As the leading provider of user-generated reviews of nonprofit organizations, GreatNonprofits.org (GNP) encourages people to rate more than 1.2 million nonprofits directly on our Web site, or on GuideStar.
By collecting feedback from those who have direct experience with nonprofit groups—clients, volunteers, board members, donors, and partners—GNP is in the process of assembling a comprehensive database of stakeholder perspectives for the entire sector.
There are three main types of benefits from user reviews:
How Nonprofits Can Benefit from and Promote Stakeholder Reviews
Universities encourage students to fill out course evaluations; Ritz Carlton encourages guests to fill out customer satisfaction cards; and JD Powers provides customer satisfaction surveys for cars, hospitals, and cell phone carriers.
In the same way, reviews of nonprofits by people who have had direct experience with them will help nonprofits improve their daily operations and their transparency going forward.
Transparency is essential for democratic decision making. It strengthens trust, institutional credibility, and legitimacy. Citizens who have access to multiple types of information and perspectives make more informed choices.
Similarly, reviews of nonprofit organizations provide valuable insights into how they compare with others providing similar services. Having this information allows for more informed giving decisions by donors and volunteers.
The GNP model, relying as it does on user-generated content in the form of organizational reviews, is part of the much broader emergence of interactive communication technologies to address real-world problems.
Often referred to as Web 2.0, the rapid growth of free interactive platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr has already revolutionized many areas of business and government.
Currently, about 50 percent of American adults and 75 percent of teens belong to at least one online social network. There are roughly 120 million active Facebook users in the United States, and they share 5 billion pieces of content with their friends each week.
Although adoption of social media has been a bit slower in the nonprofit sector, this is changing dramatically, as became apparent in the wake of recent devastating earthquake in Haiti, when social media became the main means of communication into and out of the disaster zone.
Most of us are aware of how influential user-generated reviews and recommendations for doctors, restaurants, or movies have become. Consumer recommendation on sites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, Epinions, Zagats, and Yelp now influence 60 percent of online buying decisions, according to a Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of more than 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries.
The data show that people increasingly trust the opinions of other people over institutional sources of information.
Another study, conducted by comScore and The Kelsey Group, examined the offline sales impact of online reviews for restaurants, hotels, travel, legal, medical, automotive, and home services.
It revealed that nearly one out of every four Internet users (24 percent) reported using online reviews prior to paying for a service delivered offline.
Furthermore, more than three-quarters of review users in nearly every category reported that the review had had a significant influence on their purchase.
GNP publishes user reviews of nonprofits. Just as in the studies cited above, our reviews are posted by people who have been touched by a nonprofit and want to share their stories about those experiences.
Their reviews, therefore, have a very similar viral effect.
Our specific methodology takes into account the diversity of the nonprofit sector; thus we host reviews of groups of all different shapes and sizes and types, from the smallest grassroots nonprofits operating on the local level to the large regional and national organizations.
Our reviews also appear on GuideStar, where they are linked to from the search results pages as well as from the individual organizations' profile pages. Users also can write reviews directly on GuideStar that will be published on GNP as well.
David Weir, GreatNonprofits© 2010, Great Nonprofits
David Weir is VP, Communications, for GreatNonprofits.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may or may not represent GuideStar's opinions. GuideStar is committed to providing a range of topics and perspectives to our users. We make every effort to obtain articles from knowledgeable, trustworthy sources, but we make no warranties or representations with regard to articles written by persons outside GuideStar.
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