General FAQ

What is Fund for Shared Insight?

Fund for Shared Insight (Shared Insight) is a funder collaborative working to improve philanthropy from the inside out, and informed by insights from the people we serve. Shared Insight emerged from the belief that we as funders are the most effective and can do the most good in the world if we are more open – open to sharing with each other what we learn, and open to hearing from, and acting on, what we hear from our grantees and the people we seek to help.

Shared Insight pools financial and other resources to provide grants, technical assistance, and community-building through collaborative philanthropy. Our efforts foster more openness and information sharing among funders; support the implementation of high-quality feedback loops at nonprofits serving diverse populations; and drive research examining how openness and feedback can lead to better results.

Download the Fund for Shared Insight brochure

Listen to Melinda Tuan, Managing Director of Fund for Shared Insight, explain Fund for Shared Insight

Business of Giving Podcast, (15 minutes)
Who is involved with Fund for Shared Insight?

Core funders are the Rita Allen Foundation, Barr Foundation, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The JPB Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and The Rockefeller Foundation. Sidecar funders, additional funders that provide project-specific support, are LiquidNet, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Omidyar Network, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Walton Family 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 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 Fund for Shared Insight come about?

Fund for Shared Insight launched in July 2014, after a year of exploratory conversations among small groups of funders around the country. Led by Fay Twersky, the then-newly appointed director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group, the meetings were meant to stimulate ideas around what role foundations could take in improving philanthropy. Even as the number and size of U.S. funding organizations were growing, the amount of funding for philanthropic-infrastructure groups or other efforts to assess and improve grantmaking remained relatively limited. A small group of initial funders decided together that the challenge would be best tackled through collaborative funding – bringing not only more dollars, but also more attention to improving philanthropy.

At the start, seven funders joined together to form Shared Insight, focusing their efforts to make grantmaking more effective by promoting more openness and listening more closely to the people we seek to help. They set up a fund at Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and by the fall of 2014, the group was making grants in the field, investing in information-sharing efforts and practice and research around feedback loops. Since then, Shared Insight has grown to include more than three dozen funders, making $14.5-million in grants to 70 nonprofits in the pursuit of more effective philanthropy. As Shared Insight continues to grow each year, it has solidified its commitment to incorporating lenses of diversity, equity, and inclusion in its work.

Why are you focused on improving philanthropy?

To us, improving philanthropy means improving the world. Private foundations control tens of billions of philanthropic dollars, which can best be spent — most effectively and efficiently — only if grantmakers are constantly improving what we do and how we do it. Fund for Shared Insight was created because we believe the impact of our philanthropy is greatly enhanced when we learn from each other, the nonprofits we support, and the people we ultimately seek to help.

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

Fund for Shared Insight pooled approximately $20-million over our first three years (2014 – 2017), and have granted roughly $14.5-million of that. In addition, we have provided substantial technical assistance and in-kind support to our Listen for Good portfolio. We expect to continue to grant a majority of our pooled funds over the next phase of the initiative (2017 – 2020), and we expect to have even more money to give away as more funders join Shared Insight or align their giving with our 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, managing director, at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org for more information.

What does Fund for Shared Insight support through its grants?

Fund for Shared Insight makes grants to 501(c)(3) organizations in three areas:

  1. Feedback Practice: Advancing the practice of building and implementing feedback loops to listen to, learn from, and act on what we hear from the people we seek to help
  2. Feedback Research: Advancing 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. Foundation Openness: Advancing the culture and practice of foundation listening and sharing

To further enhance our efforts to support Feedback Practice, Shared Insight, in 2016, launched Listen for Good (L4G), an initiative dedicated to building simple, robust, and systematic feedback loops by broadly applying the Net Promoter System (NPS®), a widely-used customer-service tool, to the nonprofit beneficiary context.

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, managing director, at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org for more information.

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

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”?

People use a variety of terminology to describe the people we seek to help, including “beneficiaries,” “clients,” “ultimate constituents”, and “ultimate intended constituents”. For the purpose of mutual understanding in the work of Fund for Shared Insight, we primarily use the phrase “the people we seek to help” – recognizing that we don’t always reach the people we want to help.

Beneficiaries from whom feedback will be collected must be the ultimate intended beneficiary receiving services and represent individuals whose voices are least heard. For example, these might be families visiting food pantries, youth attending afterschool academic and enrichment programs, residents living in public housing, recent immigrants using legal-aid services, or individuals participating in job-training programs. Ultimate beneficiaries as defined here are not teachers, nurses, social entrepreneurs, or others whom we would consider “intermediaries” to the people we ultimately seek to help.

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

See What We Fund for more information or contact Melinda Tuan, managing director, at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org.

How can I get involved?

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 Fund for Shared Insight between meetings
  • Join as a sidecar funder. These are funders who want to support the work of Shared Insight but cannot make the three-year, $250,000/year minimum commitment. Sidecar funders provide a one- or two-year grant to support Shared Insight for general support or targeted for a specific geography or activity.
  • 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
  • Become a co-funder by nominating your grantee(s) to participate in  Listen for Good  and by helping to support the initiative.
  • Send us any ideas or advice about this work – things that might help or hurdles to consider

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

We are growing, learning, and changing, so please check back for updates. For more information on how to get involved with Fund for Shared Insight, please contact Melinda Tuan, managing director, at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org.

Who can I contact for more information?

Melinda Tuan is the managing director for Fund for Shared Insight. She can be reached at melinda@fundforsharedinsight.org.