People want to feel connected to organizations that share their values. Increasingly, those values are reflected not just in content or programs, but in every interaction with that organization – especially online.
The perception individuals have as they interact with a nonprofit organization across every platform and touchpoint is what we call Mission Experience – the chief priority for long-term success.
The Roots of Mission Experience
A little more than a decade ago, social media democratized the web, and mobile devices made it more convenient for people to engage with businesses anytime and anywhere. The emergence of these platforms accelerated the feedback loop between customers and brands. It took the practice of measuring Customer Experience out of the realm of call support centers, and elevated it to part of brand marketing, incorporating it into enterprise KPIs. Insights from data collected helped companies understand that customers expect more than products and services. In fact, long-term value could be derived when every interaction was optimized. Since then, consumer brands like Uber, Netflix, and Peloton have gotten savvier about collecting and understanding customer data. Companies now use data-driven insights to create a valuable Customer Experience across every touch point in the consumer journey.
The shift towards end-to-end Customer Experience transformed the way companies engage with their audiences both online and in physical retail environments. Every aspect of the customer journey is evaluated and continuously improved to build long-term customer relationships. It’s also raised the bar of people’s expectations for interacting with organizations. Though we may not recognize it, as consumers, we have first-hand knowledge of what a good Customer Experience is, and likely made purchase decisions because of it.
Not surprisingly, these consumer behaviors also have an impact on the nonprofit sector. Expectations for seamless online transactions, personalization and convenience don’t evaporate when a consumer engages with a charitable organization or an association. In fact, consumers are likely to have higher expectations for those interactions because they start from a belief in shared values.
Organizations that once stood on the legacy of their reputation may find their constituency dwindling as people lose trust based on perceptions influenced by their experience. A lackluster experience on a mobile device or a failed online transaction can erode a person’s confidence in an organization and over time, they may elect to invest their resources elsewhere. By focusing on Mission Experience, nonprofits can better engage constituents and build lasting relationships that contribute to more successful outcomes.
Mission Experience Defined
For an individual constituent, Mission Experience is subjective. It’s the perception a person forms about an organization based on their interactions. Every phone call, email exchange, event attendance, and website visit cumulates into a firm sense of the organization. The most noble organization in the world may be perceived as subpar if the person feels they were treated badly by a volunteer or can’t access their online account. Conversely, organizations that provide convenient ‘one click’ access or personalized thank-you notes are more likely to convert people to loyal participants and advocates.
Mission Experience is made up of three components that reflect the “what, how, and why” of a nonprofit organization:
This component includes programs and services that make up what the organization provides its constituents.
The internal functions that determine how the organization delivers its content.
The fundamental reasons why the organization exists and its strategic priorities.
Organizations need to measure and balance these three areas to achieve the optimal Mission Experience. When the organization falls behind in one or more of these areas, it has a direct impact on the perceptions formed by constituents. For example, if the organization has an abundance of content, but immature operations, people may feel lost or unsupported as they try to participate in a program. Likewise, if there is a lack of clarity around strategic priorities, operations will become fragmented and the result is siloed content and confusion.
An organization’s digital presence is a vital part of the Mission Experience – even more so in a post COVID-19 world where every touch point is virtual. Each step of the engagement funnel is supported by one or more digital channels such as social media, podcasts, or websites and each is an opportunity to improve the Mission Experience. By applying digital strategies that optimize for Mission Experience, the organization is likely to reach and serve more people.
Improving Mission Experience
An optimized Mission Experience builds affinity and helps the organization grow and serve the greater good. Maintaining a consistent Mission Experience requires cohesive leadership, buy-in across the organization, and investment in a sustained program.
The diagram below outlines the steps typically taken to manage and continuously improve the Mission Experience.
Agile organizations with mature digital operations are well positioned to adopt a Mission Experience program. They likely have practices in place to collect and analyze data and make incremental change on a regular basis. If the organization is slower to adopt change or not aligned around a central strategy, an initial evaluation sanctioned by leadership and the board would be the critical first step.
Bottom up or grassroots efforts to transform the Mission Experience can stall without cross-functional participation and clear objectives. An executive sponsor should approve a project charter and assemble a team with stakeholders from Marketing, Communications, IT, and program areas to conduct the initial evaluation. Executives from each functional area should participate in the process to provide input and align resources.
After the initial evaluation, optimizing the Mission Experience should become a key strategic program with accountability to the executive team and the Board. Regular reports on measurement and impact will inform the roadmap for ongoing improvements and help leadership make decisions about strategic priorities.
Mission Experience challenges an organization to think differently to meet the needs of their constituents today and in the future. Changing technology and people’s behaviors have transformed the definition of value. Nonprofit organizations need to consider constituents’ expectations at every touchpoint in their journey. With so many options available, simply providing content or relying on legacy reputation are not viable long-term strategies. Successful nonprofit organizations understand the dynamic needs of their constituents and align their content, operations, and principles to create the best possible Mission Experience.