Why should I invest in improving the Constituent experience at my nonprofit?

It is reasonable to ask, if my nonprofit invests in the constituent experience, will it work? If you are in the C-Suite, that is the question.

I only know of one nonprofit that uses something like the Forrester Customer Experience Index to measure things so I don’t have any benchmark data. I would love to learn there are more nonprofits using this measure and I would give anything to analyze the data. Here is what we know from the for profit world.

This question drove Watermark Consulting to evaluate the macro impact of customer experience excellence. They’ve accomplished this over the years by studying the total returns for two model stock portfolios comprised of the Top 10 (“Leaders”) and Bottom 10 (“Laggards”) publicly traded companies in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ranking. The results are stunning.

For the 6-year period from 2007 to 2012, the Customer Experience Leaders in their study outperformed the broader market, generating a total return that was three times higher on average than the S&P 500 Index. Furthermore, while the Customer Experience Leaders handily beat the S&P 500, the Laggards trailed it by a wide margin.

Keep in mind, this analysis reflects more than half a decade of performance results.  It spans an entire economic cycle, from the pre-recession market peak in 2007 to the post-recession recovery that continues today. The Customer Experience Leaders in this study are clearly enjoying the many benefits that happy, loyal customers deliver:  better retention, greater wallet share, lower acquisition costs and more cost-efficient service.

And the Laggards?  They are being crushed under the weight of high customer turnover, escalating acquisition costs and an uncompetitive cost structure that is inflated by each customer complaint and avoidable inquiry.


Do you want to be a leader or a laggard?


Constituent Experience 101: There is a reality called silos. How should we deal with it in the best interest of our constituents?

June 2, 2013 1 comment

We all see it all the time. It is time to put together the annual budget. Or, it is time to update our plans. Each department puts its own plan together and then defends it before the group. At a certain level that makes sense. The question any department leader needs to ask is will this approach serve our constituents best? Is it at odds with the overall constituent experience we are trying to build? To get an enterprise wide constituent investment plan, we may need to do a few things differently. If you have a Chief Constituent Officer, it is their role to make it happen.

The premise here is that constituents are being lost in the hand offs between departments. The constituent walks away thinking do they truly understand my needs? Are they there when I need them? Are they really my partner? If I am a donor and an advocate, how come it doesn’t feel like you know that and treat me differently?

The first thing the Chief Constituent Officer needs to do is make sure they are aligned with the CFO, CIO, CDO and CMO. Investing in a constituent experience plan will take the support of the CFO from the beginning. The CFO will probably welcome an approach that brings together resources for a common goal and eliminates duplicate spending.

If you are the Chief Constituent Officer, you also need to align with the CIO. In this day and age, as a digital nonprofit, nothing happens without the IT department. If you get a jump on aligning with the IT department and their PMO, you will save yourself a lot of time and rework. You will also gain an ally in gaining financial support when the senior team reviews your plans.

Who owns the constituent data in your nonprofit? In some nonprofits that isn’t clear but the CMO will probably be a big stakeholder, along with the Chief Development Officer. If is critical that they both have a seat at the table as you put your plans together. Do they own with your constituent targets, data and plans for improving the experience with you?

One unique role you play as the Chief Constituent Officer is the ability to aggregate intelligence to identify the most important investments. You are the only one who can breathe life into the annual constituent plan. It will take time to bring together the right people to agree on the most pressing constituent challenges and opportunities. Once identified, you can work with senior management to gain agreement to work on solving the issues. Here are a couple of things to look for:

  1. Building relationships with priority constituents. Some of these will be obvious like high level donors but others may not.
  2. Fixing issues that impede the overall constituent experience.  As the Chief Constituent Officer, you are probably the only one that knows what these are.
  3. Points of differentiation and the big bets your nonprofit should make.

Now you are ready to pull an investment budget together. The emphasis here is on investment. It is critical to be able to identify the return these investments will bring to your mission. Now that you have a more integrated view of constituent priorities, you can make your case better. Since you are taking an enterprise wide view, all of the items for investment may actually live in other department budgets. This will drive greater levels of collaboration with your colleagues. As Chief Constituent Officer, you will be providing a great service that is really lacking to your nonprofit. The budgeting process is always where the rubber hits the road. It will help you gain traction and will help you identify roadblocks. It will also help everyone set a few critical priorities since it is highly likely there is a whole lot of extra money sitting around the table.

This type of action on your part as Chief Constituent Officer will help solidify your role as constituent zealot. It will also help everyone see the importance of the overall constituent experience.

What if your nonprofit doesn’t have a Chief Constituent Officer? This is the opportunity for some department (and its leader) to seize the day. It could be the CMO or the CDO. No matter what, someone needs to seize the role.

” It’s easier to focus on one number than it is to focus on a life.” ~Seth Godin

Here is the context.

Measuring without measuring


As an organization grows and industrializes, it’s tempting to simplify things for the troops. Find a goal, make it a number and measure it until it gets better. In most organizations, the thing you measure is the thing that will improve.

Colleges decided that the SAT were a useful shortcut, a way to measure future performance in college. And nervous parents and competitive kids everywhere embraced the metric, and stick with it, even after seeing (again and again) that all the SAT measures is how well you do on the SAT. It’s easier to focus on one number than it is to focus on a life.

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“The genius of leadership is its humanness and heart.” ~Lolly Daskal

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Do you touch a cord with your nonprofit constituents?

June 1, 2013 1 comment

Connecting with your constituents and creating engagement in your mission requires considering a few issues.

  • Do you touch a cord with your constituents?
  • Do you encourage personality and creativity with your employees?
  • Is your communication personal, without the veneer of the corporate lingo?
  • Do you make decisions with the focus of improving the constituent experience?

Nonprofits that are loved by their constituents break down the barriers between corporate image and the needs of the constituent. One of the keys is the perception that the nonprofit met my needs. This is very personal. It requires an investment in simplifying the experience for the constituent.

It isn’t always easy to be real and transparent with your constituents. It may take some courage and guts. It is one thing to send an automated receipt to donor within 5 seconds after a transaction. It is another thing, the next day, to send a personal email (with a real email address) from the CEO and include a real phone number to call if they want to chat. It would be stunning to answer the phone if they call.

“The best advice that I can offer you is to learn the language of the C-Suite when making the case for what it is you believe is the right thing to do.” ~Brian Solis

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“Some bosses say ‘but I’m not paid to be a shrink.’ There’s a great pair of words to describe such bosses: Ignorant. Ineffective.” ~Tom Peters

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