Understated Value

Nonprofits are constantly developing new products and services. The development cycle goes something like this: New idea is conceived, the idea is proposed, the budget is created, the development occurs, implementation takes place, and the world is informed.

During the ideation, proposal, and budgeting processes there is usually an emphasis on the value to the clients and mission. Once approval is received, the emphasis shifts to the work, features, timeframe, and budget. By the time implantation occurs, the discussion is focused on the new features, the hard work, and how much faster, cheaper, or easier things will be as a result. The focus shifts from the clients and mission to the staff and the benefits the nonprofit will receive (cost saving, competitive advantage, increased number of clients served, etc.).

Instead of being seen as a great nonprofit committed to the betterment of the community and clients, it is seen as another nonprofit formed and operated solely for its own benefit. The sustainability of a self-serving nonprofit is of very little interest to most communities, donors, clients, and other stakeholders.

What could have been a boost to sustainability and support has become a footnote in the development plan. At each of the key points in the process take the opportunity to:

Excite clients about what is instore for them

Show donors how they are making life better for the clients

Share the ways your nonprofit is increasing its relevance and value to your community

Ensure that everyone knows how committed your nonprofit is to being client centric and driven by the evolving needs of your clients

Next Step:

Ensure that the reasons for innovating are also the reasons for celebrating the implementation

Ensure that the clients understand they and the mission are the sole reasons for the innovation

Ensure that the donors understand that they enabled the value creation and the enhancement of the clients’ lives

It is tempting to think that the donors want the project completed on time and within budget. However, they care more about mission effectiveness, client impact, and community value. If there is a cost overrun, the donors will support it because the value to the clients, mission, and community are worth more to the donors than money. It is reasonable for the donors to expect the budgeting and estimating to be better next time but none of the donors want any of the clients to receive less than the full value promised this time.

Innovations are implemented for the right reasons. Ensure that they are also promoted and celebrated for the right reasons.

Take It Further:

Remind your board to focus on the value created rather than the cost and time needed to create the value

Ask your board to measure the success of your innovations based upon the value created and the willingness of the donors to support the next innovation (a series of high-value innovations will increase donor generosity and engagement)


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