Nonprofits exist to solve a problem for people and society (Mission).

Examples of a Nonprofit’s Mission include finding a cure for a fatal disease, feeding people during a crisis, conserving wildlife etc. The list is numerous as we have multiple challenges facing people and society. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S.

This number includes public charities, private foundations, and other types of nonprofit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues.

Unlike For-profit companies, whose goal is to deliver products and services for customers that drive revenue and share holder value, Nonprofits key goal is to accelerate and deliver on the Mission. This is the key point that differentiates how for-profit and nonprofits find, engage, keep, grow and service their customers.

So, who are the customers (Supporters) for Nonprofits and how are they different than For-Profit’s?

Chart 1:    Nonprofit Supporters
Chart 1: Nonprofit Supporters

A typical Nonprofit has five key customer groups (i call them Supporters of the mission) as shown in Chart 1.

  1. Mission Problem Solvers: These are the supporters that work on solving the Mission problem. Example can be researchers who are finding a cure, scientists who are working on a vaccine, doctors fighting a disease etc.
  2. Donors: Nonprofits need money and resources to accelerate Mission and this is where donors come in. Donors could be individual donors, foundations, governments and corporations who believe in the mission.
  3. Advocates: Nonprofit organizations advocate for the people it serves, its organization, and the common interests of the nonprofit sector to operate effectively and advance its mission. Advocates could be working with the government, industry or the community to devise and support a policy that supports the mission.
  4. Volunteers: Volunteers support the Nonprofit with their time, talent, and treasure. They are one of the critical supporters who support the mission selflessly.
  5. Community: These are the Supporters for whom the Nonprofits exist at the first place. Example include Children with cancer for St.Jude, people with type 1 diabetics for JDRF and people who need blood from Red Cross.

As you see above, the Supporters (customers), of a typical Nonprofit are a lot different than for profits, as their expectations are different. Nonprofits can still use the same frameworks (e.g., segmentation, demographics, psychographics, personalization etc.) to understand a Supporter persona but it is important to understand their expectations to have successful Supporter Experience (SX).

Nonprofit Supporters expectations can be grouped into three key areas –

  • Impact to Mission: Supporters are aligned to the Nonprofits mission, as this is critical for them to be associated with a Nonprofit at the first place. Each of the supporter persona’s key expectation is to understand how they are contributing in accelerating the mission. For example a Donor would be interested to know how each $ invested is driving the mission, same for volunteers (how their volunteer support is helping the mission), advocates and community members.
  • Personalized Engagement: Supporters have to be engaged at a personal level using both digital (web, mobile, social) and physical (chapters, staff) channels. The experiences have to be personalized to the persona to drive maximum value for the Supporters.
  • Transparency on Future: Nonprofits have to be transparent to their Supporters about the Mission’s future. This is like having a clear future product roadmap for mission – what is coming next, when and why.

I will be discussing more about what KPIs we need to leverage measuring Supporter Experience and Expectations in my future blogs.

To wrap up, following are the three key takeaways from this blogpost –

  1. Customers for Nonprofits are Supporters who help to accelerate Mission
  2. Supporters are aligned with Nonprofit’s mission but they have to be engaged personally to meet their expectations
  3. Each Supporter persona is different and hence Nonprofits have to treat them separately to devise the right engagement plans

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