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Listening and learning: Small Foundation stakeholder survey 2022

Small Foundation’s annual stakeholder feedback survey brings us valuable insights and learning each year. There are many facets to being a good partner and impactful ecosystem actor; listening to our partners and peers helps us learn and improve.

The November 2022 survey was our third consecutive annual survey, enabling us to compare perceptions of our performance and work over time. The survey affords an opportunity to tap into insights and priorities from our wider network across different parts of our system, and to see how things are changing.

Key takeaways

We were delighted to receive generally strong endorsement again this year for our mission, activities and behaviours; though equally grateful to learn where we need to improve.

Our funding, relationships, and non-financial support (NFS) offerings have positive impact, including from our NFS partners which continue to be highly rated. In financial partnerships the flexible nature of our funding is highly valued, as is our generally flexible approach.

Communication and collaboration with Small Foundation is seen by our partners as both (strongly) core to what we are doing right, and (more gently) areas for us to continue improving on. We saw increased reference to our value as a connector and continued expressions that we improve this capability, including through hosting our own convenings.

Compared to previous years our portfolio of partnerships was better understood, our systems strategy was resonating, and we were viewed as ecosystem builders and communicators, and as a supporter and promoter of networks.


We received 44 responses to the survey, which was sent to over 100 Small Foundation stakeholders. Recipients included investment, network and research partners; service providers; thoughts and learning partners; and organisations we are members of. We were looking for feedback specifically on our engagement over the past year.

Building on our 2020 and 2021 surveys, we designed the latest iteration to improve clarity and learnings, while repeating as many questions as possible to enable data comparison. Using a combination of ranking, Likert scale, qualitative and net promoter scores (NPS), we sought feedback on our processes, how we engage, and our financial and NFS offerings, including on our NFS partners.

We also asked a selection of demographic questions to help us better analyse the data, as survey responses are anonymous.

“How likely are you to recommend engaging with Small Foundation to others?”

Last year we established the NPS as a means of ascertaining an overall and comparable sense of what it is like to work with Small Foundation and with our main non-financial support partners. We were pleased that our NPS score for 2022 fell into the “excellent” category once again, though the figure was lower than last year’s.

The NPS and the survey itself are not perfect tools for annual comparison data, but we can benchmark against ourselves over time.

(Some of) what we have learned

On engagement with partners (see table below), in 2022 83% of overall answers were ‘agree’ or better to having positive engagement, a slight improvement on 2021’s 79%.

Drilling down:

  • We could be listening more to partners.
  • Our value as a connector is growing – but there are partners that would benefit from more emphasis on this role.

What we have done well

When asked what we are doing well overall, the following themes emerged:

  • Relationships. We are humbled and pleased that this was again the top answer, with mentions of listening, support, honesty, professionalism, and
  • Our non-financial support offerings, including input and expertise and impact measurement & learning advice.
  • Our network practice – specifically the support and promotion of networks, and network IMM.
  • Our communications, including sharing best practice and knowledge.
  • Our collaborative approach to partnership.
  • Our value as an ecosystem connector.

While these themes vary each year, the overall clusters have remained broadly consistent. Relationships and partner support have been the most consistently cited theme each year by a wide margin.

What we could do better

When asked what Small Foundation could be doing better, the following themes emerged (note there was less alignment than in the previous question, as well as about 30% fewer responses):

  • Increase external communications activities, particularly around partners, learning, themes, and visibility of our own profile.
  • Improve our direct communications and transparency with partners and potential partners.
  • Facilitate convenings with partners and other ecosystem actors.
  • Engage more in ecosystem research and learning.

Despite some variability each year the underlying concepts are fairly constant: our stakeholders seek improvements on visibility, clarity, communication, and how we leverage our network.

Shifts in thinking

We ask the following to help us assess which aspects of our work are resonating with stakeholders: Have you shifted your thinking on a topic or made changes to your work as a result of any engagements with Small Foundation?

We first asked this question last year without any expectations, and were pleasantly surprised by the thoughtful, varied responses received. This year was no different, with answers clustering around:


We have tried to listen to our stakeholders and believe that our changes have been positively reflected in the most recent survey. We have provided more clarity on our strategy, work, and partnerships; our due diligence process; and how we are contributing to ecosystem knowledge and increasing the profiles of our partners and ourselves.

We are grateful for the latest insights and suggestions from our stakeholders, and are eager to improve where we are able. Thank you to our survey respondents for your time and engagement, and for your continued thoughtfulness. Your feedback is extremely important to us.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

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