Can 360 Evaluations Help Your Nonprofit?

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

According to an article written by Michelle Gislason and Marissa Terona of Northwestern University, “the 360 process provides a framework that ensures that feedback is received in a balanced way from a variety of stakeholders”. A 360’s design collects feedback on the skills and attributes that are most valued by an organization. This kind of feedback is critical to leadership development and improving collaboration in a nonprofit. It supports “relentless learning”, encouraging employees and leaders to seek out and utilize new ideas for improving their effectiveness in the nonprofit organization.

A 360 consists of a series of questions about how well an individual is doing relative to the skills and attitudes that are most valued by the nonprofit. A 360 experienced HR consultant typically works with management to select an appropriate set of questions to include in the 360. The person receiving the feedback and their manager identify who to collect data from (subordinates, collaborators, donors, clients, managers, board members, etc.). The process is explained to everyone involved, and they all receive the 360 questionnaire. The responses to each question are typically limited to multiple choices like “strongly agree”, “somewhat agree”, “neither agree nor disagree”, “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree” plus the option to provide a comment on each question. The HR person aggregates and summarizes the ratings and comments to protect the anonymity of the sources and meets with the person receiving the feedback to explain the results and to help them create a personal development plan. The individual might then meet with their manager to discuss their proposed development plan.

According to the authors, many nonprofit employees live in “feedback desert”, receiving little more than an occasional offhand comment on how they are doing. Even those that get a performance appraisal may not be receiving feedback on all of the attributes that are valued by the nonprofit, and may only be getting one person’s limited perspective. In order to create a “culture of learning” for more rapid leadership and organization development, feedback needs to be comprehensive, unbiased, trusted and fairly frequent. The 360 might be one way of doing this.

To read the authors’ article “The Good, Bad and Ugly of 360 Evaluations”, go to

Author:  Bob Cryer,  Executive Coaches of Orange County,