Why Engaged Clients Are Important & Valuable

The level of a client’s engagement is an indicator of the client’s success and potential for retention.  Client satisfaction is very different from client engagement.  Client satisfaction measures whether clients received the services they expected in ways they found pleasing.  Client engagement determines whether the client has a beneficial relationship with your nonprofit that goes beyond receiving services.

If you map each of your clients on the following matrix, it will tell you how successful each of your clients is likely to be, how likely your nonprofit is to retain the client, and how you can improve clients’ success, your nonprofit’s success, and your nonprofit’s sustainability.


Clients in the Low/Low sector are either new clients or clients on the verge of leaving your nonprofit for another service provider.  They have a very low level of satisfaction with the services they have received or expect to receive.  In addition, they have a very shallow relationship with your nonprofit.  A shallow relationship suggests they are unlikely to be patient or willing to work with you to improve their satisfaction.

The new clients are experiencing a difficult start-up process.  Unless their difficulties can be quickly overcome, it would be best to encourage them to seek services elsewhere.  The other clients should be encouraged to seek services elsewhere.  In both cases, it is better for a nonprofit’s reputation to release a client than to have a client leave.  Releasing a client suggests there is a flaw in the intake process.  Having a client leave suggests there is a flaw in the programing.  It is better to have an administrative problem (intake) than a programing problem.

Clients in the High/Low sector are between satisfied and very satisfied with the services.  However, they have a shallow relationship with your nonprofit.  They are clients who can be easily persuaded to use another provider who is less expensive, more convenient, or offers some other slight difference.  If they complete your program, they have a high probability of achieving the results promised by your programing.  However, it is unlikely they will achieve the long-term outcomes promised by your mission statement.  Achieving the long-term outcomes after leaving your program depends on an emotional commitment they seldom have.

Clients in the Low/High sector have a low level of satisfaction with the services they receive but feel very good about the relationship they have with your nonprofit.  They are unlikely potential to achieve a high level of success.  As a result, they are unlikely to contribute to your nonprofit’s reputation, donor engagement or satisfaction, or be a source of increased community support.  They continue to use your services primarily because of their emotional connection (the strength of the relationship).

Clients in the Low/Low sector and Low/High sector are a drain on resources.  They also reduce a nonprofit’s sustainability due to their lack of success and need for resources.

Clients in the High/High sector are the golden gems.  They usually achieve the best results possible from your programing and their engagement is likely to sustain their commitment to achieving the long-term outcomes promised by your mission statement.  Their short-term success (results) and long-term successes (outcomes) enhance your nonprofit’s reputation.  Their relationship with your nonprofit makes them willing to be advocates and referral sources for your mission and programing.  They provide the stories and statistics that encourage donor generosity and loyalty.  They are clients that are almost impossible for some other nonprofit to attract.  The strong emotional connection created by the relationship also makes these clients easier to retain for the entire program cycle.  They are significant contributors to your nonprofit’s sustainability.

For-profits can strategically position clients in all four quadrants.  If the strategy is to maximize income and profits, the left side of the matrix is the place to be.  Where on the left side depends on the competition and the desired customer-base’s values.  Since nonprofits solve societal problems and societal problems take a long time to solve, the best nonprofit strategy is to focus on having all clients in the High/High sector.

Next Step:

Map each of your clients on the matrix

Determine what it will take to move each of your clients to the High/High sector

Release the clients who are unlikely to migrate to the top half of the matrix

Use the percentage of client who exit your program from the High/High sector as a success measure of your client services and intake process

The matrix is a good tool for evaluating an organization’s clients.  It can also be used to evaluate the performance of nonprofits within a sector, industry, or region.

Where would your community place your nonprofit on the matrix?

Nonprofits can be mapped in the matrix based upon their ability and willingness to engage with their clients.  Based upon our experience, very few nonprofits are willing to fully engage their clients.  As a result, very few nonprofits would appear in the High/High sector.

If your nonprofit is willing to invest in client engagement, you will develop a significant competitive advantage.  The competitive advantage will ensure a steady flow of clients, attract and retain donors and volunteers, and attract attention and support from your community.

Take It Further:

Train your client services staff to spend as much time on relationship building as it does on service delivery

Create a culture where relationship building is as important as program completion

Share the mapping of your clients on the matrix with your board and ask your board for the resources necessary to move your clients into the High/High sector

Use the same process to ensure your nonprofit has highly satisfied and highly engaged donors and volunteers (especially board members)


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