When I prepare a new recipe for family and friends I always ask them what they thought about it. Often, I hear “it’s a keeper” and sometimes I get “never make that again.” Each person has their own idea of feedback and shares it very enthusiastically. Once I receive their input it’s up to me to decide how to use it. Do I adjust on the ingredients or cook time? Do I trash the recipe or decide I will make it again another time? Or do I ignore what they have said and just keep plugging away the way I want to? Feedback is a gift, but it’s what you do with it once received that’s important.
In the nonprofit world organizations need to know how they are doing. They need to know their strengths and weaknesses. They need to know if they are meeting the needs of their clients. Most importantly then need to know what can be done to improve or expand their services. The only way to do this is to reach out to clients, employees, funders and volunteers to request feedback. From there the organization then needs to collect and interpret the information and act on the results. When this is done, it creates a “feedback loop.”
“Feedback loops are created as an intentional process to ensure organizations are listening to what their clients are saying and second, that they are incorporating those suggestions into the operations and activities.” (Jennifer Chandler, The Power of Feedback). The most critical component of the feedback process is to develop a plan. Using different options to request feedback might include on-line surveys, one on one interviews, or suggestion boxes. But a clear concise plan will make the process impactful and effective.
Melinda T. Tuan suggests starting with designing an effective feedback loop by carefully considering the timing and evaluating the frequency of asking for feedback. From here her article Four Early Lessons Learned in the Quest to Improve Feedback Loops in Philanthropy provides insight on how to collect the data; interpret the information and then close the feedback loop. Take a moment to read her suggestions. They are certainly worth it.
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” Bill Gates
The Power of Feedback. Jennifer Chandler. https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/thought-leadership/the-power-of-feedback
Four Early Lessons Learned in the Quest to Improve Feedback Loops in Philanthropy. Melinda T. Tuan. http://www.bethkanter.org/feedback-loops/
Program & Outreach Director for VCMC