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Using Feedback to Improve Interactions with Beneficiaries

Date: March 24, 2015

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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 Feedback. Lifetrack in St. Paul, MN 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 1948, Lifetrack – with 145 staff, more than 200 volunteers, and $9.3 million in annual expenses – provides services that support employment and economic opportunity and child and family healthy development for children, families, and adults facing critical life challenges. We interviewed Lifetrack’s President and CEO, TrixieAnn Golberg, to learn more about the organization and how it approaches collecting and learning from feedback from its beneficiaries.


Why listen to beneficiaries?

Since Lifetrack works with beneficiaries facing a range of challenges, understanding their unique experiences and needs is necessary for the organization to effectively help them. CEO TrixieAnn Golberg says, “ is very much a natural part of how we work with individuals. It is about documenting the effectiveness of our programs, constantly looking for areas of improvement, both in the quality of the services provided, as well as other opportunities to meet families’ needs.”

How is feedback from beneficiaries collected?

Lifetrack uses a combination of surveys — paper and online — interviews, focus groups, anonymous suggestion boxes and third-party evaluations, when possible. While families can provide feedback to the organization through any of these channels, Golberg finds that “most of the feedback comes through interviews and conversations, and end-of-year or mid-year check-ins with parents. Our staff spends a lot of time in an appreciative inquiry-type process, and so learning the art of interaction and inquiry with our clients is an important part of how our staff interacts with clients.”

What’s an example of feedback received and used?

The organization recently fielded a survey to employment services participants to learn about their preferred method of interacting with their employment counselor. The results surprised Golberg. “We had assumed that a younger client would be more likely to use technology and have face-to-face interactions as secondary. It was exactly the opposite. Younger clients preferred the face-to-face and older clients preferred the use of technology and phone check-ins. So we put this information to use immediately, by changing our protocol, the number of engagements, and the type of engagements with our job-seekers…I think we’re now able to make sure that we’re interacting with each client in the way that’s most effective for them.”

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 Lifetrack, visit their website or find them on Twitter at @LifetrackMN.


Editor’s Note: CEP publishes a range of perspectives. The views expressed here are those of the authors, not necessarily those of CEP.

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