“Great job, Morgan! Members really loved the lecture series this year!” the Club President told her.
As chair of the Program Committee, Morgan was happy to learn that her fellow art history club members were satisfied, but she was also a little puzzled.
“Thanks, that’s good to hear,” she said. “But can I ask what makes you think that? Because I’ve only received a few complaints, and haven’t heard much else.”
“Oh, some people complain about everything, don’t worry about it,” the President assured her. “Several folks have mentioned to me how much they enjoyed the series.”
The conversation ended there, but the more Morgan thought about it, the more unsatisfied she became. She needed a real process to collect member feedback, rather than relying on things people mentioned in passing.
But what would a good member feedback process look like? Should she send a survey? Would anyone even participate?
Have you ever been in the same situation as Morgan, without a way to collect and process feedback from your members?
What’s So Great About Member Feedback?
The president of Morgan’s club wasn’t wrong — some people do seem to enjoy complaining. But feedback is about more than that. It can help you target your programs, build community, and increase member satisfaction.
A regular feedback process ensures that the “complainers” and naturally outspoken aren’t the only ones who ever give you an opinion. By soliciting feedback from your entire membership, you give everyone a chance to be heard.
Member feedback can also help you head off members who are planning on leaving before they do so. Many people leave organizations without ever raising the reasons why, and a feedback process gives them the opportunity to address any problems they’re having. This can help with member retention.
3 Top Ways to Collect Member Feedback
Morgan briefly considered interviewing every club member, but quickly abandoned the idea. It would be time-consuming, and she also thought people might be less than honest if they had to tell her their opinions face-to-face. She decided she needed a feedback-collecting device. She considered three options:
1. Linking to a Survey
Online surveys are easy to build and share using tools like Survey Monkey and Google Forms (we even have a Google Forms template for you to use). You can create your own questions and give members yes-no, multiple-choice or open-form options to answer. Online surveys are easy to anonymize and aggregate all the data for you.
Surveys are particularly useful for collecting feedback immediately after events. Send it promptly so that memories are fresh and impressions are still strong.
Good For: Specific questions, regular check-ins, event feedback, and group decision making.
If you want to provide members with an ongoing opportunity to give and discuss feedback, a member forum on your website (in the members-only area) can be a good solution. It’s one we use here at Wild Apricot to learn about ideas for new features or improvements we could make to our platform.
A member forum will work best when you establish some general rules for engagement, such as requiring descriptive subject lines and respectful discussion and prohibiting spam and self-promotion.
Good For: General feedback, brainstorming, “taking the pulse” of your membership, learning about issues you otherwise might not hear about.
A pop-up on your website is a great way to learn about the user experience of your website, but can also be used to ask members questions, conduct polls, or invite their general feedback. If you have an active community on your website, this is a good place to pop a question. (If you regularly read our product-related posts, you may even have seen a pop-up like this on our site!)
Good For: Getting feedback on your website, asking quick questions, gauging satisfaction with your online processes.
Morgan decided to create a general membership satisfaction survey to email to all the members and to start a thread in the club’s member forum about future lecture topics.
Member Feedback Dos and Don’ts
Collecting member feedback isn’t difficult, but there are some best practices to follow to get the best results and most responses.
- Keep your expectations reasonable
Not every member will complete your survey or participate in the discussion. Response rates will vary, but will likely not approach 100%.
- Set a goal
What do you want to know? Set a specific goal for the feedback you’re collecting from your members. Will it help you make a decision, change something, or learn more about your members? Having a goal stops you from asking questions just for the sake of asking.
- Make feedback collection a consistent process
Regularly soliciting member feedback is better than a haphazard approach. Whether it’s an annual satisfaction survey or committing to sending two questions after every event, consider making feedback a consistent part of your member communications.
- Keep it short
Filling out surveys or answering questions takes time. The quicker and easier you can make it for your members, the more likely they are to actually complete it. (If you’re looking for an example, check out our member satisfaction survey template.)
- Provide space for open feedback
Most of your questions for your members will probably be yes-no or multiple-choice, like, “Do you want to meet in the morning or evening?” or “Should the annual dinner remain in December?” That’s fine! Those kinds of questions get right to the point and ask what you want to know. Just remember to leave space for members to enter their own comments, too. That’s how you’ll find out new things about their interests and concerns.
- Ask for feedback you’re not going to use
There is no point in asking for member feedback you’re not going to use. Ask people about things you’re willing to take action on, and make a plan for responding to the feedback they give you. If members get the sense that they fill out surveys and send them into the void, they’ll stop responding.
- Ask more than one question at a time
“Was our event space clean and well-organized?” “Was the film enjoyable and family-friendly?” “How satisfied are you with the club meetings and programs?” These look like single questions but actually contain two or three.
What if the event space was clean but disorganized? The film family-friendly and very boring? The club meetings a headache, but the program excellent? Known as the “Double-Barrelled Question,” this can confuse your respondents and skew your results. Ask questions one at a time.
- Delay event surveys
Get your event surveys out as soon as possible. People will quickly forget the details, otherwise, and you won’t get as much information. Aim for within 24 hours of the event.
Member Feedback is Essential
After her member feedback process was in place, Morgan couldn’t understand how she’d operated so long without it. She’d been completely in the dark, relying on the off-hand comments of the most outspoken club members.
Now, she found she had a much clearer picture of member satisfaction and the programs they most enjoyed. She was able to share the feedback with the rest of the program committee to help them make decisions. She was able to put complaints in context and a broader range of data to understand them and know when they merited action.