Listen to Clients, Hear New Ideas

Clients and donors are sources of funds for most nonprofits. Therefore, there are times when the best way to treat one group is also best for the other group. Because there are some differences, there must be some variations in the process. This article and its companion article about donors highlights the differences and similarities.

Nonprofits have a choice. Each time service is provided, it can be a transaction or it can be a relationship-building opportunity. It is easy for service opportunities to become transactional. When the service worker does the same thing for a number of clients all in the same day, it is easy to think that there is no need to vary the services. When there is pressure to serve more clients today than yesterday, it is hard to feel that there is time to vary services.

Each client is a unique person. Therefore, each service opportunity can be used to create a unique relationship. That unique relationship has the opportunity to provide the mission and clients with several benefits. It will also provide your nonprofit with a competitive advantage and increase your nonprofit’s sustainability.

Each client has unique needs. Each of those unique needs is an opportunity to strengthen your services and enhance your mission. The only way to know what a client wants is to have a relationship with the client or prospective client that ensures an open and frank exchange of information. Once you know what the client wants, you must be willing to provide it, assuming what they want is mission centric. Sometimes this means creating something new. Whether you will ever use the new feature again is unimportant. By serving the client in a way that is beneficial to your clients and mission, you will capture the client’s business.

It makes responding to just one client’s request appear expensive. However, losing the client to a competitor may be more expensive. If you lose the client, all of the work you put into capturing the client will be lost (that is an expense you can never recapture). Since you lost the client, a competitor now has the client and the income associated with that client. If the feature is something future clients want, you will be playing catch up while a competitor is collecting income and establishing a reputation for being client driven.

While there is expense and risk associated with catering to a single client’s needs there are benefits beyond the expense mitigation mentioned. Creating something new implies learning a new way to do something. The knowledge gained can often be leveraged even though the new feature is seldom used. Your willingness to create special features will attract clients and expose your nonprofit to other special opportunities. Some of those opportunity will create competitive advantages. The new features will increase clients’ success, which will attract more support, attract more clients, increase sustainability, and increase the relevance of your mission.

The new features and a client-driven process will provide your nonprofit with a distinct value difference when recruiting clients, donors, and board members. Most nonprofits claim to be client driven. Having new features that originate from client requests and may only be valuable to a small number of clients demonstrates that your nonprofit is client driven. In other words, your client strategy can become a significant differentiator when competing for and retaining clients. You will have more evidence and anecdotes to support the claim that your nonprofit is client driven.

A client-driven strategy encourages your clients to play an important role in the ongoing development of your nonprofit and mission. Since they are the beneficiaries of your nonprofit’s services, it makes sense for them to have significant influence. While this will result in budget variances at times, there should also be an offsetting increase in donor generosity. This assumption is predicated on the client’s request being mission centric and your fundraising team using the request to cultivate donor support.

Next Step:

Create a personal relationship with each client and potential client

Convert clients’ and prospective clients’ needs into new services or features

Use your new features and increasing client success to cultivate new donors, grow donor loyalty, and grow donor generosity

A client with a unique need has the potential to do more for the future of your nonprofit than other clients. Besides adding to this year’s successes, the client will help you expand the reach of your mission and services, increase the effectiveness of your mission and services, potentially create a competitive advantage, potentially put your nonprofit and mission on the leading edge of an emerging trend, help your nonprofit develop new skills, increase your nonprofit’s sustainability, and attract, retain, and increase the generosity of your donors.

Use your commitment to being client driven to drive your innovations.

Take It Further:

Ensure that all new features are mission centric in addition to being client driven (prevent what the clients want from diluting or redefining your mission)

Ask you client services team to actively seek suggestions which will make your mission more effective for clients


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