Lessons Learned from Listening to Our Investees
By Mike Kubzansky and Jessica Kiessel
Our work at Omidyar Network is grounded in the belief that people are interdependent, fundamentally good, and inherently capable. We believe that we are at our best when we listen to and learn from the people and organizations we serve.
It’s with that backdrop that we have made a deliberate effort to build out our capability to tune into our constituents’ voices. We have turned to Fund for Shared Insight, Acumen’s Lean Data, RIWI, and others to create a toolbox that will help us better solicit feedback from and listen to those we serve, our investees and their constituents.
Late last year, we asked Keystone Accountability to conduct a survey with our nonprofit and for-profit portfolio organizations to solicit feedback from our investees. Our primary aim was to better understand our portfolio’s perceptions of our interactions and learn how we could better serve them. Of the 237 for-profit and nonprofit investees surveyed, we had a 44% response rate, and 13 organizations also participated in a follow-up interview to dig deeper on our firm’s opportunities for improvement.
Below are the results of the survey and the steps we have taken to respond. We’re sharing them in the spirit of transparency and with the hopes of encouraging greater collaboration and communication across the social impact community.
What’s going well
- Omidyar Network had a net promoter score (NPS) of 60.6, higher than the social investor benchmark of 58.5. Overall, 70% of respondents identified as promoters who would actively recommend Omidyar Network. Nonprofits were stronger promoters with an NPS of 65 than for-profits with a NPS of 43.
- Investees appreciated the high quality of service they receive from Omidyar Network staff. Respondents appreciated Omidyar Network’s quality of service, and almost 80% of respondents reported that they had received support in addition to funding such as informal advice, human capital support, and board service. More than half of respondents found the level of interaction by our staff to be just right, and most found these interactions to be useful.
- “Trust” and “Respect” were seen as the hallmarks of the relationships between Omidyar Network and our investees. Omidyar Network is perceived as having high trust relationships with our investees. This trust was characterized by frank discussions and open dialogue, which was seen as being responsive to investees’ concerns.
What could be better
- Respondents found the time required to close investments to be the most challenging aspect of the investment process. A number of respondents cited reported that a lack of clarity and communication on the decision-making and contracting processes contributed to this issue.
- Our reporting requirements were not seen as useful in managing investees’ work. Fifty-five percent of respondents rated our reporting requirements as not helpful in managing their own work. We acknowledge that there is an opportunity for us to better align our reporting requirements with our investees’ priorities.
- Lack of feedback and support for learning. We heard that a number of investees had not received any feedback from our staff members. However, for those to whom we did provide feedback, the majority (68%) found it useful and “just right.” Investees also said that they would like more support with learning and with adapting their strategies and actions based on their learnings.
Many investees also helpfully provided specific suggestions on changes we should make. These included:
- Provide better communication: Investees asked us to improve our communication in a variety of areas. For example, they asked that we work to set expectations about timelines and requirements for funding, future funding decisions, and better explanations of our internal re-organizations.
- Free up staff to allow deeper engagement: Engaging with Omidyar Network staff is valued, but we heard from many that staff were “overworked” and did not always have sufficient time to devote to their needs.
- Provide more networking opportunities: The networking support we provide to investees is viewed as helpful, and several interviewees said they would like more opportunities to network with other entrepreneurs in the field (including connections to other portfolio companies). Additionally, many would like us to make introductions to other potential funders and promote their work to other funders.
- Take action on the survey: A third of respondents were unsure or thought it was unlikely that we would make improvements based on the survey and urged us to respond to feedback. We hope that our actions will demonstrate otherwise over time.
Feedback as an opportunity to learn, reflect, and improve
Since the survey, we’ve been reflecting on what we heard, and we’ve created action plans to bolster what is working and respond to what is not. We’ve shared the results and our plans with our investees, and to ensure that responding to the investee feedback we received remains an ongoing effort, we have formed a cross-organization working group with representatives from each initiative to ensure that we are collaborating and continuing to strengthen the investee feedback process.
We have found listening to our constituents invaluable in identifying ways in which we can do better and to spur us into action. We believe that listening sets the stage for even stronger collaboration and greater impact in the future. We would encourage others, especially funders, to do the same.
¹ Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a gauge of consumer satisfaction, asking the question, “How likely are you to recommend Omidyar Network to a friend or colleague?”, on a scale of 0–10. NPS = % Promoters — % Detractors. Typically, scores of 0–50 is good with room for improvement and anything about 50 is considered excellent.
² The social investor benchmark includes eight investors: Social Investment Business, Acumen Fund, Grassroots Business Fund, CAF Venturesome, Gray Ghost Ventures, Root Capital, E+Co, and IGNIA.