For most nonprofits growth and, in fact, survival is equated to an unceasing struggle for more resources —revenue, staff, members or customers. The mantra is “more”—more programs, members or revenue will solve their problems. Yet, in today’s economy it is leverage rather than quantity, innovation rather than production that yields solutions. Take the case of Facebook cited in a Fast Company article.
An article in Harvard Business Review, titled The Performance Management Revolution reports that more than one-third of U.S. companies are abandoning the traditional annual performance review in favor of less formal, more dynamic and frequent “check- ins” with employees throughout the year. These conversations provide immediate performance feedback in specific contexts and aim at future improvement rather than rewards or punishment.
- A value proposition is not about you—your flagship programs, reputation or achievements. It is about the value a member perceives and actually experiences through the relationship with your association. Your job is not to persuade members of the value you see, but to uncover the real sources of value they see; drill beneath the surface to understand what makes them “tick” and what most matters to them.
- Look for intangible value. Customer value does not reside in the purchase of a product itself but in the way this product is experienced and the results users get from its use.Sometimes what makes the most difference is not the great quality of a conference but the speed of recapping and distributing its contents to you after the conference; the type of conversations you have in-between sessions; or the access to potential clients or suppliers you get out of it. Yet most organizations miss and squander such sources of value that, if leveraged, could become the basis for future high-value programs and targeted member experiences. The Community Roundtable, a membership organization for community managers, realized that interaction with other members—the community itself—had much highest value for members than their formal programs. Instead of continuing to push the value of these programs on members, the company made these community-based interactions the basis of its business model and value proposition. Yet most associations miss, rather than leverage, such informal sources of value because they don’t fit with their own criteria of success. By measuring value on the basis of responses to program questionnaires or attendance, they miss the far greater value that informal experiences and intangibles.
- Value propositions are NOT marketing tools. Constructing them is not a matter of wordsmithing or persuading as in:
|General Guidance||Underlying Assumptions to Question|
|“It is also wise, however, to see that the core group represents all factions of the constituency the new organization will serve.”||Associations are quasi-political entities with criteria for defining a customer base based on political representation rather than stakeholder value.|
|“You’ll want to set the dues for each membership category at this stage.”||Without a question, running an association means that you have dues-paying members.|
|The “organizational plan is fleshed out [when] you have a well-defined structure, membership categories, a program of benefits and services, a draft budget, and an operating blueprint in your bylaws.”||There is a set blueprint for association architecture. You first design your structure and products and only then do you go after customers to get sales (rather than developing the products and business models that best respond to customer needs).|