Over the course of the last 3 months, PublicSquare undertook an exercise to conduct interviews with roughly 25 unique non profit organizations based out of Canada to understand the major challenges that they face in hitting their goals.
Organizations of all sizes from grassroots to large were interviewed. We will define organization size as grassroots (1-2 people), small (3-10 people), medium (11-30 people), and large (> 30 people). Surprisingly, we had a pretty even split of organizations from all the four categories.
We also spoke to organizations working on a range of different challenges such as human rights & indigenous affairs, environmental concerns, political and socio-economic issues.
In order to make this report as instructive as possible, we will first talk about the common challenges that were observed across all organization types and sizes. Then we’ll compare how these challenges change given the level of maturity and size of the organization. Finally, we’ll take a look at what investments PublicSquare is making to bring us closer to our mission of helping non-profits and cause-based organizations succeed!
Before starting the customer research exercise, we had done our own independent research to understand what are the common functions in operating a successful non-profit and had used those functions as a guide to inform our interview process.
Although many of these functions actually take place in parallel, it can be assumed that there needs to be some level of vision & goal setting at the beginning followed by fundraising and then execution on whatever plans were drawn up during the strategic planning phase.
As we interviewed our customers, we asked them to describe their current challenges in context of these functions and it was very interesting to see which patterns rose to the surface across the diverse groups of organizations that we spoke with.
The functions highlighted below tend to be the ones which non-profit organizations seemed to face their greatest challenges with. They are also “higher leverage” functions -- this means that an investment in improving the high leverage function leads to relatively higher return on investment compared to the other functions.
“...an investment in improving the high leverage function leads to relatively higher return on investment compared to the other functions.”
We’ll now illustrate what specific problems came to the surface in each of the above highlighted categories:
As you saw above, there are quite a number of meaty challenges found in those four high leverage functional areas. However, not every organization experiences them equally. We actually found that as an organization grows larger in size and maturity certain challenges diminish. Whereas all these challenges are most pronounced when starting off as a grassroots organization -- the barrier to entry and success is high!
“...as an organization grows larger in size and maturity certain challenges diminish.”
We’ll now go through a table which shows how these problems diminish as the organization grows larger in size and maturity:
As shown in the tables above, there is a clear gap in the market for certain functions and although there are some alternatives out there to help bridge those gaps, there is no clear winner that has stood out to the organizations we spoke to.
As a natural response to this, PublicSquare brainstormed a set of solutions to potentially tackle some of the challenges which came up. You can see the results of our brainstorming exercise below:
The customer research interviews and our subsequent brainstorming exercise was a deeply informative process and we also had a lot of fun ideating with the organizations we spoke to.
We assessed all the options above against a rough ICE assessment (impact, confidence, and ease) and landed on 3 problem areas and solutions that we would like to help support. We have worked quickly to implement our learnings and already have an initial proof of concept out in the market for the 3 key ideas that we chose. Check them out below:
“We assessed all the options above against a rough ICE assessment (impact, confidence, and ease) and landed on 3 problem areas and solutions...”
Offer digital marketing consulting & campaign execution services that are custom built for each advocacy group, non-profit or cause.
Offer a product/service that helps organizations quickly build their community & followers by analyzing their existing network, defining a target person, and finding similar leads for them that are highly likely to convert.
Create a gamified fundraising platform to create an atmosphere of fun and “high engagement” leading to more donations.
Have any feedback to share with us? We would love to hear from you and we’re still learning and are excited to include as many people as we can on our journey. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with us. See you on the other side :)
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