to promote and scale more external sharing and listening by foundations, with grantees and/or with the people that foundations seek to help
    • Efforts to address the internal sharing and listening practices that may lead to external practice—particularly efforts focused on leadership by foundation CEOs and boards
    • Creation or improvement of incentives, systems or platforms to facilitate foundation openness – particularly sharing knowledge and insights about what does and doesn’t work, and/or how foundations assess their own performance

  • Foundations engaging in high-quality feedback loops
    • Forums to engage foundation trustees, directors, and CEOs in discussions of feedback and why and how feedback can constructively contribute to increased effectiveness

  • Advancing the knowledge and practice of foundation openness
    • Groups of foundations engaging in peer consultations to foster organizational cultures and practices within their own foundations that support and encourage openness
    • Learning communities of nonprofits and foundations about how to catalyze more openness among staffed foundations
    • Research and/or case studies about foundations who have been serious about being open to change based upon feedback
    • Evaluations of foundation openness efforts, especially those that assess whether there is a link between openness and philanthropic effectiveness

Where can I find more information about grant opportunities and proposal deadlines?

A: See What We Fund for more information or contact Melinda Tuan, project manager, at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org

 

How can I get involved?

A: We welcome funder involvement in several key ways: 

  • Join as a core funder by contributing a minimum of $250,000/year with the intention of funding for three consecutive years. The core funders meet in person 2-3 times per year and can be more or less engaged in activities of the Fund for Shared Insight between meetings
  • Let us know if you are interested in "shovel-ready" projects – proposals we receive as part of our grantmaking process that might align with work your foundation funds
  • Nominate your grantees to participate in our Listen for Good initiative
  • Send us any ideas or advice about this work – things that might help or hurdles to consider
  • Participate in our open feedback process

We also welcome other members of the social sector to get involved in several key ways:

  • Apply for funding for projects that meet our grantmaking criteria
  • Send us names of organizations to consider funding through the grantmaking process
  • Send us any ideas or advice about this work – things that might help or hurdles to consider
  • Participate in our open feedback process

In the future, we expect to convene conversations about what we are learning through our work and will post updates on this website. For more information on how to get involved with Fund for Shared Insight, please contact Melinda Tuan, project manager, at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org.

Who can I contact for more information?

A: Melinda Tuan is the project manager for Fund for Shared Insight. She can be reached at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org.