The importance of feedback tools for Not for Profits

In an era where customer feedback is everywhere and easily accessible in the Not for Profit industry, both donors and doers find it difficult to systematically understand the experiences and inclinations of the non-profit consumer, according to a survey carried out by Stanford Social Innovation Review.

It is clear that social innovators want to understand what their clients need. The survey mentioned earlier found that 88% of respondents stated that collecting feedback was one of their top priorities in relation to measuring impact. However only 13% were actually using it as a top source of insight for improving services with a further 66% stating that lack of resources and staff capacity was the most significant barrier to implementing feedback systems.

It seems to be that the main issue is not actually a lack of will, but of feasibility. Twersky & Reichheld have stated that this may be partly down to funders not being willing to pay for approaches to gathering feedback. As well as this consumer feedback has also been ridiculed in not for profit measurement circles as is thought of as a ‘soft measure,’ particularly when compared to third party randomised controlled trials.

Today however, client feedback is emerging as the correct and smart complement to measuring results. It has inspired the Fund for Shared Insight to create tools that will ultimately make it both affordable and easy to listen to end-users. The Fund has created a tool called Listen for Good (L4G), which is based on the Net Promoter System. Approximately 250 not for profits are piloting this survey to try and understand what is and is not working as well as what could improve in their work to serve people who need to use food banks, are at risk of homelessness, people with disabilities etc. The pilots are emphasising how important listening is in areas where imbalances in power between beneficiaries and funders can render the end user silent.

Listen for Good is however only one of the ways in which not for profits are collecting feedback. A lot of them are using low-cost programs or surveys such as Lean Data which gathers beneficiary input. Twersky & Reichheld have seen two key benefits of collecting this type of feedback.

The first is helping clients feel included – An evaluation of Listen for Good found that out of all the organisations that implemented measures to gather feedback, 63% are making changes to their program offerings, with 45% making changes to their operations in order to be more respectful of client experiences and preferences and a further 31% are offering new services. Making these changes which are based on the feedback collected makes beneficiaries feel as though they are being heard and is a very easy way to boost their belief in self-advocacy.

Second is that it helps staff to do their jobs better – A lot of organisations today are changing staff-client interactions as focus groups, surveys and other tools create ideas for innovation. Dr Adrienne Boissy, Clevland Clinic’s chief experience officer states that exchanging ideas which clients can build a two-way relationship which she says can boost happiness, reduce burnout and make serving others sustainable. By committing as an organisation to collect, interpret and respond to client feedback, employees lives are enriched as they are now put in a situation where they can provide great service.

Feedback is an incredibly valuable source of information which is often overlooked. If you are a not for profit you should start making more of a conscious effort to encourage feedback and use some of the tools similar to the ones we have already mentioned. Your organisation as a whole will benefit if you use this information wisely.

The Bridgespan Group (2015) Nonprofit Management Tools and Trends 2015 [Online]

Twerskey, F. Reichheld, F. (2019) Why Customer Feedback Tools Are Vital for Nonprofits [Online]

Milway, K. (2019) What Social Sector Leaders Think About Feedback [Online]

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