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Volunteer Management Quick Tips-
Feedback Is Two Way

by Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

It’s important to develop the reputation of caring about and appreciating feedback, especially if you like to use questionnaire surveys. This can only happen over time, by consistently paying attention to what you do after people respond to your questions. Remember that most folks expect little to happen after completing a survey. Their reply seems to drop into a black hole. So you have no where to go but up in showing everyone that the volunteer program is indeed listening. Increase your odds of getting more and better responses:

  1. Say thank you as soon as possible. Write a quick note simply to acknowledge getting the form back. If the surveys are returned anonymously, post a big sign somewhere visible and say: “Thank you to everyone who is sending back our survey! We’ve gotten _x_ so far.” Change the number daily. If you are seeking input online, make sure a screen pops up automatically with a message of appreciation for taking the time, adding to the information, etc.

  2. If you know who the respondents are, make sure you demonstrate that you’ve read their comments. Mention a suggestion they made in a note to them, or give them credit for the suggestion in a meeting or a written report. Summarize ideas raised in a newsletter or special e-mail to everyone. Obviously these techniques work for anonymous responses, too. Whether you say “Lakesha reminded us to do xyz,” or “One of our survey respondents stressed xyz,” the message you send is: you were heard.

  3. Keep a running tally of yes/no or pro/con replies and show it on a bulletin board or online. Do the same with ideas contributed. In fact, a nice follow up is to list all the ideas (or your favorite 10) and then ask everyone to contribute a second time by ranking these in the order they prefer. Only do this if you are content to act on the idea receiving the highest rank! But if you do, you are proving that you do not want to make decisions alone.

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About the Author: Susan J. Ellis is president of Energize, Inc.(, an international training, consulting, and publishing firm specializing in volunteerism. Susan writes the “Tip of the Month” for the free Volunteer Management Online Update, e-mailed monthly upon request. These tips are not published elsewhere and this “Quick Tip” selection has been excerpted from Updates distributed between 2000 and 2005.

You can receive the free Update directly into your e-mail box every month and keep up with all of Susan’s tips. Go to and submit your e-mail address using the form in the right hand column of every page or simply send an e-mail to with "subscribe" in the subject line.

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