Letting funders meet constituents

Engaging with constituents, as noble as it sounds, is often easier said than done. By engaging with the people served, nonprofits can do an even better job of delivering the broad range of needed services they provide.

When it comes to constituent engagement, however, the effort does not have to be limited to management or even staff. The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists, published a report “From Input to Ownership” that offers tips on how funders can help nonprofits engage with the people they serve to carry out their missions.

The report suggests the following:

  • Ask grantees what they are already doing to engage constituents. Build dialogues on this topic into due diligence, regular check-ins and grant reporting processes. If grantees are required to have some kind of constituent input, make sure they are not check-the-box exercises.
  • Fund constituent engagement efforts. Consider funding constituent feedback systems for individual grantees, when feasible, or for multiple grantees operating in the same field.
  • Take a second look at deeply constituent-driven organizations. Organizations that engage constituents through co-creation and especially ownership often fly under the radar because they tend to be smaller and community based.
  • Model good behavior by authentically gathering grantee and community feedback in the organization’s work.