Jordan Mareno February 17, 2017

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“Will I see you at the town hall this afternoon?”

In the global, interconnected world that we live in, this question might seem outdated. Town hall meetings, remnants of the community gatherings of colonial America, are acquiring a stale reputation in our current, politically charged context. In 2017, it seems that a town hall event cannot take place without the involvement of protestors, the police force, or a screaming match.

But this tense, aggressive scene is not what the colonists intended. Town meetings were aimed to create a peaceful platform for citizens to ask questions of their leaders, provide feedback, and learn more about the behind-the-scenes functions of their respective governing bodies.

For the past few years, GlobalGiving has hosted town halls with their stakeholders with this ethos in mind. On February 1, 2017, the 3rd annual GlobalGiving Town Hall – a conversation and reflection on the past, present, and future of their work – took place here in Washington DC, with partners joining both in person and virtually from across the globe.

The meeting began with a look backward at GlobalGiving’s accomplishments in 2016, followed by a look forward at their goals in the new year. Though the organization hit impressive milestones, and has even more down the pipeline, this meeting was not meant to boast or bathe in applause. It was not a presentation of, “Hey, look at what we did!” It was a conversation of, “Hey, look at what you all–our partners–suggested that we do. And look at how successful we were when we listened to you.”

Global Giving walks the talk of feedback loops. They have built up a repertoire of concrete examples of closing the loop:

Partners said… GlobalGiving…
It’s concerning how quickly funds run out on bonus days. A lot of the donations that we receive are left unmatched. Implemented a pro-rated system in 2015, which provides proportional percentages of matching funds to every project that receives a donation during a bonus day.
Is there a way to add photographs to the thank you notes that we send to donors? We’d like to make them more personal. Provided a new image-based feature in the thank you note template.
Why are there restrictions on our ability to contact our donors for additional funding? Rolled a new “project appeal” feature into development. It will allow partners a certain number of appeals to their donors each year.
Can we add Apple Pay as an option in the checkout process? Added Apple Pay to the checkout process.

This culture of feedback extends far beyond added features and online capabilities. The second portion of the town hall meeting included a panel of GlobalGiving employees from various aspects of the organization’s infrastructure: program management, product oversight, financial operations, and corporate relations. With a diverse knowledge of GlobalGiving’s operation, the panelists were able to answer partners’ most pressing questions with full transparency, expressing a core message of: “We hear you on this. And this is what we are doing right here, right now to respond and help you in any way we can.”

The meeting continued in the way that town halls were originally intended to function: leaders gave advice, provided information transparently, and listened to their constituents. And, in turn, constituents requested explanations, pointed out shortfalls, and inserted their voice into the process.

In her closing remarks, the meeting facilitator, Emma Hersh, addressed GlobalGiving’s partners one last time, requesting their continued participation in the conversation. “Please don’t be timid. If you have feedback, share it.”

GlobalGiving has found a way to honor the concept of a town hall in an entirely genuine way. They are making Colonial America proud. And, yeah, we’re pretty proud of them over here at Feedback Labs as well.

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