Opinion/Philanthropy Journal – Customers count

By Todd Cohen

Charities need to listen better.

Funders and nonprofits can get so wrapped up in themselves that they lose touch with groups and people they exist to serve, cutting a critical link between charitable supply and demand.

In the business world, the customer always is right, and success depends on shaping the supply and delivery of products and services to meet market demand.

But in the charitable world, too many funders expect nonprofits to tailor themselves to fit funders’ priorities.

And too many nonprofits, instead of first plugging donors and volunteers into their organizations, expect them simply to contribute time and money.

Better connecting supply and demand requires an unregulated but smart marketplace in which resources and know-how are shared.

Creating that marketplace depends on charities and their backers reaching out to one another.

Instead of channeling dollars to board members’ pet causes, or pushing nonprofits to use trendy strategies to fix operations, for example, funders can involve nonprofits in designing grants and setting goals.

And instead of taking donors and volunteers for granted, nonprofits can let them help the organization think and plan.

By building more voices into their work, funders and nonprofits alike can better serve customers. 

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