Why Business Rules Rule
Business processes often set the standard for what consumers and donors expect from transactions and relationships with for-profits and nonprofits alike. That's why it's important for nonprofits to consider business rules when it comes to managing donor life cycles.
This was the topic covered by Leo D'Angelo, CTO of Orange Leap, and Matt McCabe, vice president of community for Orange Leap, a nonprofit software development and services firm, in the NTEN webinar "Managing the Lifecycle of Your Donors: Understanding Business Rules and Fundraising Automation".
In today's world, they said, people are OPEN, which stands for:
- On-demand — They demand information and action "right now."
- Personalized — You must cater to many "markets of one."
- Engaged — They meaningful and engrossing experiences.
- Networked — They constantly connected and expect holistic experience
- Recognition. In the form of personalization; status, e.g., a giving club; and history, e.g., past giving amounts;
- Choice and ease of use. They want to select the most convenient channel on-demand. Everyone has a preferred channel but may change the channel based on situations; and
- Consistency of experience — accurate, up-to-date information; actionable information; and being empowered to transact.
Automating these functions helps organizations by reducing staff time, improving efficiency and improving the constituent experience. To date, automation has been lacking at NPOs because it's long been thought out of reach due to cost, time, the level of expertise needed and complexity.
To achieve this automation, D'Angelo and McCabe advised attendees to select active systems that recognize constituents based on their organizations' languages and rules so as to minimize dependence on manual, query-based fundraising operations.
Business rules describe the operations, definitions and tactics that enable an organization to achieve its goals. Basically, they tell an organization how to get where it's going. Examples of a business rule is considering anyone who donates $5,000 or more in a single calendar year a "major donor"; or sending every first-time donor a welcome package via mail within 14 days and an appeal for a second gift within 42 days.
In most organizations, many of these rules are undocumented and can often be inconsistent, which can result in the following challenges:
- Lack of strategic review and analysis of definitions, procedures and tactics. Why are major donors defined at the $5,000 level? What is the optimal timing for a second-gift ask? Should donors receive acknowledgments via mail, e-mail or both?
- Rules exist in the institutional memories of individual rather than in the infrastructure of the organization. This risks that staff turnover results in loss of vital operational knowledge, and training new hires and scaling operations requires significant staff time
- Reliance on individuals to consistently remember and properly execute on key processes.There is the risk that donors and other constituents will have inconsistent treatment (e.g., timely acknowledgments). There is an inability to test and return valid results, and staff time is focused on managing processes.
- Potential conflicts and lack of continuity between channels, departments/affiilates, and donor levels or types.
Fundraising automation allows organizations to document their business rules and integrate them into an active system so that the system knows what actions and steps to perform based on constituent behavior and/or the amount of time that's passed. The bottom line is that it frees significant staff time and ensures timely and consistent engagement.
For more information on specific examples of how business rules work, listen to a recording of the webinar.