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2012 EPIP Conference Reflection – Engaging Foundation Stakeholders

Lauren Tulp, our most recent Co-Chair of EPIP Bay Area and Impact Planning and Analysis Associate at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, shares one of her highlighted experiences from this year’s EPIP National Conference:

At this year’s EPIP National Conference I had the opportunity to present a workshop called “Do Nothing About Me Without Me: Engaging Stakeholders for Better Results” with two fantastic staff members of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Andy Freeze and Jason Twiss.

During the session, Andy reviewed the results of the GEO 2011 Field Study. The results show that more funders are asking for feedback from stakeholders, but funders aren’t doing more to seek input when it’s particularly impactful—when they make decisions. Potential foundation stakeholders might include grantees, community members and external experts.

Strategies we at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation have used to engage stakeholders include:

  • Participating in grantee and staff surveys with the Center for Effective Philanthropy (we recognize staff are key internal stakeholders!)
  • Creating a 10-Year Review with interviews of staff, board members, grantees and experts to inform future decision-making
  • Convening advisory boards of experts and grantees to provide feedback on program strategies
  • Sharing decision-making and funding responsibilities through collaborations such as the Climate and Land Use Alliance and Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Moore Foundation Plant Biology Investigators
  • Using crowdsourcing techniques to poll the scientific community about opportunities to make transformative change through a request for ideas (RFI)

These are great steps, although I think we still have room to do more. Which leads me to another topic we addressed in the workshop—how it can be especially difficult to encourage stakeholder engagement when you’re a junior staff member. During the session, we discussed some of the challenges to convincing others in your organization of the importance of stakeholder engagement and strategies you can use to make change, including asking key questions and helping design effective engagement processes.

Thank you to everyone who attended the session for your great ideas and participation! I was impressed with everyone’s thoughtfulness on this issue and commitment to making philanthropy more responsive and accountable.