The State of Constituent Voice

Leading examples

We acknowledge the pioneering work that many different people and organizations are carrying out to deepen participation, voice, and empowerment of the people who are meant to benefit from work to create social value.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s perception reports
A set of surveys that provides foundation leaders with feedback from different constituents, including grantees, staff, and most recently ultimate beneficiaries.

A Gates Foundation – Center for Effective Philanthropy project that surveys opinions of students to produce comparative data to guide schools’ and education funders’ decision making. Check out the stunning MTV video at

DARA’s Humanitarian Response Index
Comparative data that assess the performance of humanitarian donors compared to the ‘Principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship’ defined and approved by the donors.

Citizen Report Cards and Community Scorecards
Tools for assessing the performance of public agencies and NGOs based on citizen judgments. The feedback is used to make improvements in services and keeps service providers accountable to the public.

Measuring Empowerment: Ask Them!
A social movement in Bangladesh used user-generated data to solve the problem of measuring empowerment, and making monitoring and evaluation useful for intended beneficiaries as well as managers and donors.

Listen First
Reports from fieldwork together with a draft set of tools and approaches that NGOs can use to be more accountable to the people they serve.

Outcomes Star
A tool that measures the outcomes of work with homeless people through the assessment of data generated by the service users themselves.

Great Nonprofits
An online tool that provides user-generated data and ratings of peoples’ experiences of nonprofits in the US.

Global Giving
Experimenting with publishing feedback from all constituents involved in projects listed on their online giving marketplace. In one example, SMS and internet feedback from beneficiaries facilitated collective
action to create new leadership, redirect funding and strengthen community ownership of a development project.

Keystone's survey

Our recent survey shows that the overwhelming majority of managers in the development sector attaches a great importance to constituency voice and strongly believes that there is a link between enabling constituency voice and enhanced performance and impact.

It is my impression that all of us involved in international development are falling short in this area, despite sometimes lofty goals. The best are probably small NGOs with strong proximity to primary constituents.”
- A survey respondent

However, when it comes to the practical implementation of the principles of constituency voice, including formal systems to measure relationship quality, it is clear that there is much left to be desired. It seems that the majority of organizations are not currently enabling
constituency voice.


There is improved understanding about the importance of ‘voice’ and more organisations are attempting to put systems in place. However in my opinion these processes are at early stages and are ad hoc and therefore their impact is not extensive.”
- A survey respondent

There are various reasons why the current
state of constituency voice seems to be poor. Among the most important ones are the conflicting incentives that organizations face and the difficulties of balancing relationships with multiple different actors. Authentic engagement with primary constituents tends to take time and increase complexity. These factors do not always fit well with fundraising imperatives – or requirements to hit short term project management goals.

This is an important issue to which many organisations pay lip service. However the overpowering nature of relationships with donors rather than primary constituents precludes this. If donors insisted, it would happen more.”
 - A survey respondent

Associated with this, organizations may not
always have the resources needed to realize constituency voice. This was one of the major findings of the Keystone White Paper on The 21st Century Potential of Constituency Voice: Opportunities for Reform in the
United States Human Services Sector.

On a more positive note, 58 percent of
respondents who gave a rating believe that there is growing commitment to enabling constituency voice in the sector.


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