So you’re not for profit has just held an event and despite your best efforts you start to get some pretty negative feedback on Facebook, Twitter or some other social media accounts – what do you do?

Your options are

1. Ignore them.

2. Respond online to the feedback.

3. Take the conversation offline (phone, email or face to face).

The consensus amongst non profit professionals seems to be to opt for a mix of option 2 and 3.How best to handle negative reviews for you non profit – getting it right first time

So let’s explore the thinking and feedback on each of these options

Negative feedback-non profits

OPTION 1 – Ignore them

Option 1 is not encouraged, in fact to the contrary you are best to respond quickly and non emotionally.

Just how quickly is quickly – well this will depend on which social media forum was used to post the initial feedback. Your expected response time will vary from 2 hours to 24  depending on the social media platform (with Twitter users expecting more timely response than say Facebook users). Your response time should also match your stated commitment, if you’ve posted them. So if you say you will respond within 4 hours on FB then you’ve set the parameter and expectation for your followers that you must adhere to.

What about ‘non-emotionally’ well this is just about being respectful and unprovocative in your response. It doesn’t matter how the initial feedback is framed your NFP should always adopt a respectful response.

OPTION 2 – Respond online to the feedback.

Generally the majority of non profit’s believe it is best to respond initially online via the social media forum where the comments were made. The goal is not to have a length exchange online but rather to acknowledge the feedback and show a willingness to get more details in order to resolve their concerns offline.

This means acknowledging the feedback, apologising for the user’s poor experience and then encouraging them to contact you directly to address the issue (offline via email, phone or face to face). It is also good practice to acknowledge their feedback and let them know you’ll take their comments and suggestions onboard for future events.

Having said this you should never let false statements or untruths go unchallenged – no matter how tempted your are to let ‘sleeping dogs lay’. Remember other more balanced social media users will see the merits of your argument or response, even if the original commentator may not.

You might also like to consider including some ‘value add’ in your response – making sure it is relevant to the topic, i.e a response to a complaint about the event could include details of forthcoming events that they might like to attend to satisfy themselves the ‘issue’ was a once off.

OPTION 3 – Take the conversation offline

This is by far the preferred way to really deal with the feedback effectively and learn from this users experience. It allows you to engage with the customer and build a better understanding of the nuances of their experience and determine how best to resolve the issue(s). The goal is to build a relationship and resolve the issue.

Social Listening – how you gather customer reaction 

All of this discussion presupposes that you are monitoring your social media accounts for feedback, which of course you should be.  Don’t be daunted by the terminology, social listening is just

The practice of tracking online conversations about a specific phrase, word, or brand.

It’s not hard, listening can be done fairly simply and cheaply by setting up some fairly simple standard search queries.

I recommend using How to monitor social media with Google alerts as a starter (remember you must have a google account). Once you’ve automate the process you can receive the alerts to your inbox which you can monitor and manage at your own schedule.

Of course there are lots of tools and apps to help you establish a comprehensive social listening strategy so if your interested in exploring these more fully, here is a link to 13 Social Listening Tools  to get you started.

Consider the value in creating Community Guidelines

It might worth considering creating some Community Guidelines for your comments and social media sites to provide users and staf with some guidance on your approach and terms of use.

Here is some links to some existing Community Guidelines to get you started


Where to from here

Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.

Tim Fargo

So let’s start listening and responding in a way to build stronger more developed relationships with our non profit customers.

I’d love to read some of your stories and see what success you have in responding to feedback in your non-profit, so please leave a comment.

About the author – Helen Attrill, MBA

Hi, Just a bit about myself – I have over 26 years as a leader in the aged care and not for profit sector and have led the successful implementation of significant sector, profession and organisational change.

If you’re struggling with some aspect of change management or frustrated with your progress then maybe I can help please feel free to contact me by emailing me at

To find out more about my work visit Meet Helen page.