Jeff Raikes and other senior leaders at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today engaged in a conference call with 2,000 or so grant recipients in order to improve their ability to communicate.
Raikes said it’s especially difficult to get honest, critical feedback in philanthropy — as compared to business — because of the unique nature of the enterprise. Says Raikes:
There are no “natural” feedback loops built in – if you’re doing something that is not helpful or impactful – your grantee partners are not likely to tell you. It takes a long time to get meaningful data on how we’re doing.
This has been a bit of a chronic problem for the Seattle mega-philanthropy. I wrote about this most recently in a glib (attempt at humor) post last August when the Gates Foundation 2010 annual report was issued:
Basically, I was noting that the Gates Foundation is widely viewed by many outsiders, including grant recipients, as somewhat inscrutable. It has been saying for years it wants to improve on its ability to communicate with perhaps little evidence of improvement (and even as its annual report has dramatically shrunk in size, a good thing but symbolically irresistable to me): Continue reading