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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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Friday, October 11, 2019

Collecting and Implementing Feedback: The Difference Between Good and Great


As we consider the evolution of our ratings, Charity Navigator sees collecting and learning from constituent feedback as a potentially critical marker of organizations’ capacity for impact. It implies organizations are taking steps to learn more about the individuals, groups, and communities they serve, and iterating on their current programs and products to become more effective.

And, it is our hope that, over time, donors will consider the ways organizations are engaging with the people they serve and learning from those interactions as part of their charitable research knowing that it’s an indicator of healthy, innovative charity.

At Charity Navigator, we are committed to making more and more decisions based on feedback from our donors, users, and the charities we evaluate. Here are some of the reasons we collect constituent feedback and why we think it is valuable to the evolution of our charity ratings and the nonprofit sector...


Why we collect constituent feedback

No one knows your programs or your products better than you do, and they make perfect sense, right? Maybe. Often we are too close to the programs we manage and the products we create to see their flaws or areas where they can be improved to be made even more effective.

At Charity Navigator, we launched an initiative called Tides of Change to ask donors, users, and charities for their feedback on everything, from the topics we cover on this blog, to the value of our ratings and the way we display them. Our ratings, resources, and website experience make sense to us, but do they make sense to individuals who aren’t as intimately familiar with their purpose and creation? Engaging with the people who use our resources ensures we are making valuable improvements that will benefit those individuals and others just like them.

We are all working toward mission success, and that begins by understanding if our products and programs are meeting the needs of those who rely on them. Collecting constituent feedback is critical in creating a benchmark to measure our success against.

How to collect constituent feedback 

Collecting constituent feedback doesn’t need to be burdensome. It can be as easy as asking those who benefit from your programs to complete a survey asking about their experiences and outcomes, or hosting focus groups to learn more from participants' interactions with one another.

For organizations with a greater digital presence, you can learn a lot about your constituents’ experiences through your website analytics. Are they getting to the right pages on your website? Once they’re there, are they interacting with the content you’ve provided in the manner you ideally want them to? Where are the places they bounce off your website or don’t engage with the resources you’ve provided? 

Your website analytics can help you determine the right questions to ask, and your constituents can help you answer them. Follow up with using short, pop-up surveys on your website or sending them an email. Consider creating polls on social media. It’s important to connect with your constituents in the way they connect with you, whether that’s face-to-face or online.

The future and constituent feedback

Charity Navigator is a member of the Irritants for Change (the Irritants), a group of representatives from the nonprofit sector’s major infrastructure platforms and other key actors. This group believes in leveraging the influence of their respective platforms to incentivize the collection and use of feedback in the social sector.

Last year, at Feedback Labs’ annual Feedback Summit, the Irritants unveiled their core principles for constituent feedback and opened them up to public comment for a period of several months. In line with the finalized principles, GuideStar by Candid is now encouraging charities to share how they are collecting constituent feedback. Information shared by participating nonprofits will be featured on Charity Navigator and Guidestar by Candid profiles later this fall. This will be a powerful addition going into giving season.

Nonprofits interested in participating in this initiative should visit guidestar.org/update today to fill in the new “How We Listen” section of their profiles.

Written by Ashley Post, Communications Manager at Charity Navigator.


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