3 Steps to Giving Great Feedback on Fundraising

By Sarah Wallin, Creative Director

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote lately: “In life, people emulate the end result, not the process.” 

These wise words are courtesy of rapper/producer Jay-Z. And he might know a little something about people trying to emulate his life now… 

Jay-Z and superstar wife, Beyoncé, in the recent Tiffany & Co. campaign, “About Love.”

But let’s talk about the process – and more specifically, how we approach the process in our nonprofit fundraising lives. Campaigns don’t usually come out fully formed – and it’s a good thing that they don’t! The process of collaborating and giving feedback on nonprofit fundraising campaigns is what takes projects from good to great to emulate-able. 

The more open you are to giving and getting feedback, the better your campaign will be. And the more you’ll value the end results… because as it turns out, it really is about the journey, not the destination. 

You may agree, but wonder, “Where should I start with providing feedback?” or “How do I make sure to get my thoughts across clearly?” Here are 3 important steps to take when giving feedback on your nonprofit fundraising campaigns. 

Ask for Feedback 

It isn’t always easy to ask for feedback. Sometimes, we’re crunched for time… or money… or ideas. But beyond that, it takes trust. It requires opening yourself up to someone else’s perspective on your work – both what’s working and what’s not. 

Often, the best ideas and solutions come out of asking for feedback. I love this story about Betty, a woman who finished a 27-year prison sentence and went to a Center for Employment Opportunities for job placement. Soon after, the center reached out to her to ask for her feedback about their program. She had a simple suggestion that turned out to be a game-changer for the program… In fact, the CEO implemented her idea the next week! 

Betty’s response? “When you feel that you’re being listened to… that what’s happening with you matters, it makes you want to give more.”

How to apply to your nonprofit fundraising? When you’re working on a project, ask others for feedback. And make sure you leave time to listen to their input and go through the process of refining and possibly even asking for feedback again. If you’re the client, make sure that when you’re asked to share your thoughts, you take that opportunity. 

Start With What’s Working 

However, when giving feedback on nonprofit fundraising campaigns, it’s important to start with what’s working and begin on a positive note. This is so hard! It’s much easier to pick out what’s not working, or what may even offend your sensibilities or tastes in a fundraising campaign. (We all know there are many visual and verbal offenses in fundraising!

However… stop… breathe… and think: What do I see that’s effective or compelling about this project? In other words, what’s working?  

Starting with what you do like goes a long way in determining how the rest of the conversation will go. 

How to apply to your nonprofit fundraising? Here are some questions you can ask yourself to find out what elements in a campaign are especially strong (or not): 

  • Do you immediately “get” the big idea behind the work?
  • Do you see some creativity involved in relaying the main message? 
  • Is there a photo, graphic or animation that captures your attention? 
  • Is there a color or stylistic element (photos, graphics) that you like?
  • Do you find yourself being drawn down into the “meat” of the campaign? 

When you ask these questions, you’ll begin to understand what’s working or what has been done well… so that you can start to better understand what’s not working and address it. 

Learn More About What’s NOT Working  

Feedback is not license to criticize people or their approach to a campaign. Instead, you should think of giving feedback on nonprofit fundraising campaigns as an opportunity to work together with someone else to improve upon what’s already been done. 

Giving feedback about what’s not working isn’t easy for some people. They usually struggle with it for 2 reasons: 

  1. They don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings 
  2. They fear their feedback wouldn’t be helpful 

How to apply to your nonprofit fundraising? If you fear your feedback will hurt someone’s feelings, remember the ultimate goal – to improve on a campaign so that it’s as effective as it can possibly be when it reaches its audience. As fundraisers and nonprofits, we need that audience to respond! So it’s important that our outreach to them is as clear and engaging as possible. 

Think of your feedback not as criticism or hurtful, but as a real collaboration where you’re able to work together to make a campaign as strong as it can possibly be! 

Now, if you fear your feedback won’t be valid or helpful… Not true! Here’s the secret: The more informed you are about the objectives and goals of a campaign, the more confident you’ll be in sharing your insights about it. 

If an element in a campaign isn’t working, a great place to start is with the original creative strategy behind the campaign. Make sure that what ended up being created aligns with what was intended in the first place. If it doesn’t, it’s worth mentioning! 

Be specific, too. You don’t have to know any special lingo to give great feedback on nonprofit fundraising campaigns. But comments like, “I don’t like this” or “I feel this missed the mark” aren’t very helpful either. Be really specific about what element isn’t working, whether it’s the words, colors, photography or anything else. There’s no need to put yourself into the role of the creator – you can leave it up to them to figure out the solutions based on your input. Often, this is when the best work happens!   

Last reminder: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! When you get answers to your questions, you’ll really be able to understand if a campaign is working… or not. 

  • “Can you help me understand how this messaging will engage donors?” 
  • “Can you tell us why you chose this photo/video/animation?”
  • “Can you tell me more about the previous results when using this messaging?”  
  • “Would there be any benefit to including a QR Code?”
  •  “Can you help me better understand why this is short/long?” 

Final Words on Feedback 

Like Jay-Z wisely noted, we all want a strong end result, but we often forget about the process that gets us there. Giving feedback on nonprofit fundraising campaigns is crucial! The process strengthens campaigns and allows the kind of collaboration that leads to great results – which allows your nonprofit to offer more services, more programs and more life-saving help to those in need. 

When asked for your thoughts, don’t shy away because you’re not sure if you’ll hurt feelings or because you fear your comments aren’t valuable. Instead, use the questions and suggestions above to determine what’s working well in a campaign… and what might be able to be improved. 

And of course, don’t hesitate to send me any questions or feedback you have on this article! 

  • Sarah Wallin

    Sarah Wallin, Vice President, Creative Director

    With more than 10 years of nonprofit and Rescue Mission experience, Sarah Wallin brings her expertise and imagination to the creative work at BDI. She draws from her background as a college English instructor and writing work for a variety of nonprofit clients like Boys and Girls Clubs, Goodwill of Los Angeles, Catholic Charities and Summit Ministries, as well as a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. 

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