We’ve all heard and read the reports and research that Millennials like and want feedback. In fact, Millennials want a stream of constant feedback. But feedback isn’t just for Millennials. It’s for everyone.

Your staff, your coworkers or team members, your donors and constituents—they all need feedback. It is a vital part of communication and if you aren’t giving or receiving feedback on a regular basis, you might be missing out on important information from your stakeholders or opportunities to stretch and grow as an organization. Let’s take a look at why we should give (and get!) feedback, how often you should give (or ask!) for it, and what kind of feedback is appropriate.

Why give feedback?

Feedback allows individuals and organizations a chance to get better at what they do and who they are. It’s that simple! Feedback allows us to grow personally and professionally. And in today’s fast-paced market, whether you are a for profit or non profit organization, if you stop growing, you become outdated and obsolete. Feedback is essential to an organization’s future.

But just as giving feedback is vital, so is receiving it. Particularly for non profits churches and ministries, listening to the feedback and responses of their donors, members and constituents is critical to their success. If your donors are not happy with you, don’t feel that they are being communicated with properly or aren’t being heard, they will stop giving. Listening to them, hearing their feedback and providing them with continuous opportunities to give feedback will allow you to keep moving forward and remain impactful in your ministry. 

What kind of feedback is appropriate?

Feedback can get a bad rap. Most think of feedback as criticism or an attack. In actuality, criticism is just one form of feedback—and one that we don’t advise giving. Now, we aren’t saying that constructive criticism shouldn’t be given, because it certainly should! This is how we stretch and grow as people and as organizations.  But feedback, whether positive or constructive, should always be given (and taken!) with an open mind and a servant’s heart. As a manager or leader, your feedback should encourage your employees to grow in order to meet the challenges before them.

So what kind of feedback should you give?

Constructive criticism: If you aren’t doing your job well, whether that’s serving your team members, clients, donors or advocates, you probably want to know about it so you can fix it, right? Constructive criticism is a necessary component for a healthy, two-way relationship. It shouldn’t be a negative rant or tirade.

Think about product or service reviews that you read online when someone is unhappy with a purchase: “This was a horrible purchase. Biggest waste of money!! Don’t recommend this AT ALL!!!” We see this all the time, but that doesn’t make it right or effective. As a customer and as an organization, think about this type of feedback. There are no specific details about why this product was bad and it doesn’t include any suggestions for improvements. Without constructive criticism and feedback, that individual, ministry or organization will never have an opportunity to get better at what they do. As a manager, leader, team member or even customer, think about how you can provide specific feedback on why something didn’t work and how it can be improved or made better.

Positive affirmation: When was the last time you told your team thank you or sent your donor a handwritten note to tell them how much you appreciate them? Positive affirmation is an important type of feedback—and one that you should absolutely give! It motivates, inspires and builds confidence and affinity for your organization. Don’t forget to take time regularly to affirm your team and constituents about the value they bring to the table, whether it’s their talent and skill set or the valuable contribution they make to your organization on an annual basis through donations, event attendance or purchases. You’ll build greater commitment and cultivate deeper relationships when you make it a point to affirm or express your appreciation for those you serve and serve with.

How often should you give it?

Feedback is often associated with the formal employee review, where both the manager and employee review overall performance and achievements. While we strongly advise that managers and leaders conduct these reviews on an annual basis, feedback should also be given on an ongoing basis. Our Executive Vice President, Diana Marsh says, “Do not let something good or something bad go by without addressing it immediately. Feedback has to be given on an ongoing basis. The annual review should never contain surprises.”

Just as you are conducting annual reviews for your employees and team members and providing that constant stream of feedback we mentioned earlier, you should also be providing feedback and updates on a regular basis to your donors, members ad constituents!

An annual report is one way you can share this type of feedback. This can be in a variety of formats, such as a year end recap video presented to your church members of all the fantastic stories, lives changed or volunteer work from that year. A written annual donor report is a great way to provide feedback specifically to donors on the impact of their dollars These reports typically encapsulate the previous year’s fundraising efforts, including how much was raised, what projects were completed or started because of those funds and how those funds were allocated across the ministry or organization. But just as Millennials prefer constant feedback on their performance, your audience and fans also like to see regular updates on your activities, culture, projects or initiatives.  In addition to an annual or yearly report, provide quarterly print or email newsletters with seasonal information on what’s happening across your organization and social media updates on real-time events or stories.

Now that you’ve given feedback, don’t forget to ask for your customers and followers’ feedback. Did your church members enjoy a particular sermon series? Could your event have been improved? Is your website’s donation page easy to navigate? Is there a way it could be simplified? Want to know what your Facebook or Twitter followers thought about that story you shared? ASK FOR IT. Ask for feedback on your website. Encourage conversations on social media. Call your members, customers, donors and get their input.

Feedback doesn’t have to be scary or saved for annual reviews. And it certainly isn’t exclusive to Millennials! So go ahead. Start giving (and asking for!) feedback from your team and from your audience on a regular basis—we promise you’ll be better for it.

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