According to the Center for Effective Philanthropy, practically all not-for-profits in the United States solicit feedback from their clients when designing programs and services. However, resource constraints — lack of adequate staffing, funding and sophisticated technology — may mean that they don’t collect data as often as they’d like or use it as well as they could.
If you’d like to collect more, and more meaningful, feedback from the beneficiaries of your nonprofit’s services, here are five suggestions:
1. Use Every Opportunity. Each encounter with a client is an opportunity to solicit feedback. So include online surveys with your email newsletters, request feedback on your website and pull aside clients when working in the field. When you receive verbal feedback, follow up in writing so you have a record of the conversation and can easily share it with others in your organization.
2. Take Full Advantage of Social Media. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are free, easily accessible and frequent destinations for many of your clients. Use any available survey tools, regularly invite viewers to leave comments about your posts — or even ask them to recommend or write a review of your nonprofit. Also provide an email address or SMS number for texts so that clients can contact you directly.
3. Don’t Neglect the “Off-Liners.” Depending on the population you serve (for example, lower income or elderly people), not all clients may have easy internet access or social media accounts. Keep paper surveys, and even an old-fashioned suggestion box, handy in your office.
4. Show Your Appreciation. Let your clients know that you’re listening. Thank them for every communication and, when possible, let them know how you’re using their feedback to address shortcomings and make improvements. In some cases, you may want to schedule one-on-one meetings or focus groups where you can discuss plans in greater detail and let clients know how valuable they are to the decision-making process.
5. Find Funding. If budgetary limitations are preventing you from seeking client feedback, look for financing. For example, the Fund for Shared Insight matches nonprofits seeking to improve client feedback loops with foundations giving grants for such research.