Effective Philanthropy

Insights from the Feedback+San Juan Summit

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

Siegel Family Endowment Executive Director Katy Knight addresses funders and guests at Feedback Labs’ Feedback+San Juan summit

Last week, Siegel Family Endowment co-hosted a funders dinner at Feedback Labs’ Feedback+San Juan summit in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We saw an opportunity to advocate within the funding community on behalf of behaviors that we think are equitable, just, and effective – values that we share with the wider Feedback Labs community. This convening was an important moment to highlight some of the values that we’ve prioritized in our grantmaking work, and to collaborate with other funders on strengthening our collective effectiveness. 

We came away from the summit thinking about the following takeaways:

  • Who you listen to matters: Accepting feedback and guidance from others is important, but make sure you’re getting the right voices in the room. As funders, our tendency to prioritize the voices of our philanthropic peers can get us stuck within our own bubbles. We need to prioritize listening to those with the best know-how, the people who do the work on the ground every day, and members of the communities where work that we support takes place.
  • Listening will help you do things right the first time: We were lucky to hear from Mayor Julia Nazario Fuentes of Loíza and Mayor Bernardo “Betito” Márquez of Toa Baja about prioritizing and targeting resources in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. In the immediate aftermath of the storms, they found that individual community members held a wealth of expertise, and knew better than anyone about where and how resources should be directed and prioritized to make the greatest impact. Going directly to members of the community saved critical time and effort, and helped them get things right in a situation with limited room for error. This practice also ultimately increased their efficiency, and left them able to make a bigger impact sooner on the people most affected by the disaster.
  • Make your process reflect your values: This year at SFE, we’re building more questions into our grantmaking process that interrogate how organizations incorporate input from the communities they serve. Formalizing this value as a part of our process will hold us accountable to making feedback a priority, and we hope other funders will do the same.

We hope that this guidance helps other funders make better decisions, listen better, and do more effective work. When we listen to each other, we all stand to do better. We plan to continue learning, sharing, and iterating in this space, and hope you’ll continue to learn along with us!