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1 Thing Every Non-profit Needs To Do In Order To Grow

18 Jul 2019

Whenever there’s a cause that people want to promote, they start with a lofty mission – cure cancer, eradicate malaria, champion equal rights. That’s great on its own, but that mission needs to be supported in a meaningful way with the right people and by money. 

In John Doerr’s book Measure What Matters, Bill Gates distinguishes between objective and mission to demonstrate the importance of having clear, measurable steps toward a goal in order to make a meaningful difference. He says, “A mission is directional. An objective has a set of concrete steps that you’re intentionally engaged in and actually trying to go for. It’s fine to have an ambitious objective, but how do you scale it? How do you measure it? Having a good mission isn’t enough. You need a concrete objective, and you need to know how you’re going to get there.”

Similarly, the latest research from Concord Leadership Group shows that there is a huge gap between top-performing non-profit organizations and the rest because many non-profits are not planning strategically – creating those clear objectives as a roadmap toward achieving their mission. “Even large nonprofits are not doing this basic strategic planning. Nonprofits are currently putting themselves unnecessarily at risk.” Bill Tedesco, CEO, DonorSearch.

Any non-profit that isn’t in the top 1% must have objectives and act like startups. Y-Combinator, a startup accelerator that is basically the Harvard of accelerators has demonstrated this as well because since 2013 they started funding non-profits, and have funded 25 to date. 

And in order to act like startups, they need to think about something every startup takes very seriously. Great design. 

Leaving money on the table

Great design solves a business objective. And the biggest business objective most non-profits face is trying to get more people to donate money because these donations fund all the things that allow them to thrive long enough to realize their mission. Yet when you go to most non-profit websites it’s difficult to figure out immediately how to donate. 

So let’s understand this, your business relies mainly on donations, and yet, as a donor, it’s not easy for me to donate. 

I’ll give you a test, think of your favorite smaller charity or nonprofit and note how long it takes you to figure out how to donate or support them…go on…I’ll wait. 

Now, check https://www.hrc.org/ – The Human Rights Campaign, they got it right. You go to their website – on desktops, this is what you see: 

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Now on mobile (even better) : 

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They’re not messing around. It’s clear what they want. And that’s why they had $45 million in revenue in 2018…it’s all strategic. We’re in 2019, but unfortunately, most organizations don’t understand the value of great design. Startups value it because it’s ingrained in their culture to do research with thousands of users. They know that most people don’t spend more than 15 seconds on your site, so this Call To Action needs to be unmissable if you want people to support your top business objective.

Many people talk about needing to support good causes and help xyz charities, foundations, etc. Yet, they’re not making it easy to support them. I’m writing this because I want those non-profits with great missions to stay alive, and in order to stay alive, they need to think more like a startup and create a better user experience that makes it easy for their potential donors to fulfill their top priority – getting enough donations to keep working on their mission.

What you can do?

Ask the leaders in your non-profit if they have a strategic plan. Let them know that investing in branding and user experience design can save our favorite organizations from disappearing. We can live in a world where the charities and foundations we feel are most important are able to sustain themselves long enough to realize their missions of making our world a better place.