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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Constituent Feedback: The Key to Impact Reporting?


Charity Navigator is dedicated to making impactful philanthropy easier for all. To that end, we are undertaking new initiatives that will allow donors to better understand the impact of their donations or charitable investments. There are many ways to define “impact” and even more ways to assess it. One potentially important measure of program results may lie in the hands of an organization’s beneficiaries.

Much like customer feedback can stand to boost a company’s bottom line, listening, collecting, and responding to constituent feedback may serve to improve the overall impact of organizations in the social sector. 

By opening direct lines of communication with their beneficiaries, charities can gain valuable insight and feedback into how their programs are working for the people they serve. Are the people the organization aims to serve truly benefiting from its support, services, or advocacy-related activities? If so, how can the organization continue to build upon this success? And, if not, what can be done differently to ensure that the needs of its constituents are being met?

We believe organizations that gather data through meaningful and compassionate conversations with their constituents and parlay what they glean into actions that improve their services may be more impactful. We’ve partnered with Feedback Labs, Candid, GlobalGiving, Listen for Good, Acumen, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Bridges Fund Management, Development Gateway, and Keystone Accountability to determine guiding principles for organizations seeking to adopt or improve their constituent feedback collection practices. Today we are happy to announce that version 1.0 of the Principles of Constituent Feedback are publicly available.

Charity Navigator, along with our partners in this endeavor, are calling ourselves the “Irritants” because we are irritating, or disrupting traditional reporting structures, for the greater good.  Our goal is to begin publishing the reflections of nonprofits on their feedback practice before Giving Tuesday 2019 on ours and other nonprofits platforms.

Charities often rely on quantitative forms of measurement to assess whether or not they are making a difference, i.e. tracking the number of people served, meals distributed, etc. The input, experiences, and suggestions of the individuals served are rarely evaluated when organizations consider the efficacy of their programs. Developing systems for listening, collecting, and responding to constituent feedback can enable nonprofits to better serve their constituents and improve organizational learning and efficacy to achieve their mission. 

The process of engaging constituents is both continuous and iterative. It begins with gathering meaningful information by speaking to the organization’s primary beneficiaries. The organization can then evaluate the information and create an action plan based on the feedback they received to improve their services. Their findings and program adjustments should be shared with the community-at-large, as well as their donors and other stakeholders. This level of transparency is not only helpful to constituents and donors, but also fosters information sharing and collective learning among nonprofits that may be united by the cause, constituency, or the services they provide. In this way, collecting, analyzing, and publicly reporting on feedback data may result in sector-wide improvements that extend far beyond a single organization and its beneficiaries. 

Charity Navigator believes in the value of constituent feedback to help charities understand and improve their programs. We strongly encourage donors to consider reaching out to the charities they support to understand if they collect this kind of information, and what they’ve learned through it. This feedback should inspire conversations between charities and their constituents, donors, and their communities, as well as the entire nonprofit sector. 

Written by Michael Thatcher, President and CEO of Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator.

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1 comment:

Steveiam said...

I am very disappointed with the practical affects of Charity Navigators evaluations. One of the leading organizations I contribute to, PETA, when asked WHY they had lower than top rating described why you fell short in full evaluation.
I will not rely on, or contribute to CN until you do a more through job.