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Stakeholder reflections: insights from our 2021 feedback survey

In November 2021, Small Foundation conducted our second annual stakeholder feedback survey. Gathering regular feedback supports our ongoing journey to be an effective, responsive, and reflective funder. The survey also demonstrates our values; particularly that we learn every day, and that we are collaborative.  

Our stakeholders shared many helpful insights with us, and we are pleased to now share our consolidated learnings below. 


We received 52 responses to the survey, which was sent to over 100 Small Foundation stakeholders. Recipients included investment, network and research partners; service providers; and organisations we are members of. We were looking for feedback specifically on our engagement over the past year. 

Using our 2020 survey as a template, we built on those learnings while endeavouring to keep enough questions static to enable data comparison. 

Survey responses were anonymous. Using a combination of ranking, Likert scale, qualitative and net promoter scores (NPS), we sought feedback on our processes and how we engage, and on our financial and non-financial support offerings, including on our non-financial support partners. We also asked a selection of demographic questions to help us analyse the responses. 

Figure 1: Small Foundation’s overall NPS 2021

Net promoter scores were a new addition this year. We plan to use the NPS as a means of establishing an overall sense of what it is like to work with us and with some of our main non-financial support partners, and to compare year on year. Our overall NPS score for 2021 falls into the “excellent” category – which we are delighted by but hope to improve on next year.

Small Foundation’s offer

When asked to rank the characteristics of our financial support in helping the partner achieve their goals, ‘flexibility’ was the top choice, followed by ‘length or timeframe of funding’ and ‘amount’.

Figure 2: Ranking of Small Foundation’s financial support characteristics in helping the organisation to reach its goals.

When asked to rank our non-financial support (NFS) offerings, the highest valued were ‘ad-hoc support from Small Foundation partnership manager’,’ impact measurement and management support’, and ‘Converge’s Network Leadership Series’.

What we have done well

In terms of positive impacts of interaction with Small Foundation and our NFS partners, the top answers were that partners felt listened to, and that professional connections increased in a meaningful way.

When asked what we are doing well overall, answers clustered around (in order of most to least):

  • Relationship management/support
  • Strategy/approach
  • Learning/innovation
  • Non-financial support
  • Providing professional connections
  • Openness/flexibility

What we could do better

When asked what could improve the experience of going through our due diligence process for investment, the top choices were to improve the speed of the process and to ensure Small Foundation’s needs are clearly expressed early on.

In terms of what we could do better overall, answers clustered around:

  • General visibility on work & strategy
  • Clarity on investment priorities & partner needs
  • Leverage network & amplify work more
  • Deploy more resources
    • For networks & systems
    • For field & knowledge building

Our influence

We added a new question this year to help us assess our communications and influencing activities: Have you shifted your thinking on a topic or made changes to your work as a result of any engagements with Small Foundation?

We found the responses to be interesting and varied, with notable clusters around the following:

  • Impact management and learning, specifically in relation to network impact
  • Network theory & development
  • Business development advice
  • Sector insights
  • Systems change
  • Learning exchange

Comparing with last year

We were very pleased to receive generally positive feedback over both years for our offerings, approach and relationships. Our flexibility and support of innovation was highly valued across both years, while the value placed on Small Foundation partner manager support increased this year.

In terms of how we could improve, we saw less emphasis on communications and influencing activities this year. Perhaps it was noticed that we’ve been working on these areas over the past year (please follow us on LinkedIn if you do not already and sign up for our quarterly newsletter).

We also found there were fewer suggestions related to streamlining our investment process, but that stakeholders were still looking for more networking opportunities, particularly introductions to other funders working in similar spaces.

Finally, we found that stakeholders still sought clarity on our strategy. We hope to see this appear less in our 2022 survey, as last month we shared our new systems strategy, and will continue sharing our implementation journey and systems learnings along the way.

Thank you

We wish to sincerely thank each stakeholder who participated in our 2021 survey. Once again we were grateful to receive such thoughtful, detailed feedback, giving our stakeholders an opportunity to influence how we work and allowing us an opportunity to reflect.

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