Associations are no different by sending out surveys after meetings or education sessions or even after renewing one’s membership.
But what happens to all these survey results? Are they actually tabulated? Does someone look them over? Are they used to improve programming? Or do they just go in the file cabinet so the box “Asked for Feedback” can be checked off?
More importantly, what does an association do with negative feedback? In my experience dating back of several decades, the answer is “very little.”
Most organizations offer a survey thinking that it is pabulum to keep discontented members quiet. If an unhappy member has a chance to vent, the thinking goes, s/he will probably feel better and nothing has to change.
I recently had a incredibly bad experience with a Fortune 100 company. I decided to call and let the manager know about what had happened and who was responsible. Three times I was hung up on. When I finally got the manager, he told me, “This is not a conversation I want to have.” Talk about a company that fears criticism.
I suggest to any non-profit who surveys and does not have a specific action plan to deal with discontented members, is one which will not only earn a poor reputation in the association community, but will be blasted via social media and become the textbook example of how to kill a good organization.
If your group does surveys, this is what to do to insure that you get full value for the effort and build lifetime members:
1. Have a reason(s) for doing it in the first place. Is it to pinpoint problem areas? To use for evaluating staff people? To benchmark for future programming? Establish why you are going through the effort in the first place.
2. If you ask for suggestions, such as areas of improvement or to list things that did not work, let respondents know what you did about their input with follow up. Don’t keep your actions to yourself (that is if you have plans to do something with responses). Otherwise, they will think you are just a data gathering organization.
3. Don’t let criticism go unacknowledged nor acted upon. People who articulate a complaint deserve and demand a response…usually via a telephone call to explore the problem in depth. And, if a complainant calls you and leaves a message, do not make this person wait for a response. No one, regardless how high up the non-profit leadership chain of responsibility is too important not to speak to the members.
Remember, complaints should not be taken lightly nor brushed aside. They are your window into how to improve and strengthen your non-profit. When you let members you actually value and act upon their input, you build relationships that can result in lifetime members.
As a wise mentor told me many years ago, “You learn more from your failures than your successes.”