Some time ago, during a conversation with a respected university professor and a professional in the nonprofit sector, one of them remarked to me that the worst thing to happen to nonprofits was the influx of executives from the for-profit sector. I could not respectfully contend with this opinion anymore if I wanted to. The problems that impact a community stem from such a wide range of areas, making it very difficult to even attempt to try and solve these problems. In my experience, it is much more beneficial to cross-collaborate with a diverse set of colleagues to facilitate conversation with perspectives different from yours to lead a collective effort towards mitigating these problems.
There is a widely read book in the startup community, Running Lean, by Ash Maurya that highlights it is imperative to have the ability to distinguish a customer and a user. As clearly articulated by Maurya, “A Customer is someone who pays for your product. A user does not”. This statement helped paved the way for me to realize a new perspective on online fundraising, for three different reasons.
The first being that business and digital world have essentially become intertwined regarding the discussion over user and customer experiences.
The second reason being that the majority of the population most representative of donors is derived from the for-profit sector.
The last, but not least, reason being that there is little discussion over the donor experience in the non-profit sector. In online fundraising, the donor serves so many different roles, it is almost unreal that their experience hasn’t been updated to reflect this.
Donors are more than a customer; they are clients interacting with the technology and an indication of the success or failure of your cause and product. The organization is simply facilitating the medium for the donor to connect with their personal motivations, it is now a necessity to provide memorable donor experiences. And believe me, those experiences need to be built on much more than an impersonal Donate button.
To increase the levels of aid coming in, the first step for any nonprofit is to better understand the inner mentality of their donors. People who work in the for-profit sector operate in accordance with measurements of efficiency, impact, and results. The experiences they provide their customers is just one way to influence what these measurements will look like.
COVID-19 has highlighted the dire need to embrace online fundraising as a multifaceted and valuable resource that is advantageous when used not only for income, but for creating collective awareness of societal issues as well. We are feeling the brunt of another virus concurrently along COVID, that being the inability to listen and create a space for individuals who may not align with our thinking. If this behavior persists and the nonprofit and for-profit sector continue to speak different languages and remain disconnected from each other, the problems of hunger, health, education, abuse, and inequity will be increasingly difficult to mitigate. It is difficult to say this, but there is no wonder after this as to why nonprofit claim aid is falling.