“Jump the Curve” With Your Nonprofit Organization in 2016: 10 Ways to Remain Relevant

What do we need to do in 2016 not only move our organization forward to but to make a leap forward or “jump the curve” in how we compete and deliver member value? If we don’t do it, someone else will out-innovate and out-think us and take our market share. It is no longer enough to make incremental changes in our organizations but taking a leap and jumping the curve is what is needed. 

So, you ask, what is “jumping the curve”? I listened to a TedxBerkely Talk with Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple innovator and leading author in innovation. His one quote was deeply inspiring to me when he said, “…perspective is to jump curves and not to stay on the same stupid curve that you are on and not to do things 10% better.” He goes on to say that when Macintosh came out, the goal was not to make the next iteration only 10% better but to innovate it from a 1.0 to a 2.0 level. How do we take our organizations to a 2.0 level and beyond?

  1. Dream big and bring bigger dreamers– Load up your Board of Directors with people that can think differently and bring different perspectives to the organization so it can dream big. This means diversity at its core to reflect the diversity of your membership by including all generations, all ethnicities and all perspectives. Also, consider entrepreneurs or others on the Board as advisors to provide a different perspective. Finally, your Board leaders and others have to move beyond the way things were done in the past and the 200+ year old notion of what a nonprofit organization is
  2. Throw out iterative changes and innovate– Stop making small, iterative changes, as your members won’t notice them. View each of your programs, benefits and services as your members do by listening to them through a Voice of the Member feedback loop (up next) and make real-time changes. If we don’t, our competitor will make them stand up and take notice
  3. Voice of the Member feedback loop– The only way to understand program value is to actively evaluate it. Put a mechanism in place whereby everything your organization does has an evaluation component. Put in place a feedback loop where changes are made efficiently and effectively to programs based upon member input. Make a commitment to having someone on your team that constantly monitors this feedback and ensures that it is heard throughout the organization
  4. Anticipate your members’ needs– Companies such as Apple have a set of products that fit what the customer wants designed through their behaviors. Not only did Apple understand their was a need for iPhone but knew it before their customers did due to the ways they interacted with their devices and competing products. Apple fulfilled a need with iPhone that customers were thinking about through their behaviors but didn’t realize they needed. How are our members interacting with your organization and can that interaction help you innovate a program that they didn’t ask for but meets a very specific need? That is the trick and where effort needs to be placed
  5. Execution– Execution is where things tend to fall apart whether it is a nonprofit organization or a for-profit company. You need a plan to put it all together and solid project management to make it happen. Many great ideas sit in the “land of wasted ideas” due to lack of execution
  6. Cultivate and continue jumping the curve– Had Henry Ford not innovated and understood the needs of the customer before they understood it, he would be breeding a faster horse. The innovation of the automobile is Henry Ford taking the horse and carriage to the 2.0 level. The breeding of faster horses is at the iterative level or a 1.0 to 1.1 idea. Moving from gasoline engine vehicle to electric vehicles is a 3.0 or greater level idea. Don’t be satisfied with 2.0 when you see 3.0 around the corner (i.e. the electric vehicle) but cultivate that next curve and take it head on. That’s what your members expect!
  7. Performance measures– Too many times I see organizations that do not measure the success of their programs. If Henry Ford had not listened to his customers and measured the success of the automobile, he might not have expanded his assembly lines and plants. He set targets and made changes based upon the targets met. In the electric vehicle world, overall range or how far you can drive is critical to selling more cars to more people. This performance measure, along with driving down the cost of the automobile, are some of the critical elements in measuring success and the ability to increase customer satisfaction and need
  8. Kill it as fast as you dream it– If a program is not meeting the performance measures set, it is important to act quickly and ramp down the program. If you wait, you will be draining the organization’s resources and siphoning them away from programs that are successful.
  9. Expiration date– Just like produce in a supermarketand other perishables are rotated to ensure freshness through an expiration date. Put an “expiration date” on your programs. This doesn’t mean you will eliminate them but you will rotate them and ensure that the content is fresh and that it meets the needs of members today. 
  10. Plan – We always talk about an organization having an effective strategic plan, which is very important but we need to also have in place a growth plan that works in tandem with the strategic plan. Think of it as a product roadmap that compliments the strategic roadmap of the organization.

Regardless of your organization’s size, you can jump the curve by anticipating members’ needs, staying fresh and constantly evolving. It starts with your organization’s leadership and staff and continues through with your members and anyone that has an interest in your programs. How will your organization jump the curve in 2016!