Feedback is an effective, but underused, way to develop your people and achieve your mission.

“When nonprofits use feedback regularly and effectively, they strengthen the work of the organization,” says Shera Clark, manager of CCL’s nonprofit sector. “Plus, you don’t need extra funding or a formal system to engage in giving feedback.”

Clark is author of a new book in CCL’s Ideas Into Action series, Feedback That Works for Nonprofit Organizations.

“The key to effective feedback is the ability to create and deliver a specific message based on observed behaviors,” says Clark.

CCL has developed a feedback technique called Situation-Behavior-Impact, or SBI, to help you give feedback in a way that works. Using SBI you can avoid common mistakes people make when giving feedback to peers, direct reports, volunteers, a boss or board members, such as:

  • Judging individuals, not actions.
  • Being too vague.
  • Giving unwanted advice.
  • Sandwiching negative feedback between positive messages.

SBI is simple and direct: you capture and clarify the situation, describe the specific behaviors and explain the impact that the person’s behavior had on you.

Situation-Behavior-Impact (SBI) model for feedbackIt is used for giving both positive and negative feedback. For example:

  • “Holly, this week you’ve put in extra volunteer hours to meet our deadline. I really appreciate the effort you’ve put into this project.”
  • “Avery, during your presentation this morning, you spoke so low that it was difficult for me to hear in the back of the room. Then, when the vice president questioned your budget, you spoke faster and louder. I wondered if you were prepared for the presentation and I felt uncomfortable.”

SBI can be used to acknowledge and reinforce effective and helpful actions — serving as “in-the-moment training,” Clark says.

In fact, 80% of the time, you’ll use SBI to give regular, positive feedback. Then when you need to give feedback on behaviors that need to change or improve (the other 20%), people are more open to hearing you. With practice, SBI can become a routine part of communication and development in your organization.

The ability to give effective feedback is important for managers in any organization, Clark notes, but it is especially valuable to nonprofit leaders.

“Nonprofits typically have few resources for professional development,” she explains. “When offered with respect and clarity, feedback gives you a chance to learn — an opportunity that benefits your people and fuels your mission.”

Learn more about Feedback that Works for Nonprofit Organizations, a CCL guidebook.

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