Transfer the passion
“..we’re talking about how customers come to make buying decisions in preparation for a discussion as to how this knowledge can, and should, be transferred to how nonprofits approach making appeals of any kind.
We’ve adapted this from Robert Jolles work (specifically the names he assigns categories in his customer centered decision cycle) as well as included insights derived from the Yngage best practices knowledge base.”
This post takes us to the decision making cycle all nonprofits are most interested in: the stages of “getting to yes” when a person is considering answering and appeal from a nonprofit. These stages also apply to those who aren’t answering a specific appeal from a specific organization, but have reached the “Doing My Homework” stage in the process and are now researching/contacting your organization as part of their decision making process.
In our last post that dealt with these stages from a business or “market” perspective, we called this “The “Happy as a Clam” or “Blind as a Bat” Stage.” For subject matter expert Robert Jolles, this is the “Satisfaction” stage. Whether you’re talking about a business or a nonprofit, this stage is pretty much the same – this is when people are fairly satisfied with the status quo. They are OK with things as they are. But there are differences that nonprofit organizations want to keep in mind.
Nonprofits generally find two main groups within this stage: those who are completely oblivious (unaware) of your cause/mission and those who are aware but who either aren’t ready to take the step from being aware to becoming involved – or think the problem isn’t that “bad”, will solve itself, or that others are solving it. In any case, the person in this stage in no way feels a personal pull to support or become involved.
Jolles categorizes this second stage in the decision making cycle as the “Acknowledgement Stage” – what we here at Yngage coined The “I Can (Or Can’t) Handle It” Stage. When applied to a person making a decision to support a nonprofit and/or answer an appeal from a nonprofit, people in this stage are ready to acknowledge to themselves that a problem exists and there are needs to be filled. Many are also ready to voice this to others - but not in particularly active role, not involved with any specific organization.
These are the people who you will find hanging out on social networking sites expressing their opinions – sometimes quite strongly. You will also come across people in this stage of the decision making process during your organization’s in-person networking activities. These are people are ready to concede when approached with an appeal that there is a problem/need – but they are nowhere near ready to commit to your organization’s appeals because they have not yet identified your mission/services/activities as the way to get the job done.
When speaking about the decision making cycle in terms of a business perspective, we called this The “I Can’t Take This Anymore” Stage – Jolles called it the “Decision” stage. Just as in the market place, in the nonprofit world, something fairly specific happens that pushes the person to the point where they not only can no longer deny there is a problem/need – they can no longer deny THEY must do something rather than hope others will.
For example, they themselves, a family member or friend may develop an illness and they want to become involved in some way in order to find a cure or support those suffering from the illness. Or maybe getting off the bus they just now walked by another homeless, hungry person and know they have to do something more than hand them a few dollars.
Again, this is the stage a potential donor or volunteer knows they need to do something – they’re just not certain exactly what that’s going to be.
This is a very important stage in the decision making cycle. In this stage, a person begins to develop criteria (Jolles identifies this as the “Criteria” Stage) for solving or mitigating the problem/need they can no longer ignore exists – nor ignore a sense of personal responsibility to do something about.
Remember that a commercial sales proposition and a nonprofit appeal both are seeking “buy in” – but both need to be very careful NOT to attempt to define this criterion FOR their prospect. This is dangerous territory as doing so can alienate your prospective donor. Instead, this is an especially good time to LISTEN carefully as well as ask probing questions. This both helps a person develop their criteria as well as provide the nonprofit an opportunity to describe how their organization meets that criterion.
We kept the same moniker for this stage as we did in our last post – because this is exactly what people are doing in this stage. Having developed their criteria for solving or mitigating the problem/need, in this stage they begin actively researching specific organizations. Just as when interacting with a person or group in the “I’ve Got to DO Something About This” Stage, it is important NOT to superimpose your criteria. Why? Because by the time you interact with them in this stage of the decision making process (whether online or in-person) they have already not only identified their criteria, but prioritized their criteria. This means they know what is important to them and aren’t interested in people telling them what’s important to them.
Rather than a time to try and convince someone your organization “knows best”, this is a time to provide metrics and stories that back up your ability to meet the expectations of the person considering whether or not they will commit to supporting your mission.
Jolles calls this the Selection stage for a very simple reason – this is the point where a person selects to “answer yes” to your appeal, whether that is for financial support, a call for volunteers, or corporate sponsorship. At this point everybody’s happy. People feel they’ve made a good decision to “do something” and they also feel they’ve made a good choice to partner with your organization to do it with. Your organization is happy and grateful for the support.
But this is certainly not the end of the decision making cycle. Once someone decides to support your organization in any way it is really the beginning of the relationship because the next stage in the cycle is:
This is where the pavement meets the road when it comes to growing sustainable nonprofit organizations. Today, people do not hesitate to evaluate whether or not they are receiving a positive return on their investment in your organization.
People making a purchase have moved from viewing a transaction to “buy” something and then evaluate whether their decision to buy was good one to viewing the transaction as an investment . Similarly, donors and supporters of your organization have moved away from the notion that they are “giving” and then questioning if they made a good decision.
People now commonly view “charitable donations” as a form of investing and expect a positive return on that investment. It is imperative NPs report back to donors and supporters consistently and regularly with metrics and stories that demonstrate your organization continues to meet – and exceed – their criteria.