Photo courtesy of Arlington Academy of Hope
GlobalGiving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community that connects nonprofits, donors, and companies in nearly every country around the world. A nonprofit ourselves, we work with nonprofit partners to be more effective by helping them raise more funds and supporting them to use those funds more effectively.
A few years ago we had a novel idea—what if we could reward organizations that were actively focusing on learning and improving with more funding from GlobalGiving?
We decided to do this by creating a rewards program that would award points to organizations for listening to stakeholders, testing out new ideas, and learning from results. We began to reward those groups that focused on learning with increased visibility on our website. But, this idea would only work with buy-in from our nonprofit partners. We sought feedback throughout the process to ensure we built a program that was useful to our nonprofit partners, not a needless burden. Here are three things that we learned along the way:
- Collect feedback in big and small ways
The process of building the program—called GG Rewards—took more than a year. Sometimes we wanted broad and wide input, and sometimes we just needed a quick gut check to make sure we were going in the right direction. We didn’t want to limit our feedback to only an online survey of our 3,000+ partners, nor did we want to rely solely on one-time conversations with the handful of nonprofit partners that were most proactive in sharing their thoughts. We designed different methods to meet our partners where they were and get the type of feedback that would best facilitate each decision. In our initial design phase, we met with partners around the world to seek feedback on the type of system they’d like to see. We knew that we couldn’t meet with each and every partner in person, so we also included relevant questions in our online survey, had phone calls, and convened focus groups. During the building phase, we created a Leadership Council—made up of about 15 nonprofit partners that were representative of our community as a whole—that we could go to for both quick impressions and more in-depth feedback. This group had more insight into our internal design process than an average GlobalGiving partner and could give us feedback about how our thinking might impact their organizations. By creating multiple methods and levels of feedback, we were able to continually adjust our rewards system before its debut.
- Know what feedback you seek—but be willing to change direction if necessary
When we first started this process, we asked general questions such as, “How should GlobalGiving measure the impact of your work?” or “How would you like to see our rewards program structured?” These broad questions were often met with crickets or suggestions that were not feasible for us to implement. The most useful and actionable feedback came when we asked specific questions or asked people to respond to a prototype. This made our project real and gave people a tangible product to assess. But, this also meant we had to be open and willing to change our direction based on feedback. At one Leadership Council meeting, a new feature that was intended to communicate and measure the impact of the GlobalGiving community was met with an overwhelmingly negative reaction. So, we scrapped it. It was time consuming and hard, but finding a way to provide the right value to our partners led to a better product in the end.
- Build feedback and course correction time into your timeline
Designing a product or program with feedback isn’t easy—and it takes time. Feedback can’t be an afterthought. To truly build a tool or program that best serves its intended community, feedback—and time for course correction—should be incorporated at all stages of the process. When designing our GG Rewards program, we asked for input before anything was set in stone, during the design process, and again after we rolled out our first product. We were deliberate about when we asked for feedback, and built in time to make sure we could seek, analyze, and adjust based on that feedback.
When it came time to roll out the new GG Rewards program, we were nervous. Would it be met with enthusiasm? Would our nonprofit partners dislike the new system? It turned out, we didn’t need to worry. Because all of our partners had been given the chance to provide input along the way, the new system did not come as a surprise. We weren’t able to incorporate everyone’s opinion, but our partners appreciated being included in the process and felt a part of the design. Although GG Rewards may have had its genesis with staff at GlobalGiving, the final product truly was a system built by and for the community.
Britt Lake, Chief Program Officer at GlobalGiving, oversees relationships with more than 3,000 nonprofits, including managing all of GlobalGiving’s impact measurement, capacity building work, and disaster relief grantmaking. In addition to close to a decade at GlobalGiving, Britt has worked at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and with a variety of nonprofits around the world. Britt holds a B.A. in International Studies from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, a Master’s in International Relations from the University of Cape Town (South Africa), and a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.