My favorite economist recently told me a story about ordering furniture from Crate & Barrel. He had spent thousands of dollars on a sofa, armchair and ottoman, and he wanted to phone in to the store some additional, non living-room chairs to his order to save on shipping costs (Crate & Barrel charges one, flat delivery fee). It was a complete nightmare because the housewares department (home to the new chairs) had trouble interacting with the furniture department to consolidate the order. At least half a dozen phone calls were required as Crate & Barrel tried and failed to internally interact sufficiently.
Finally, the economist received a call from the housewares manager saying her chairs were ready to ship but was clueless about the other items. Her answer to complaints about the continuing lack of coordination made me nearly fall out of my (non Crate & Barrel) chair.
She said the departments were separate and that she'd have to call back to find out the status of the other items. The economist said this was an irrational way to run a store, to which the manager responded, "Crate & Barrel actually considers it a convenience that we offer our customers the ability to buy housewares and furniture under one roof."
Say what? Did she seriously think we should be glad to have our experience with her company be divided into departments?
The reason I'm sharing this story is that this is unfortunately the way many organizations work. Here are some tips on how to avoid becoming a "Crate & Barrel nonprofit":
- Resist the need to design your website or brochure according to how your organization is structured. Focus on how your potential donor sees it, what they need and what they are looking for.
- Your brochure, web navigation, phone trees-if they are perfectly aligned with your departments, you're in trouble. A potential donor needs to know what they should do, why they should do it and how to go about doing it.
- Make sure to have your phone number on every page of your site to open the lines of communication and ensure that there are actual humans to help out as needed.
- Don't make the assumption that people should feel blessed for merely having the ability to learn about your cause and donate to you. Thank your donors over and over again.
- The first way to thank your donors - before they ever donate - is to honor their time by making the entire process as seamless and straightforward as possible.