Being Responsive to Beneficiaries

The following profile is an excerpt from CEP’s recent research report, Hearing from Those We Seek to Help: Nonprofit Practices and Perspectives in Beneficiary FeedbackCrittenton Children’s Center in Kansas City, MO was one of three randomly selected nonprofit organizations whose leaders rated it in the CEP survey as understanding their beneficiaries extremely well, collecting feedback through five or more methods, and using that feedback to a great or extreme extent to improve their work.

Established in 1896, Crittenton Children’s Center – staffed by 396 employees and 379 volunteers and with $21.7 million in annual expenses – provides psychiatric care to children, adolescents, and their families in the Kansas City region. We interviewed the Center’s CEO, Janine Hron, to learn more about the organization and how it approaches collecting and learning from feedback from its beneficiaries.

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Why listen to beneficiaries?

CEO Janine Hron says collecting feedback is how an organization learns about itself. “You learn what is a priority for those who need your care, you learn what is working well, and you learn the offenses you have committed. You can then use that information to make change,” she says. “If you’re in a service business, being responsive to the people you’re trying to serve, I think, is pretty fundamental.”

How is feedback from beneficiaries collected?

Crittenton asks for feedback from children and their families through satisfaction surveys, focus groups, annual in-person feedback meetings with the board of directors, and pizza parties, to name a few ways. The organization also formed a resident council with children receiving inpatient services. “They do things like a student council would, they plan events that they want to do, they bring messages from their colleagues in the unit to give us feedback about the organization and the programs,” says Hron.

Who collects the feedback?

Hron says, “It might be the patient advocate, it might be the staff members who are working with the kids at a particular event. We are also a part of a larger health system, and so all of the inpatient satisfaction surveys [and]…anything that’s written, does not come back to us; it goes to a department within the health system, and they aggregate everything and give us our reports back monthly and quarterly so that we have feedback to work from.”

What’s an example of feedback received and used?

A parent whose child was receiving behavioral therapy from Crittenton told Hron that his daughter had shown the family the skills she had learned to modulate her emotions. He had found it helpful to understand what his daughter was experiencing and suggested that the Center teach parents the skills it was teaching their children. “We did two things with that information,” says Hron. “We recognized that a lot of what we’re teaching the kids, of course will be stronger if we’re involving the family. So, we initiated a convenient way for families to engage in short skill-building kinds of sessions, just like their kids are doing, so that they have common tools and understand things that are that way. And we let the kids teach it and that’s very empowering for the kids, and it sets up a whole different dynamic in the group.”

Hron believes her organization could do an even better job closing the loop with those who provide feedback, though they do quite a bit internally with the feedback they receive. “We thank people who send us written responses; if there’s something, usually negative, that we need to follow up on, we always do that separately by phone or by personal correspondence about their specific issue. Internally, [feedback] is shared with our board at a minimum quarterly, and we meet monthly with the leadership group, which is the directors of the departments across the entire organization and we identify any specific things that we need to address together there. The other group that sees [the feedback] is what we call our ‘plan for care committee.’ At the end of the day, the people who are in charge of our quality management and our patient advocacy are driving that process and making sure that we’re being responsive.”

To read more from CEP’s latest research on nonprofit perspectives and practices regarding beneficiary feedback, see the full report Hearing from Those We Seek to Help.

To learn more about Crittenton Children’s Center, visit their website.

 

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