As nonprofit professionals, we are fortunate to be surrounded by compassionate people. Boards, committees, volunteers and staff all care deeply and want to share their thoughts. But when we ask for feedback, we don't always know how to filter and use those ideas, resulting in stalled or derailed projects. Over-edited copy often loses its punch. Too many compromises are made. Here are 5 ways you can gather input that will improve your project and keep it on track.
1. Make roles clear upfront.
When requesting input, define roles clearly. You can ask for input and ideas at the beginning of a project, or ask for reactions to a developed concept. Be clear about what you want from those you are asking, whether it is a big picture reaction or detailed copy-editing. When presenting options, ask people to explain what they like or don't like about each idea instead of selecting their favorites or voting on the winning concept. The more clear you make expectations, the more on-point your feedback will be.
2. Develop criteria for review.
If you are working with a group, develop a list of criteria or goals for the project. For example, if you are developing a new tagline, create criteria first...then evaluate each tagline idea against the criteria. This will keep your conversation focused and provide your group with parameters for decision-making.
3. Take what you want.
It is okay to ignore advice...even solicited advice. You are the expert in your organization. If someone asks why you didn't use his or her idea, provide a reason and stand by it. Just because someone offers a suggestion, does not beholden you to that solution.
4. Show where input mattered.
As a project or idea moves forward, show the group how their input was used. Let them know you are listening and where their ideas make a difference in the next phase of work.
5. Keep them involved.
Keep those providing input informed during the project. They may not be making decisions, but keep the team informed of the decisions that were made and how their input helped the process.