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The Power of Feedback

From an article published April 19, 2017 By Jennifer Chandler with the National Council for Non-Profits

When we stop listening we may miss feedback that could improve our work. Recognizing this, many charitable nonprofits have created “feedback loops” as an intentional process to ensure that they are first listening to what their beneficiaries must say, and second, that they incorporate suggestions from those they serve into the nonprofit’s operations and activities.

The classic example of a feedback loop may be a suggestion box. A more modern example is an online survey. If your nonprofit has upgraded its website recently, you’ll probably recognize that feedback loops play an important role in website design. A prime example is the federal government’s website, vets.gov: “Our Team used a human centered design approach to create vets.gov. We’ve asked our customers what they want and need and we’ve designed in response to that. We’ve tested and made adjustments based on their feedback, and will continue to do so as we add new features and information to the site.”

Perhaps your nonprofit is already using feedback loops, or is interested in collecting feedback to improve its effectiveness. If so, you may be interested in a funding opportunity through Listen for Good, or “L4G.” The Fund for Shared Insight, a collaborative effort among 30 grant makers, created the L4G initiative to learn more about how nonprofits can use feedback from the people they serve to “continually improve process and outcomes.” Eligible grantees don’t have to demonstrate prior use of feedback loops, but do need to demonstrate a commitment to collecting and using beneficiary feedback going forward. Applications are due May 26, 2017. Nonprofits can qualify for a grant by being nominated by a core funder from among those participating in the Fund for Shared Insight, or by another funder that agrees to participate. Here’s more information about this grant opportunity.

In her article,  “Four Early Lessons Learned in the Quest to Improve Feedback Loops in Philanthropy,” Beth Kanter shares examples of how several nonprofits supported through grants from the Fund for Shared Insight designed effective feedback loops, worked through the feedback data they collected, and “closed the loop” to demonstrate to their beneficiaries how their feedback was incorporated into the nonprofits’ practices. Interested in learning more about the Fund for Shared Insight?

How is your nonprofit using feedback?

Creating positive culture for your association

From an article by Sarah Sladek, Author and Speaker, April 30, 2012

Culture is not some inanimate object to scoff at or neglect. Fueled by economic decline, rapidly changing technology, and demographic shifts, culture is more powerful than ever.

Here are a few tips for creating a positive culture for your association:

  • Gain support. Start with people who have considerable influence in the organization. (Note: The board and senior staff aren’t always the most influential.) If you get the influencers committed to change, cultural challenges will be easier to resolve.
  • Provide proof. In the 1990s a New York Police Commissioner made his top brass—including himself—ride the subways day and night to understand why frightened New Yorkers had come to call it the “Electric Sewer.” Instead of just lecturing on the need for change, get people to experience the harsh realities that make it necessary.
  • Focus on values. Core values form the foundation on which the association performs work and behaves. Core values are who you are and why, not who, you serve. If you’re serious about your values, and if you hire (and even fire) around them, you’ll have a culture that speaks of who you are and who you want to be.
  • Welcome. Associations have about a 60-day window of opportunity from the time a member joins until that member decides whether to renew the membership. An association should strive to create a positive experience for members year-round, but that first 60 days is especially critical to making members feel welcome, appreciated, and engaged.
  • Details, details. It’s hard to feel good about your membership if you don’t have any idea how it’s benefitting you. There should be no mystery or exclusivity within your association. Be open with, and effectively communicate to, the membership on a consistent basis via multiple communication streams.
  • Celebrate. Every person, regardless of age or influence, wants to be appreciated. How do you express your appreciation for, thank, and celebrate the membership? A culture of gratitude is an environment that members will always value.

Associations with unsupportive cultures will certainly underperform, experience declining membership and revenues and meet an untimely fate.

There is an alternative. If you eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive, your association will be capable of tremendous growth, success, and prosperity.

Sarah Sladek was leading the charge for organizations and companies to adapt to younger generations long before anybody else. Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah founded XYZ University in 2002 and her fifth book will be published this year.

What is the Most Simple Way to Improve Morale among your staff?

We need to recognize the tremendous value people bring to their work, regardless of their role in the organization. Recognition isn’t just about implementing employee programs to check them off a list; it’s about bringing out the best in people and improving your company’s bottom line.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, and a survey recently commissioned, 82% of employed Americans don’t feel that their supervisors recognize them enough for their contributions. That lack of recognition takes a terrible toll on morale, productivity, and, ultimately, profitability. Another key finding: 40% of employed Americans say they’d put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often.

The good news: It’s both simple and inexpensive for leaders to solve the recognition deficit in their organizations. Here are some of the key strategies that work well.

  • Keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of people aren’t simply motivated by a paycheck. They want to work hard and contribute and be noticed and respected for their efforts. If you truly appreciate them in your mind and heart, your attitude will come through naturally in what you say and do.
  • Show respect by sharing as much information as possible. Sam Walton summarized this best: “The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. If you don’t trust your associates to know what’s going on, they’ll know you really don’t consider them partners.”
  • Ask lots of questions — not simply to your direct reports, but to as many frontline people as possible. One question I love to ask is, “What would you do if you had my job?” Maybe the response will be a useful suggestion, in which case you should acknowledge it and implement it if possible, to prove that these conversations aren’t just for show. Even if you don’t get any great ideas, such discussions can still have a huge impact, as long as your staff sees that you really thought about their suggestions.
  • Celebrate first downs, not just touchdowns. Publicly recognizing and rewarding small wins keeps everyone motivated over the long haul. Don’t be the Negative Nelly who says, “Well, it’s great that you just closed that new sale, but we’re still $5 million behind budget this year!”
  • Make recognition as fun as possible. Take your business seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Over the years I’ve seen managers and even CEOs give out rubber chickens and plastic chattering teeth to recognize exceptional contributions. Which do you think people are more likely to display and tell their friends about — a rubber chicken or a fancy pen?
  • Make it personal. Another interesting point: 76% of people save handwritten thank you notes. A customized, thoughtful gift will have a bigger impact than something mass-produced, regardless of the price tag.
  • Make it timely. Don’t wait for monthly meetings or annual performance reviews. The survey respondents reported an average of 50 days since they last felt recognized in any way at work. That’s way too long. Good things are happening all around you; notice them and seize any opportunity to acknowledge them.
  • Finally, remember recognition is a privilege, not just another item on your to-do list. As a leader you have the privilege of feeding people’s souls and helping them feel great about themselves. And by feeding their souls, you’ll feed yours in return.

My vision is a world where every leader understands that recognition is too important to leave to the HR department.

Special thanks to contributor David Novak.  His latest book is O GREAT ONE! A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition.

Top 10 Reasons to Engage Association Project Management

  1. APM extends your existing team with a committed, trusted expert who helps to reduce costs, lower risks, improve efficiencies, meet tight deadlines, solve challenging problems, support strategic initiatives and produce better outcomes for your association staff.
  2. Free-up your staff to focus on strategic direction, rather than tactical issues
  3. Remain on track with your teams goals and objectives
  4. Stop losing sleep over project completion issues
  5. Take advantage of APM’s project completion specialist in a variety of functional areas
  6. Using APM to complement your staff makes sense – financially and for the well-being of your team’s morale and productivity levels
  7. Keep your skilled staff members aligned with your organization’s needs
  8. Stay on top of the projects that keep the wheels turning in your association
  9. Enjoy enhanced flexibility in staff / project balance
  10. Peace of mind

Contact us today.

What are the Benefits of engaging Association Project Management?

Many associations rely on small staffs, volunteer leadership or outsourcing of specialized services to get their work done and their goals met. Most of these management groups have little time for an “extra job.” In fact, often the same three or four staff members or volunteer leaders take on most the work, and then quickly burn out.

Outsourcing of member recruiting and on-boarding, member marketing, web and Social Media content, surveys and data management and other mission-critical components can be costly or time-consuming for association staff and volunteer leaders.

APM offers quality, effective solutions and organization for associations:

Member Marketing:

  • Initial contact marketing upcoming Priority events (Convention, Conference, Special Continuing Ed, Legislative Luncheon) / new products and services / important association news
    • Email blast announcements
    • Phone contact/follow-up
    • Direct mail marketing (flyers, brochures, postcards, etc. – these could be produced and delivered in an electronic version, as well as print)
    • Web (Social Media/Blog) content Development

Data Reconciliation:

  • Member / non-Member data cleanup
  • Member Usage survey and data entry

Member Engagement

  • Member On-boarding/ re-boarding
  • Member prospecting
  • Dialogue Interaction via phone or other (email) contact

Event Fulfilment:

  • Organization representation at YOUR event (or an event of your choosing) – APM will operate your presence (table/both) at your event (or other), freeing your organization staff for member engagement or other support assignments.

Outsourcing a function, role or crucial project to APM can be an effective way for organizations to extend their existing teams with committed, trusted experts who help reduce costs, lower risks, improve efficiencies, meet tight deadlines, solve challenging problems, support strategic initiatives and produce better outcomes. Many things can trigger the need for outsourced services, including a demand for increased staff capacity, focused expertise, fresh thinking and innovative ideas, or new capabilities. APM offers trade and professional associations, charitable and cause-based nonprofits, corporations and government institutes a comprehensive array of high-impact, customized and cost-effective solutions.

Contact us today.