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Posts Tagged ‘nonprofit customer service’

Reaching Out to Donors: Effective Communication

I like what Gail Perry has to say on Fired Up Fundraising: Five Tips for Donor Love: The bottom line idea is to communicate using methods that get your donors’ attention. Could be online, could be snail mail, could be You Tube video, could be all the above. First, you need something to say that makes your donors want more where that came from. If they delete or toss your messages in the round file, that doesn’t help you. So when you can, ask your donors what they like to hear, and how they like it. And then meet them in their comfort zone. Capice?

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Chipping Away at the Nonprofit Tax Deduction

Part of the Fiscal Cliff deal struck by President Obama with Congress was more taxes to be paid by those earning over $300,000 a year. The way this compromise was arrived at has caused some concern among nonprofit leaders. Especially those leaders of larger nonprofits: Universities, hospitals, museums and other arts institutions with relatively large budgets (at least $5 million a year) that have significant development staff and attract substantial annual gifts from wealthy individuals.

In a recent article in Forbes Magazine the author explains how the change will work. Persons earning over $300,000 will have to choose how they will take their deductions, because they will be limited. For each $100,000 earned over the first $300,000, 3% (or $3,000) is removed from the deduction and essentially becomes part of the tax cost. For those earning millions, that can be a substantial amount. And the potential impact on charitable giving…the disincentive to donate because of the tax implications…can be significant. Small-to-midsize nonprofit organizations will likely not feel much of a squeeze as a result of this change in tax policy. But the big nonprofits will likely feel the pain in 2013.

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Customer Service for the Nonprofit in the Social Media Age

Nonprofit organizations need to practice great customer service for their primary customers (those who use their services) as well as their supporting customers (volunteers and donors). If the staff and volunteers working for your mission aren’t practicing quality Customer Service, it’s a turn-off. And with Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and other social media platforms, it’s good communication practice to assure that all people understand that working as staff or volunteer assumes a good attitude when interacting with primary and supporting customers in these media, too.

How do we know when we’re providing “good” Customer Service? When we survey our customers and they respond that they are satisfied. Doing spot surveys of our customers to check in on customer satisfaction is a good idea for nonprofits, as it is for commercial companies.

Some companies use Feedback Loops to learn how they are doing. In the United Kingdon, National Express, a public transport company, invites commuters to text about their experience while they are commuting. This kind of check up tells the company how they are doing.

I suggest that you ask board members how their companies check on Customer Service. Take a few minutes at your next board meeting for a conversation on this topic. Discuss how you might apply the concept at your nonprofit. If you have a communication or public relations committee, and a staff person with responsibility in this area, ask them to do a bit of research on how to go about assessing and improving Customer Service in a 21st Century work environment. Come up with a plan and incorporate it in the performance review process at your workplace in the upcoming year. Assure that it becomes integrated and part of the job.

Taking steps to assure that your primary and supporting customers are satisfied with service at your nonprofit will deliver positive returns.

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What’s Your Customer Saying?

Coming off recent posts with a marketing orientation, it’s time to focus on the nonprofit customer.

Who is the customer of your nonprofit organization?  It’s a good place to start to get clarity, so you, your board, your staff, your volunteers know who the customer is, know what the customer needs are, and how your group responds to those needs.

And to do this well, everyone needs to listen. The staff, the volunteers. Everyone.  EVERY. ONE.  So, from the executive director and the board chair all through the people charged with accomplishing the nonprofit mission: all are listening.  And what we all are hearing is important to capture. And respond.

the primary customers of the nonprofit are the people benefiting from the services provided. The theater subscribers. The kids enrolled in the Boys & Girls Club after-school program. The cancer patients being taken to their chemo and radiation therapy appointments.  It’s clear to all who the primary customer is, what this customer needs, and how we’re set up to meet those needs.

The supporting customers are those folks supporting the mission: stakeholders in the mission who donate, who volunteer who make it possible for the nonprofit to execute the mission: to deliver the essential service that’s provided.

How do we know we’re doing the best possible job we can?  We ask our customers. We design ways to gather information, the feedback that tells us if we’re on course or not. You can count on someone (at least one someone) to question the value of asking. It takes time. It takes use of some resources. Shouldn’t every available dollar go to our service? That’s a hard point to argue. But I urge you to counter the argument with: “How do we know we’re meeting the need we think we’re meeting if we don’t ask?  If we don’t listen to what our customer is saying?”

Just before writing this blog post, I read Micheal Stein’s “Internet Strategies for Nonprofit Sector.”  He’s good. He tweets as @mstein63. His latest post cited research by Convio, the fundraising database experts. He focused on step #4 of their ten steps to grow the constituent base (your donors): “segment your welcome messages.”  So in your communication with new donors, you tailor your message to the demographic and psychographic information you can collect so what you say has meaning to your donor: so it in a way reflects back what you hear them saying to you. This will help build a relationship. And donor loyalty.

It’s part of effective marketing strategy.  And if you’re thinking and behaving in this way, you’ll be many steps ahead of your competition.  Because all too many of your competitors are only thinking “outgoing.”  Not “incoming.”

You’ll be glad you did. Listen. To What Your Customer is Saying.

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Good Marketing > Good Governance

One measure of an effective nonprofit board of directors is the level of comprehension and commitment to strong marketing practice. I know that some members of nonprofit boards scoff at marketing as alchemy and opt for the purity of the program they deliver to their clients. Well, I tell ya. If you don’t understand what makes your client tick, your program may not be worth a bucket of spit. Good marketing, as Peter F Drucker taught and as the Leader to Leader Institute persists in telling us, starts with the customer. And the primary customer is the person who benefits from the service your nonprofit provides. And if we’re not taking the time to check in with our customer/client and gauging the effectiveness of the program we’re providing we’re missing the boat.
Our work, designed to accomplish our mission, has to be based on the market it’s targeting. And the work should represent our brand in the most excellent way possible to shore up our creditibility with our supporting customers: our volunteers, our donors, our stakeholders.
Commitment to that level of quality, based on a clear understanding of what serves our customer best, will provide us with the data that will help make donors take us seriously.
Yes, your nonprofit organization should be mission-driven.
But your nonprofit must be market-sensitive.
One reason why the Harlem Children’s Zone is so effective is because everyone in that organization gets the fundamentals of their market. They built their effective program block-by-block. Harlem Children’s Zone makes it easy for children receiving service to concentrate on the important stuff, because they figured out how to coordinate the array of services needed in a way that receiving service doesn’t get in the way of the focus on education.
Every member of every board of directors needs to be oriented to this kind of thinking. It’s The Results. Know your market, design appropriate response to the needs of your primary customers, and keep refining and improving on that response and the donating public will open your website, see the value, and vote to be a part of it.
And that, my friend, is what separates the effective nonprofit from the run-of-the-mill.

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