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Stakeholder Reviews: The Arts Are "Nourishment for the Mind and Spirit"

Social media are fundamentally changing nonprofit work.

Whether it's via Twitter, Facebook, or another channel, finding ways to engage your community in the work of your organization is increasingly critical to your success.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to gather user reviews.

Over the past year, thousands of such user-generated reviews of nonprofit organizations have been appearing on both the GuideStar and GreatNonprofits Web sites.

Many of them come in during special month-long, interactive campaigns co-sponsored by our organizations. Each campaign focuses attention on a particular segment of the nonprofit community.

Recently, for example, we waged our first-ever "Arts Appreciation Campaign," which we co-sponsored with Intersection for the Arts.

The response was dramatic, triggering the largest outpouring of reviews we have ever logged in one month.

A total of 186 community arts organizations across the country qualified for our Top-Rated Arts Nonprofits List, which consists of groups that attracted 10 or more positive reviews.

Over the course of the campaign, more than 60,000 people visited the GreatNonprofits site, posting more than 4,000 reviews of 472 separate nonprofit organizations.

"This response of the arts community is unprecedented and speaks to the importance of funding and supporting the arts," says Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits, "even during periods of economic downturn and in the face of natural disasters."

As one donor to the Colored Pencil Project, which fosters art by poor children, explained, "Poverty stricken communities need many basic necessities—[but] it is easy to forget that children need nourishment not only for the body but also for the mind and spirit."

Reviews like this one not only offer community members a way to support nonprofits but also provide organizations with a meaningful method of gathering feedback.

As Jessica Robinson Love, executive director of CounterPULSE (one of the top-rated charities), put it, "We're used to hearing from our patrons, but it's rarer for us to solicit public feedback from the community we serve—artists! Partnering with GreatNonprofits has given us the opportunity to solicit feedback from our clients about what works and doesn't work for them.

"It's been a great experience to share this feedback with the public, and to demonstrate our impact to our funders and supporters."

Amy Saidman, the executive director of SpeakeasyDC, a small organization with one full-time staff member that gathered 18 glowing reviews in just a few days, stated, "We've never had a good channel for feedback and suggestions before, and the outpouring of enthusiasm and constructive ideas has been priceless. A fringe benefit is that I now have quotes I can use in my next grant proposal."

The results of the arts campaign provide further evidence that the reviews we are hosting on GuideStar and GreatNonprofits make it easier for people to discover the important work that community groups are doing.

User reviews provide a vivid, emotionally engaging, and authentic perspective on what nonprofit work is all about. After all, every nonprofit has a story to tell—about the clients it's served, policy reforms that it's influenced, and communities where it's made a difference.

Reviews are a great new way to get those stories out, which—in the age of social media—is increasingly vital to your organization's success going forward.

See the entire list of top-rated arts nonprofits

David Weir, GreatNonprofits
© 2010, GreatNonprofits

David Weir is vice president of communications for GreatNonprofits. GreatNonprofits is a Web site where people who have firsthand knowledge of a nonprofit—board members, volunteers, donors, recipients of services—can tell others about their experiences with the organization.

Topics: Impact