Co-creating Donor Experiences

I recently finished the book “All for One” by client relationships guru Andrew Sobel.  Based on his research and years of experience, the book is full of good ideas for building trusted relationships with clients.  While written for professional services firms, it got me thinking about its applicability to nonprofits’ work with donors.

In one chapter, Sobel cites the work of authors Venkat Ramaswamy and Francis Gouillart on “experience co-creation.”  They note the business environment is increasingly driven by intensified competition, commoditization of products and services, and customers that are highly knowledgeable, demanding, and web-connected.

Sounds like the same environment that nonprofits and donor-advised fund managers face in building relationships with donors, right?

The result is that a customer’s perception of value is no longer associated with your products or services.  Increasingly, it is associated with co-creation – the “experiences around the purchasing, servicing, and the use of a product or service…The customer is becoming an active partner in seeking, creating, and extracting value.”

Sobel uses Ramaswamy and Gouillart’s DART model (Dialogue, Access, Risk, Transparency) to challenge his readers to think about opportunities for enhancing customer interactions and experiences:

  1. Lack of Dialogue – What activities – like “sales pitches” – are one-sided?  What activities prevent your customer from engaging in dialogue with you that might lead to new ideas about value?
  2. Lack of Access – What customer interactions are opaque because the right information isn’t available to either your customer or you?  Where can you increase information flow earlier?
  3. Lack of Risk Management – Where is there an imbalance of risk or a lack of fully understanding the risk the other party is taking?
  4. Lack of Transparency – What processes in your organization are mysterious or one-sided?  Could revealing those processes lead to trust and new customer opportunities?

For my friends in the nonprofit world, I think these are great questions for anyone working with donors.  Today’s donors want more information, want transparency, want interactive connections with a cause, and more often than not want their risk in donating lowered.  Sobel’s questions and the experience co-creation concept could be great fodder for planning donor stewardship and retention strategies.

For my friends in the funder world, these are great reminders in interacting with nonprofits.  How can the grant process be more of a two-way dialogue, be less opaque, be a better balance of risk and reward?

What do you think?  What would it look like to spend more time co-creating experiences with your customers?

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