Change: Managing to the Inevitable
Let's face it … whether you've been around for a long time or a short time, it's not possible to have missed all the change. Nonprofits have experienced a dramatically changed climate in the last decade — yet, unfortunately, most nonprofits have not changed themselves.
The sector is largely reactive and has a "get through it" attitude versus being proactive and realigning itself from inside. The marketplace changes are far-reaching and involve a different and evolving profile of the philanthropic audience, and increased financial scrutiny by watchdog agencies and donors themselves. On top of this, new channels for communication and outreach add additional complexity — and opportunity.
As I mentioned in last week's post, perhaps even more alarming are the changes in key fundraising success indicators. When looking at the seven nonprofit sectors (health, environmental, advocacy, etc.), the numbers of new donors are down in five out of the seven over the last three years. Retention of new donors is down in four of the seven and flat in the other three sectors, according to Blackbaud. Those metrics alone should be the catalyst for organizational change.
Nonprofits have always prided themselves on consistency and the certainty that comes from being underpinned by a long history of traditional operating methods for fundraising and marketing. Alarmingly, given a new and evolving landscape, the refusal or inability to change will not only erode the security of our market positions, but degrade our ability to deliver on our critical missions.
The future is bright for organizations willing to begin the transition from the old pattern of operating in an internally centric manner to the essential new paradigm of delivering an integrated and satisfying experience to constituents.
Driving change systematically
There are critical leverage points organizations must consider in becoming more constituent-centric. Alignment in each area is necessary to begin the organization's evolution and secure its success. Of course, each organization will have unique steps to take and different priorities to set.
- Organization alignment: Alignment at the executive, departmental and affiliate level within the organization is critical. Becoming constituent-focused is not just a marketing and fundraising decision; it is a business strategy that affects every area of the organization.
- Culture alignment: The way people view the organization's "new" goals and approach to doing business is a critical part of evolution. Of even more importance is how they view their individual roles not only as part of the new organizational vision but also how their roles affect the overall constituent experience. Change management is as much for the culture as it is for the marketing and fundraising efforts.
- Constituent strategy alignment: Most organizations have a structure that is built around departments and programs. Therefore, the strategies deployed across the organization are typically developed, honed and deployed with a view to what is needed for that department and/or program. Constituents are segmented via the same method, and the strategies deployed are typically built around a transactional view within the programs. For an organization to evolve as more constituent-based, constituent strategy needs to be understood and activated across the organization. Segmentation needs to be viewed at the organization-wide level, not the program level. Understanding overlap and duplication across departments must be seen through the eyes to each constituent group and how that experience affects the entire brand. A fully integrated constituent strategy must continue to be deployed within programs across the organization, yet the strategy is centralized and is the driving factor for execution.
- Metric alignment: Similar to how strategies are aligned in today's nonprofit, metrics of success are often based on program and department strategies. The evolution to a constituent-centric organization requires a set of goals and metrics. Constituent-based metrics must be developed to measure the overall relationship with the brand, retention with the brand, satisfaction and commitment to the brand, and the long-term view of the strength of those relationships. These metrics are additive and do not replace the metrics being used to measure and evaluate specific programs in the organization.
- Operations alignment: Once an organization begins the process of integrating strategies and viewing actions from a constituent-based approach, the operational framework in the organization must be reviewed to ensure that integration can actually occur. The development of new metrics may require changes in data, databases, financial tracking, etc. The integration of communication strategies may require new decision-making processes across departments and/or programs. Ensuring staffers across the organization understand their roles and accountability to ensure satisfying constituent experiences may require new performance management components. Depending upon the changes required to assure organization-wide success, it is likely that the issue of how the business operates must be reviewed and realigned.
Change is not easy — but it's worth it
As an industry, nonprofits have spent decades perfecting today's business model. Therefore, change will not happen overnight. Nor will change come easily. But, with a carefully managed approach focusing on the critical levers required for success, change WILL come and the benefits will assure that we not only survive but thrive in the fast-changing nonprofit environment.
As organizations across the sector have made improvement in key areas, retention rates have increased, improvement in satisfaction and loyalty to the brands has increased, and engagement with brands has been maximized. All these improvements drive greater revenue to fund the mission.
Consumers around the globe are demanding a better experience. And when it comes to the demands for better donor experiences, those will only be achieved through better integration across organizational silos and a clear view of constituents' value and needs across the organization.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.