A Spade is a Spade: Lessons for Nonprofits From the Business World
Solution Architecture
February 1, 2023

A Spade is a Spade: Lessons for Nonprofits From the Business World

Nonprofits can employ digital transformation the way businesses typically do to maximize their results.

A spade is similar to a shovel. However, while a shovel is designed for transporting materials like snow or sand — it has a wide face and a long haft designed to make lifting and transporting material easy — with its narrow, sharp and often pointed head, a spade is for digging.

They are both tools, and you could use a shovel for digging, although doing so would prove more difficult than using a spade. A spade is the right tool for the job. In many ways, nonprofits have been using a shovel to market to prospective donors. Sure, it will do the trick, but it isn’t the best tool for the job.

Using the Wrong Tool

It is common for those running nonprofits to use spreadsheets or even hand-written paperwork to coordinate fundraising efforts. When they achieve their goal, those materials are discarded, and they start anew when another effort gets underway. Part of the reason for this is that it is unlikely that those operating nonprofits view their cause the way a marketer views a product.

But given how effective marketing techniques are, it is folly to not avail yourself to the same tactics marketers use to drum up interest in products. Afterall, marketing is marketing. It doesn’t really matter what you are selling. But in order to sell in a way that maximizes efficiency, your nonprofit needs to adopt more sophisticated processes. The key is to invest in digital transformation.  

Do Good, Better

Many businesses have taken a cue from nonprofits, harnessing the community-building nonprofits do so well. You’ve likely noticed how many products are aimed at appealing to customers’ sense of social awareness. Whether it is non-GMO, Fair Trade, Cruelty-Free or some other branding on a product, businesses know that making customers feel good about how they spend money is key. They know this idea is what nonprofits do well. Nonprofits need to poach business’s tech savvy. 

Instead of thinking about a nonprofit’s mission as a cause, it would be better to think of it as a product. Your donors are your customers, and what you're selling is an idea, a vision for a brighter future. This alone is a powerful sentiment that you're tapping. Unlike an e-commerce business that appeals to a customer’s need for a kitschy tchotchke, a nonprofit has an advantage: they strive to make the world better, which is something everybody wants.    

Marketers know how to customize a customer’s experience. They do this through a variety of avenues. By using technology, they learn who their customers are — what they like, how they shop, what motivates them. The average nonprofit lags greatly behind even a rudimentary e-commerce business on the marketing front.

Using businesses as a template, as campaign fundraisers, you can begin to think about the banal, mundane things being taken for granted. This will allow you to merge the connection between feeling good and doing good while amplifying your cause.

“Instead of thinking about a nonprofit’s mission as a cause, it would be better to think of it as a product.” @Accelerize360

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Lessons From For-Profit

There is no reason the Amazons and Metas of the world need to have a monopoly on using data to sharpen how they interact with users. Instead of getting trapped thinking that sending more emails will solve the problem, nonprofits can leverage these strategies to build white-glove experiences for big donors, incentivize people to volunteer or sign up for recurring contributions.

The sales funnel applies just as much to nonprofit causes as it does to market products. More sharpened pitches for your cause grabs donors’ attention. Personalized messaging, possible with Salesforce suites of software, stokes their interest because it narrows in on what matters to them. Taking donors through a journey — nurturing them along the way until a crescendo, perhaps something like Giving Tuesday — drums up a desire to help the cause. Perks like a white-glove experience get donors invested in the nonprofit, increasing the likelihood they will stay involved. Demonstrable impact drives them to take your nonprofit message to others. 

With technology like Einstein recommendations, Journey Builder or Interaction Studio, you can extend the same level of personalization to each donor that a business does. Embracing the use of data from each finely sharpened tool in the Salesforce suite gives your a complete view of donors’ preferences. Aggregating that information and putting it to good use, logging it for the future, will make donors feel appreciated. 

By having a centralized platform, organizers can have better connectivity among their teams, donors and volunteers, too. They can have a broad history to learn from, increasing donor education, engagement and retention. This level of information makes donors feel more involved in the trajectory of your nonprofit. It puts your nonprofit and its donors on the same page, giving them a common goal that seems more achievable. 

Teasing out what are the few universal truths about those likely to donate to your cause helps narrow efforts to recruit. Dynamic filters give a more tailored donor journey, which makes converting donors to advocates more likely because it builds loyalty.

With Salesforce technology, creating segments and garnering insight about donors allows nonprofits to increase efficiency, bolstering its ROI. In this way, your organization ensures it is ferreting out which donors might be ready to take the next step and how to target those likely to become donors in the first place.

A Hardware Expert

While definitely worth the effort, digital transformation isn’t easy. It requires thoughtful consideration about branding, messaging and capturing different types of donors, among other things. Nonprofits need to adopt a more tech-savvy archetype, but essentially the process is the same for a business.

Just as with a business, nonprofits employing an experienced partner position themselves for success by employing their expertise to iron out the details of how to best maximize their effort. They can act more like the hardware expert at Lowe’s. They can ensure your nonprofit tosses a spade in the back of your pickup to begin digging. As the old adage goes, make sure you call a spade a spade. Digitally transform your nonprofit. 

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