A growing number of grantmakers are soliciting feedback from their applicants and grantees by encouraging reviews on GrantAdvisor.org. Some funders send emails after grant application deadlines, while others link directly to their GrantAdvisor profile on their webpage.

We were curious to know how these grantmakers are using your feedback. We reached out to Samantha Walters, VP of Corporate Strategy at Colocation America. Walters asked for feedback and garnered enough reviews for Colocation America’s profile to be published in one day.

GA: Was the feedback helpful to you and did you make any changes to your grantmaking process as a result?

CLA: Yes! It was very interesting and useful to see the responses from applicants which are influencing our grantmaking process.

For one, we received comments that we are “hard to reach” or we do not provide “feedback.” In this regard, we will change the wording at the end of the grant process. We are going to add in, after the person submits their application, that we are “willing to provide feedback, please email us directly.” We hope this will encourage people to reach out rather than wait for us to contact them – we do not have the capacity to respond to everyone who applies but we are open to providing feedback when it is requested.

In addition, we updated our application form which should reduce tech issues that may result in us being “hard to reach.”  We will be able to monitor who started an application, but hasn’t completed it. This will allow us to follow up with folks throughout the application process. Our hope is that this will show we remain in contact with applicants while they apply.

The second point we noticed was on the competitive nature of the grant. Unfortunately, this is not an easy issue to address without changing the broad approach we have taken for our grant. Instead of changing the terms, we have decided to re-write/create a grant guidelines page. We’ll also include, once launched, GrantAdvisor in the “Additional Helpful Information” section of the webpage so that organizations applying can see the reviews of organizations that have already applied.

Also, thanks to the responsiveness of the applicants to fill out the GrantAdvisor review, we are going to continue it! We are going to send out a specific email requesting feedback after the application process is complete. We hope this will help with both points as it proves our commitment to receiving feedback, improving our grant process, and, overall, the nonprofit community.

GA: Were you or anyone on your team worried about negative reviews?

CLA: I am always more worried about getting NO negative reviews. Not everyone will be happy so negative reviews are part of the legitimizing process. If someone is willing to post a review (positive or negative) then they really do care about your work and organization/foundation. This, to me, shows more about the validity of the grant than anything else.

When you solicit for feedback, you are setting yourself and the organization/foundation up for ridicule. People do not like to hear criticism but its part of the improving process. We see feedback on review sites (like GrantAdvisor) as a way to show people we exist, we care, and we are here for them. At the core of our business, we are consultants, we are helpers, we are people-people. Asking for honest feedback is just part of being authentic. Sure, it’s a risk but one we are willing to make.

Solicit feedback for your foundation

If you work for a foundation and are interested in soliciting feedback, download our GrantAdvisor Grantmaker Tool Kit.

Before sending out your ask to applicants, make sure to register as a key contact so you can respond to anonymous reviews when they are submitted.