Charity Branding

Do you really know what people think about your charity?

What do people actually think about your organisation? If your beneficiaries, partners and other stakeholders were asked by someone in the street, what would they say? Perhaps with faceless accounts on social media these days, it’s easier for people to give feedback (constructive or not) but in this post we thought we’d start to explore how you can track what people in your community think about your work.


The feedback paradox

If you’re like me, sometimes when you’re put on the spot and asked “what do you think of X,Y,Z…?” you may feel like you have to answer in a polite way depending on the relationship that you have with the person. You might feel like you can be brutally honest all of the time, but for the vast majority of people we often tell people what they want to hear. This challenge often creeps in when gaining feedback from your team or other stakeholders as well. While you may say it’s an “anonymous” questionnaire or assure them that they can be honest, sometimes that doesn’t work for people, so we often get a sanitised response.


On the flip side of that, social media and online reviews can sometimes work the other way. People try and discredit organisations they’ve previously worked for, or hear one side of a story and take sides. It all becomes a bit of a minefield. There are ways to find out exactly what people really think though, and we’ve got some thoughts below as to why that’s important.

The value of gauging your perception as an organisation

As we’ve mentioned many times, if a version of your brand is created by everyone, then what your key audiences and stakeholders think of your organisation can be an important measurement for charity success. Notice how we said key audiences and stakeholders in that. We can’t be in the business of wanting to please everyone, but if we can ensure the voices of our beneficiaries, stakeholders and the community we’re working in is heard that’s going to influence how we work, how we talk to our community, how we deliver our work and how we measure our impact. It can also be invaluable in ensuring our services meet the changing needs of a community. In other words, to check we’re solving the right problems as we work to achieve our vision.


Here are a few helpful ways to gauge the perception of your organisation:


·       Hire a research or consultancy firm who can deliver independent audits and interviews

·       Be in regular contact with your new and current donors and service users

·       Deliver a properly anonymous questionnaire

·       Approaching a range of people to ask what they think your organisation does

·       Looking at trends in giving, marketing and fundraising event attendance

·       Looking at your CRM and impact data

·       Ensure you have a way to collect key impact data within your organisation

·       Getting young people or members of the public to give anonymous audits of your website


Those are just a few ways (for all different budget ranges) that could help start to paint a picture of the type of organisation you’re building, and whether people are on the journey with you as you look to make change in your community.


PS: In order to build an effective picture, you need to ensure you have a range of diverse voices contributing to it. As an example, it would be easy to find a group that you know will respond favourably, but that doesn’t really help anyone. Having a range of people means you can ensure you’re not lopsided when it comes to support and you can see where any blind spots are.

See it as a positive, no matter what feedback you get

We all find gaining feedback a bit scary, as we may not want to know what areas need addressing. We get it, you’ve already got loads on your plate and changing the way you work may add even more to your to-do list. The good news is, you can take it in stages. Once you have a process for gaining feedback not only do you have a measurement tool which you can use each year, but you also have an internal grading system which can inform improvements to the organisation.


We’re so tied to our organisations in the third sector that often we feel like they’re personal attacks, but if we can see them as ways to improve the value and work of our organisations, that will be hugely valuable. It will make your charity or social enterprise better prepared for investment, improve your processes and unite your team around making things better.


We often see things in an overly negative way when getting feedback, it’s not usually as bad as we think and often it will actually work as an encouragement to continue the work you’re doing. It’ll re-highlight the stories and impact you’re making.

So what do you do with the feedback?

Well, despite what we’ve just said it depends on how negative it is. If it’s of serious concern then you’ll have your own process to deal with that in the right way, or seek professional support around it if you don’t have those processes. If you get feedback that requires some action then chat through it with your team. If this particular bit of feedback has not been given anonymously, then you could also chat with the person who’s given the feedback to address their concerns directly and also assure them of your work to rectify the problem they found.


You can also sort feedback into categories. Perhaps it affects an area of your work directly, or it may affect multiple areas. Either way using Trello, Notion or a Word document with the categories that need addressing can be helpful for your next team meeting and to track the work that’s going into making improvements.


Communication is key, so chat through it with your board or members of your team to find out why this feedback may have been given too. This can all be a springboard to change in your organisation. Celebrate the wins, make changes where changes need to be made and assure your beneficiaries and stakeholders that you’re listening. Don’t fall into the corporate trap of assuring them you’re listening but not doing anything about it, but properly listen and make a habit of doing it once every year (if not more) to ensure your brand is evolving and not falling into stagnation in certain areas.


Do you know how your organisation is really doing?