If you were asked about your favorite products, you could probably rattle off the reasons you love them in a heartbeat: their ease of use, how they match each of your needs perfectly, the ways you identify with their brands. The most successful companies responsible for these products collect and implement consumer feedback to create sophisticated user experiences—that is, they design with the end-user in mind.
This approach is also a key methodology for the successful nonprofit.
Social impact organizations can similarly seek to deeply understand the needs and perspectives of the people they support in order to solve a problem. Grounded in user feedback, this approach should extend from the programs you launch to the fundraising experiences you create.
An organization that adopts this strategy effectively is Ushahidi, a 2016 Classy Awards Winner. They build open-source software to help marginalized people elevate their voices and to empower the organizations who serve these individuals to better listen and respond.
We spoke with COO Nathaniel Manning to learn more about how their team builds user feedback into their solution to ensure it best serves their constituents. We then used this information to create key takeaways that any organization can use to develop a feedback loop with their own beneficiaries and supporters.
The 3 Components of Ushahidi’s User Feedback Loop
For Ushahidi, the process of collecting user feedback happens to mirror the way their actual solution is designed to work.
“Our tool is created to help the humanitarian and development sector, to speak to its users and beneficiaries more effectively—whether that’s the woman who’s dealing with human rights abuse and harassment, a refugee in Syria, or someone who has just gone through an earthquake in Ecuador or Nepal. These are the very people who are hard to reach, so we build software to do that.
“When you think about our tools as a three-part process, there’s gathering, monitoring, and action or response. The way we then want to talk to our users follows the same pathway.
The first phase of collecting user feedback happens as Ushahidi begins to design the product. After all, they need to have a thorough understanding of their typical user and their needs in order to craft an appropriate solution. Ushahidi achieves this through in-depth interviews with the people they serve. Manning adds,
“And that’s not a one-time thing that happens at the beginning of the product. We’re doing that on a monthly basis, consistently. These are long detailed surveys in person or a video call, which are informing.”
Talk to your beneficiaries. When designing a social solution, you must first speak directly with the people you’re trying to serve about their needs and challenges. Couple your interviews with additional research into the problem and social landscape, why other solutions worked or didn’t work, and how you might approach the situation differently.
Get to know your supporters. The only way you can successfully power your social solution is to connect with your fundraising community as well. Conduct interviews to create donor personas based on real data and information about your current and potential supporter base. These personas will inform your fundraising and marketing outreach so you can deliver content that resonates.
The next phase of Ushahidi’s user feedback loop involves keeping a pulse on how people actually use their solution. As they are software developers, they have the capacity to build tools within their product to track user behavior. Manning says,
“Our tool alerts us and gives us signals and data of how people are using it. So if someone is signing on and then disappearing in 10 seconds, or if someone gets to a certain page and then always disappears and signs off, we can watch that say, ‘Wow, people are having trouble here.’”
Monitor your website and marketing outreach. While Ushahidi monitors how people use their own software, you can similarly track and evaluate the performance of your own website and communications.
One way to better understand what resonates with your unique audience and improve distinct metrics is to conduct A/B tests. You can test email elements to increase open and click through rates, homepage elements to drive conversions, or suggested giving levels to upgrade donors—just to name a few ideas.
The third component of Ushahidi’s user feedback process focuses on responding directly to feedback. After Ushahidi gathers information about their users and monitors their behavior, they then allow people to reach back out to the organization on their own terms. Manning says,
“If you used the tool, you’ll see that there’s a little chat box at the bottom which doesn’t just go to a call center somewhere—it goes directly to us. If someone asks a question, they’ll get our support team or individuals throughout the organization responding.”
Everyone on the Ushahidi team takes a couple of hours a week to man the customer service space—Manning and the executive director included.
“We’ll sit there, answer questions, and talk to people who are using the tool and need help. We look at all of that information, and that’s how we inform what we build next, how we build it, and what it’s going to look like.
Close the feedback loop with beneficiaries and supporters. Enable beneficiaries to tell you what they think about your social solution so that you can continue to refine it and increase adoption. Let their user feedback guide the next iteration of your solution or program.
In the same sense it’s important to collect and respond to feedback from your supporters about their fundraising experience. Reach out to event attendees and ask them what they thought and how you might improve the event next year. Ask fundraisers whether they felt equipped enough to hit their goals and how you could better support them next time.
Above all, let your fundraising community know that your organization is available for feedback anytime and make sure the contact information on your website is up to date.
User Feedback is Critical for Every Nonprofit
Whether you’re working to create a program, improve your donor experience, or engage your fundraisers, your organization should keep both supporters and beneficiaries at the center of your strategy. This requires you to create a feedback loop with your target audiences. To dive deeper into how you can respond to this feedback and foster a positive donor experience, check out our Nonprofit’s Guide to Customer Service.
Interested in learning more from Classy Award Winners? Join us at the 2018 Collaborative.