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A Donor Walks Into the Apple Store…

January 23, 2016

halA month ago, I woke up in the morning to find my iPhone in a terrible state of affairs on the floor beside the bed.

Apparently, in the midst of a nightmare I had flung my phone across the room. There was no protective case on it, leaving the screen shattered.

Not two hours later, I was waiting patiently in line at the Apple Store—anxiously hoping someone could repair the screen and forgo an expensive purchase of a new device. I also happened to be thinking…about outcomes. Embarrassing.

“If Apple was a nonprofit, providing a charitable service to me,” I thought, “what would I hope for in this experience?” Exactly what I hoped for as a paying customer at one of the most successful companies in history: a result.

Guess which question mattered most to me that day:

  1. Did my Apple representative care about me?
  2. Did my representative empower me to learn about the value of a protective case for my phone and explain the psychology of why I neglected to have a case in the first place?
  3. Was the Apple Store a place where I felt comfortable sharing how the phone accident made me feel?
  4. Did they actually fix my phone?

Questions similar to 1, 2, and 3 are often found lurking on evaluations forms for nonprofit services. It’s not that these measures of satisfaction aren’t important, but they do not get to a result.

My purpose in spending time on a Saturday at the Apple Store was not to have a satisfying experience with the employees or to be educated about protecting my screen–not even to shop at UTC for a few hours while waiting. I needed to have my phone repaired.

Smart donors are asking the same question of nonprofits delivering important services. They want to know how their dollars will actually impact another person, move the needle on a cause, or change the community.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is helping donors make investments where they can make the biggest difference through their philanthropy.  We encourage donors to look at performance instead of being hyper-focused on reasonable administrative costs required to achieve good results.

Through the program section in The Giving Partner, we find meaning in great examples set by organizations that are specific about their achievements. They set an expectation for talking more about results, instead of focusing on lists of activities that may or may not produce results.

Think about it the next time you’re shopping for a new product or service provider. I bet you will select a company that delivers the result you’re looking for. Any laundry list of activities they provide will be irrelevant unless the final outcome is what you had in mind.

What happened to me at the Apple Store that day? The tech team couldn’t match a new screen to the brains of my phone. So they gave me a new phone. Nice!

The activities they carried out behind the scenes to reach this outcome mattered little to me. I left feeling “satisfied” with the nice people who helped me. More importantly, I left with an iPhone that worked—a result I was happy to invest in.


 

Outcomes guide Hal Williams is currently working with a group of seven local organizations on a small change project through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to help redefine (and simplify) the way they track outcomes for a specific program. Look for case studies shared on this blog.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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