The Donor Centric Organization

Unless you have been completely out of touch with reality the world has changed over the last several years. It just isn’t the world we grew up in and the game has changed significantly – globally, locally, and nationally – not just for for-profits but also for nonprofits.

The donor’s choices and giving options have increased significantly, their expectations of the charity they support have increased, and their access to information about your nonprofit has increased.

Placing the donor at the center of everything we do as a nonprofit has become critically important. Social Media, along with its viral nature and ability to disseminate a message (positive or negative), has grown tremendously upping the ante significantly. Thus leaving the nonprofit no longer in control of how messages and sentiments are disseminated among peers and to a broader audience outside of our control.

Recently, a passenger on a Virgin flight from Mumbai to London was confronted with a poor dining experience so he decided to write a letter to Sir Richard Branson (along with color photos) detailing his displeasure with the food as well as the entire experience. This letter, which was written incredibly well, soon went viral.

But not viral on the travelers behest but because Sir Richard coined it “the best customer complaint letter ever written” and personally called the complainer to discuss it. He played it up! And used the letter and the serendipitous opportunity to reinforce the brand he has crafted over the years – a bit irreverent and quirky, yet totally focused on the customer.

What an example for all of us…. not to shirk away from a negative response but to embrace it and recognize it for what it is – an opportunity to make a service better and to turn a dissatisfied customer into a happy customer! While at the same time airing the dirty laundry with the world…

So as nonprofit professionals we can no longer treat our supporters as a “number” or worse, as an “ATM machine”. Donors need to know we care about them as a person and that we count on them not just for financial support but as true advocates to our common cause. We want satisfied and content and loyal “customers” just as Sir Richard does. That’s how successful businesses are made, fostered, and grown.

So keep in mind that The Customer is King! 

Although this concept was coined by John Wanamaker and other great retailers almost one hundred years ago very few organizations have been able to adopt it as a driving force. According to a study Accenture conducted in 2000, an entire organization must become obsessed with what the (customer) donor wants because there is a direct correlation between excellence in a company’s overall interaction with its customers and the overall financial performance of the company. Wow that is quite a statement. If we become obsessed with a donor, and their involvement with us, our financial performance increases.

When you’re operating in a commodity and/or extremely competitive industry, you have two choices. Either create a new/innovative product or service that takes you out of the commodity/competitive status, or differentiate on service.

I propose that you differentiate your nonprofit based on exemplary service and a uniqueness to your brand just like Virgin Atlantic. Service (AKA customer experience and satisfaction) become the driving force of success.