What Non-Profits Can Learn From For-Profits

Dear Non-Profit Organizations,

Please take a moment to invite someone you know from a For-Profit organization to lunch. At this lunch, you will ask them all the ways they make their business successful. Then, you’ll take all these tips back to your “business”, incorporate them… and be successful!

I’ve been a little frustrated with several non-profits lately because they don’t seem to understand that non-profit organizations face many of the same challenges as their for-profit counterparts. For instance, both are generally trying to reach a niche target audience. While for-profit businesses tend to put some emphasis on defining and reaching this target audience in practice, non-profits seem to deal with this in only in theory. For example, we received a door hanger the other day that was pretty confusing, and, as a Marketer, a little funny. The mailer was written completely in Spanish, showcased two Caucasian people with blue eyes on the front, and was distributed in a location with a fairly low population of Hispanic people. In fact, the “minority” population is mostly Asian in the area of distribution. It makes no sense to send the message that you want to increase your service to the Hispanic community by distributing this door-hanger. The message in the text needs to match the message in the photos, and the overall message needs to match the demographic make-up of the geographic location.

Further, I volunteered for one non-profit that seemed to take the simplest task and make it incredibly complicated, thus wasting valuable volunteer hours. In their minds, they were “saving money”, but they failed to realize that often time is money when it comes to non-profits. Instead of trying to save a few dollars by turning a 1 hour task into a 2 hour task, it might make sense to spend the extra money and use your man-hours somewhere else. Businesses know that time is a valuable commodity that must be factored into decisions, but non-profits seem to leave this out.

Finally, it seems a lot of non-profits give very little time to Marketing in general. This is partly due to points one and two above… they don’t take time to really choose a segment to serve, and they think Marketing costs too much money. Their for-profit counterparts know that it takes money to make money. If you don’t know that a non-profit exists, how are you supposed to donate? If you don’t realize the merits of one non-profit over another, how are you supposed to decide which non-profit is most deserving of your attention? Non-profits should take time to understand who they benefit and why those who donate care about helping the charity. This information can help them target their Marketing and increase their funding for their cause. By neglecting analysis and Marketing, many non-profits may be losing out on significant donors.

Non-profits do good work, and they need the funding and volunteer hours to continue serving the community or helping the cause they’ve dedicated themselves to. But blunders in “business savvy” may be costing them valuable assets. I think a For-Profit should treat a Non-Profit to coffee and advice every so often!

How to Sell to Americans

I’ve been travelling a lot over the past few weeks, and I recently returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic. I’m always struck by the different selling tactics utilized in other countries, and I’ve found some common techniques among those selling in the Caribbean. My experience showed me that young men follow you around, constantly ask if you want to buy this or that, and if you touch anything, they’ll pressure you even more than before. They’ve created these “relationships”, where one person will go to the beach and convince you to go down to the shopping center, where he’ll then proceed to lead you to all the shops where he receives commission. It’s so frustrating to be hounded on the beach, on the way to the market, in the market, and on the way out of the market. It makes me, my mom, my sister, and my travelling female companions lose our desire to shop! And, our male companions are annoyed with the need to be over-protective when these “salesmen” come around.

My mom finally gave one guy an extra dollar because he DIDN’T pressure her while she was shopping! And, she told him the reason for the extra money was because he wasn’t constatly bothering her. She gave the guy a free lesson on how to sell to Americans, and it may seem counter-intuitive… leave them alone and let them shop! You would think that after seeing similar behavior every day, the local vendors would learn that in-your-face techniques backfire. It makes a buyer feel like they’re being suckered into something they don’t want or need, which increases the likelihood of post-purchase dissonance. While this may seem high-level, it makes a difference when a group of shoppers returns and tells all the other potential shoppers not to frequent the local market because of the uncomfortable conditions. The vendors would sell more if they backed off a little!

However, I must admit, they have perfected one portion of the selling cycle. They’re good closers, and they know how to ask for the sale, which is a failure of many amateur sales people. When I was a leasing agent, it was imperative to offer a lease application at the end of each tour of the property. If you fail to ask, you often fail to close the sale. While their methods were annoying, the local vendors in the Dominican were on target with their desire to close the sale. Take a lesson from each extreme: be helpful without pressuring the buyer, but have the guts to close the sale when you’ve found a suitable solution to the shopper’s problem.