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The Best Day

Client outcomes are best when clients feel good about how your program helps them reach their goals.  Clients’ best days and worst days:

On their best days, they make progress toward their important goals

On their worst days, they take one or more steps backward

Service providers often determine the difference between best days and worst days by the progress the clients make toward goals that are important to the provider.  The clients’ goals and the organization’s goals are unlikely to be perfectly aligned.  Ultimately, both the client and the service provider are working toward the same goals (client success).  However, how they measure success and their perception of progress are often very different.  The client’s lack of control over the process can intensify the client’s perception of how bad the worst day is and minimize how good the best days are.

Client engagement depends on having more good days than neutral or bad days.  It is the client’s perception of the day that counts.

As an example, sometimes clients must develop skills before they can take a step forward.  A client may believe his or her skills are more than adequate.  Therefore, the service provider’s goal for the day might be to demonstrate to the client the need for enhanced skills.  The client’s realization of the need for additional skills is an important goal for the service providers.  However, the client’s realization that his or her skills need to be enhanced is likely to be perceived as a significant step backward.  Having a bad day early in the service cycle can drastically reduce a client’s engagement.

There is a direct relationship between client success and a nonprofit’s sustainability.  The level of client success is proportional to the client’s engagement.  Monitoring and managing client good days and engagement is important since there is a direct relationship between a client’s success and a nonprofit’s success, sustainability, and the perceived relevance of its mission.

Part of managing the client’s perception is to align the client’s goals with your goals.  That includes helping the client understand that today’s organizational goals are the next step in the client’s progress toward his or her goals.  This will help ensure that more days are good days.  When the client sees a direct connection between the day’s activities and his or her goals, it helps to increase client engagement.  It also helps the client take the long-view and look past the momentary setbacks.

Next Step:

Ensure your nonprofit’s goals for its services are complementary to clients’ goals for themselves

Ensure clients see the direct connection between what is happening at the moment and what they want in the future

Ensure clients understand the current path is the shortest path with the best possible outcome even though other paths may seem better to them

Use client engagement as a success measure for your programing

The goal of any nonprofit’s programing is to create a long-term change that significantly improves the client’s life (outcome).  Whether that goal is reached depends on whether the changes in the client’s life are sustained after completing the program.  Engaged clients are more likely to have the outcomes that demonstrate that your mission statement’s promises were realized.  While the outcome is every nonprofit’s goal, the only way the goal can be reached is with sustained effort on the part of the client.  The level of client engagement prior to program completion is a predictor of outcome achievement.

Engaged clients are also more likely to sustain their relationship with the nonprofit that helps them start on the path to long-term success.  When the relationship is sustained, it is easier for your nonprofit to track the client progress and provide additional assistance with the client’s journey.  Since reaching the desired outcome proves the relevance of your mission, sustaining the relationship is critical to your community’s perception of your mission’s relevance and your nonprofit’s sustainability.

Helping clients connect current actions with their long-term goals helps sustain clients’ commitments to achieving the goals.  It also helps clients focus on creating long-term goals.  This further cements your nonprofit’s value to each client’s future and helps to sustain your relationship.

Take It Further:

Use the process you develop as a model for improving donor engagement

Remind your board that donors care more about outcomes than they do about program completion; therefore, using client engagement as a success measure is more valuable to fundraising than current results

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