Our commercial counterparts have largely embraced the concept of asking customers about their experience: Rent a car, fly on a plane, go to your bank, and you are likely to get a feedback survey. But what about the nonprofit space? Many of us appreciate how insight into our constituents’ interests and behaviors improves our ability to engage and build relationships that deliver superior results to our fundraising and related activities. But how well and how often do we simply ask our constituents how we are doing, or what we could be doing better?

There are many great opportunities and tools for simplifying the process of soliciting feedback. And ultimately, it’s what you do with the feedback that counts. If you are going to ask, be prepared to really listen, be prepared to hear some hard truths, be prepared to act, be prepared to learn, and maybe even give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done, if that’s what the survey says.

Here are just a few of the many ways to collect feedback from your supporters.

  1. Donation transactions. We all send the receipt autoresponders when someone gives a gift, but what about an experience survey? Transaction surveys are an effective way to assess basic donor preference information.
  2. E-commerce purchases. Ask your constituents about the product lines, shopping website, shipping, notification, and other aspects of the experience to optimize the program.
  3. Events. Event participants offer a prime opportunity for feedback. What can you do to make the event experience the best one possible for them? Find out by asking!
  4. Mission-driven surveys. A regular and simple check-in can help determine program content, mission evolution, and resource allocation that match supporter expectations.
  5. Donor services. Consider customer service follow-ups to ensure that your constituents are getting the customer support experience that you want them to have.
  6. Social media. Social media is an ideal space in which to engage constituents in a conversation. You may learn something very different about what’s important than what you hear via more traditional feedback channels.

Nonprofits can utilize a combination of tactics to judge constituent sentiment toward their organization. In the end, methodology is less important than simply remembering to ask your constituents how you are doing. Make it easy for them to respond, and consider the feedback carefully. In a world where communication is increasingly dominated by likes, followers and mass emails, we could all use a recommendation from a friend.

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Andrew Shoaff is Blackbaud’s interactive strategy manager. Listen to his recent podcast interview on Nonprofit Spark.

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