Listening, Learning, Improving

Naomi Orensten

Over the better part of the last decade, CEP has worked with Learning for Action (LFA) to regularly survey both CEP’s broad philanthropic stakeholders and users of CEP’s assessment and advisory services to learn more about our impact and how our audience perceives us. This input is crucial to CEP’s continued learning and improvement, and we take what we hear seriously. At the end of May, we received the most recent set of results from these surveys, with responses from about 300 funders.

The 2018 survey seeks to understand funders’ perceptions across a number of dimensions of CEP’s work, engagement with and use of CEP’s research, and experiences as users of CEP’s assessment and advisory services. This year, in light of CEP’s ongoing strategic planning process, we also asked LFA to help us explore additional perceptions of what makes CEP distinctive, and we asked funders what information they need but do not have as they seek to be increasingly effective in their own work.

CEP is committed to transparency and candid feedback in service of ongoing improvement, and it’s in that spirit that we publish the full set of results on our website.

So what did we hear and how are we using this valuable feedback?

We’re heartened that in 2018 we heard many things that feel reinforcing of our efforts to enable higher performing funders. In most cases, we maintained or improved on the strong results of the last time LFA surveyed our audience in 2016. This year, we learned that respondents:

  • Strongly agree that CEP is trusted and engaged in rigorous work (ratings are a 6.1 on a 1-7 scale for both of these measures)
  • Report that CEP’s research is “somewhat to extremely useful” for reflecting on and improving their work (95 percent and 92 percent, respectively)
  • Are highly satisfied (88 percent rate a 6 or 7 on a 1-7 scale) and nearly unanimously likely to recommend CEP’s assessment and advisory services (98 percent)
  • Use results from CEP’s grantee, donor, and staff surveys to make real change in their organizations

Of course, the survey results revealed important areas of opportunity for CEP as well. Compared to ratings of CEP’s expertise and rigor, respondents provided less positive ratings for the extent to which they see us as innovative in our work (5.3 on a 1-7 scale). This wasn’t a total surprise to us, and it has been an ongoing topic of conversation at CEP even before we saw these results. We are taking this feedback to heart and are already working, particularly in our strategic planning process, to create opportunities and approaches that help and encourage all our staff and board members (and stakeholders more broadly) to explore new ideas about how CEP can best help funders create more impact through their work. We also heard a number of interesting ideas for our work through funders’ open-ended comments in the survey that we’ll consider in our planning process. (We invite you to share any of your ideas in the comments here as well.)

Finally, specifically related to our assessment and advisory services engagements, our team has already prioritized a number of specific improvement areas to focus on. These include: connecting users of CEP assessments to relevant research and best practices to help them make change, exploring where we can offer even more flexibility to users in CEP’s online reporting system, and trying new practices to ensure that when we present findings to users over the phone, those presentations are experienced as positively as in-person ones.

We are grateful for this feedback and the several hundred funders who took the time to provide it. We’re also grateful to the LFA team that has patiently helped us collect and understand this feedback. We’re stronger and better when we listen, learn, and ultimately act on this important feedback.

Naomi Orensten is director, research, at CEP. She is supporting CEP’s strategic planning efforts.

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