Using Feedback to Strengthen our Work

By: Iris Garcia

As a racial justice foundation, we continually look for ways to incorporate our values of accountability and transparency into our work. One tool that we recently used to gather feedback from our partners was a grantee and applicant survey. Last September, Akonadi surveyed 228 organizations that had applied for and/or received funding since 2015. The survey’s intent was to complement our other learning tools and encourage grantees and applicants to offer anonymous feedback. We collected responses from 59 organizations; this input has helped us understand how grantees and applicants perceive us.

  • We asked open-ended questions about what we are doing well and what we could improve.
  • We asked whether grantees and applicants felt respected by Akonadi and whether they were satisfied with our communications about funding opportunities.
  • We also used the survey as a tool to help us understand our impact in Oakland and to strategize for the future.

We found grantees’ and applicants’ positive responses to our work invigorating, and we were particularly grateful for survey respondents’ constructive feedback. Among the important point our constituents made:

1) The desire for Akonadi to grant a higher percentage of the amount requested. Our perspective had focused on a desire to stretch our Beloved Community Fund budget to provide at least some funding to multiple projects. This feedback caused us to reflect on the hardship to our partners when we fund only a small proportion of a project budget and yet require that events be free. This year, we are committed to providing funding at a level closer to the requested amount for projects that are strongly aligned with our criteria promoting arts and culture and racial justice for communities of color.

2) The desire for deeper engagement with Akonadi and space to connect with other grantees. Almost 40% of survey respondents recommended that Akonadi convene its partners in some way. One respondent stated, “I would love to meet with Program Officers just so they could remain updated and advocate for us beyond the fund.” Suggestions included ongoing movement discussions, hosting a forum on racial justice, TED-style talks with grantee leaders, and convenings at which grantees share how they used Akonadi funding. This feedback infused our planning discussions and we intend to produce several convenings in 2017, ranging from informal grantee luncheons to gatherings focused on movement-building and the role of culture and healing in racial equity work. We hope that providing convening space and being available to attend grantee events will lead to deeper engagement and a sense of solidarity with our partners.

3) Displacement continues to be a concern for our partners. Groups have experienced difficulty in securing event venues in their neighborhoods or accessing space where they can convene their youth members. Akonadi is challenging itself to be creative in using our funding and influence to leverage access to physical space for our partners and our community. We are working on updating our list of event venues and will continue to be a resource for groups seeking affordable space in their city.

We deeply appreciate our survey respondents’ time and honesty. We plan to share a more in-depth summary of the survey results, and we hope to incorporate what we have learned from the survey as we continue to assess our relevance and accountability to our community. We are honored that our partners trust us with their honest input and vision for a racially just Oakland.

 

Members of BoomShake: Music for a celebration of music in dangerous times
Beloved Community Fund Grantee