Clarify Your Mission With Journey Mapping
Why does your nonprofit need journey mapping?
Managing a nonprofit is complex, and no one who has ever tried it would argue this point. After all, the population you serve is broad. You start with your target audience, or the people who directly benefit from your driving vision, but there’s a slew of stakeholders to consider as well—and they vary depending on the mission and structure of the organization.
From funders and members, to volunteers and communities, to government agents and even employees, each segment of this complicated landscape will likely have competing interests. And when you’re pulled in too many directions, it’s easy for your message to become inconsistent, your priorities to become jumbled and your overall experience to suffer. When you cater to too many voices, you lose fidelity, crispness and the ability to relate to your customers. Internally, conflicting initiatives pull employees in multiple directions and place work streams into tight silos.
The result? Frustrated teams and a fragmented experience.
To correct this, it's vital to understand what each segment of your population wants, along with their motivations. One of the most powerful solutions to this is truly understanding your customers’ journey.
Mapping Out a Solution
A customer journey map helps you not only make sense of those you serve, but also map out a mutually beneficial relationship with them. It’s helpful for removing institutional biases and misguided assumptions about customer needs and behaviors. Most importantly, customer journey maps encourage alignment across nonprofits and a collective focus on how to best serve customers.
The beauty of customer journey maps is that they can be applied at various apertures within your nonprofit. With a solid map, you have the foundation to restructure your entire nonprofit to become more customer-driven. A map can also be applied to a specific product, service or process—or it can be used to validate an idea. This process can pay off from an internal perspective, too. According to research by Aberdeen Group, mapping customer journeys can help boost employee engagement by 200 percent and improve the cost of customer service tenfold.
Mapping out a customer journey isn’t as daunting as you might think. Here’s how you can create your own:
1. Define the purpose. First, you must research customers’ true problems and the context of those issues. In other words, figure out why you’re creating a customer journey map. By understanding your customers’ emotional, physical and social needs, you’ll define a targeted customer segment that will likely serve other stakeholders as well. Find goals that align with everyone, and make sure the interested parties are kept up-to-date and can get involved. This step creates common understanding and sets groundwork so the journey map doesn't end up collecting dust.
2. Dig deeper and be flexible. The best way to gain a deeper understanding of customers is speaking with them directly. Ask questions that either explore new opportunities or validate hypotheses you’ve already developed. However, be open to the fact that you might discover unanticipated insights. When this happens, your original idea or hypothesis might need to be changed or even scrapped. But you’ll be able to identify opportunities to better meet the needs you've pinpointed.
I like to use Toyota legend Taiichi Ohno's “5 Whys” technique to do this. First, ask a "why" question five times, basing your subsequent questions on the previous answer. This allows a different answer each time, helping you get to the root of the problem and find the real solution. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the true motivations behind actions rather than just identify the action itself. As a result, you’ll find better opportunities to meet the physical and emotional needs of your customers.
3. Focus on the fewest segments possible at first. You can't be everything to everyone. Research from Bloomerang suggests that while most nonprofits know about segmenting, many still aren’t using it to their advantage. If executed incorrectly, segmenting can exacerbate a lack of clarity in messaging, leaving you with even more of a gap. So start small. It's easier to appeal to a specific audience — especially at the beginning. This helps focus the conversation with teams and saves resources from straying toward projects that don’t align with your target. Once you build momentum and connectivity, you can consider new segments.
4. Collaborate across departments. The customer experience shouldn't be the responsibility of one team; it should be the priority of the entire nonprofit. When it comes to creating opportunities, build a cross-functional team that can generate ideas together. When customer initiatives are independently executed in various work streams, the inconsistency can make your customers suffer. Your employees will thank you for consistency, too. According to a survey of high-performing workers by Ceridian, employees stay at their jobs and perform better when they understand their organization’s overall goals.
Customer journey mapping is a truly collaborative tool. It doesn’t just create an elevated customer experience; it also ensures a better connection with customers, more effective use of resources, and alignment across your teams. For nonprofits struggling with the complexity of trying to understand stakeholders and be "all things to all people," this value can’t be overstated.
Margaret Rogers is a vice president at Pariveda Solutions, a consulting firm driven to create innovative, growth-oriented, and people-first solutions. With more than 17 years of experience, Margaret enjoys empowering organizations with impactful and sustainable transformation to realize their full potential. Read more about the work Pariveda Solutions does here.