Charities can’t afford to deliver sub-par experiences

How technology is changing engagement with people in the non-profit sector

Charities can't afford not to deliver the best, technology and data-fuelled experiences to their customer cohorts, leading A/NZ not-for-profit organisation representatives agree.

During a session at Salesforce’s World Tour virtual event in Sydney, several executives got together to discuss how customer experience is vital and why they are using technology to put people first. St John New Zealand digital manager, Adi Wickramaratne, said the organisation has been undergoing significant change, as it has some unique funding challenges. 

“Our model is that we are a charity. We are only about 70 per cent funded by government, so we need to make up the remainder through charitable activities and through commercial activities as well,” he said.

Wickramaratne said St John relies heavily on good engagement with communities around New Zealand.

“We don't have a free pass to deliver subpar experiences for customers. We have to use technology to deliver the experiences customers want and demand of us. But alongside that, we can't be digital-only. We might be digital-first, but we have to also account for the people who are digitally excluded in some way, shape, or form,” he said.

“And so we're trying to still maintain those predominant offline channels. For example, cheques are being phased out in New Zealand. And how do we deal with that when our donors are 70 plus years old, and most of them don't have smartphones? So we've got some really big challenges. But I think also hand-in-hand with this is channel shift and privacy law challenges. The cost of compliance for non-profits is huge.”

Wickramaratne said St John has a legacy environment it’s slowly moving out of. “We've got a couple of million customer records in there. We use Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and a social CRMwe've got running for our new ecommerce platform as part of our digital transformation journey. 

“Pardot [marketing automation platform] has enabled us to go from zero email revenue, through to last year's close to a million dollars of email only revenue. It is essential for us to reduce churn in our supporter scheme and ambulance insurance products. We can do return mail management, and drive into email and SMS, where we can have appropriate engagements with customers, depending on what information we have. It's kind of basic hygiene stuff that you do in any normal big corporate, but it's quite new for us. But it's driving great benefits here to reduce the churn, and reduce wastage around the post and mailings.”

Customer control

Yooralla, a disability services provider in Victoria, is moving from block funded to operating under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Its business engagement specialist, Mathew Warren, said the fundamental principle driving its experience approach is about choice and control for customers. 

“We're moving from where customers previously had block funding, to them having their own funding. So they're responsible for setting their own goals, and actually driving what their plans are, and what their supports are, and it comes down to what's the choice in life, and they want to achieve their goals," he explained.

"So how do organisations like Yooralla best support them in actually realising what their goals are? It’s a fundamental shift in the approach we need to take, and a big part of what we need to do under our systems is to be able to see in real time what funding customers have, and what they are funded for.”

Warren said Salesforce’s customer management system underpins every step of the Yooralla journey from the point of contact initially with the customer, throughout their entire lifecycle and over the months and years as their plans evolve and goals change. 

“We help them with setting up their initial service agreements, and what their funding is for those service agreements, and what they can actually use those for. We help them enrol in the programs that they might like to achieve, things like one to one support, so we might provide better support," he said. "It’s quite a change in terms of empowering our people to understand what it is they're actually achieving for their customers.”

Yooralla is also one of many not-for-profits using Socialsuite, an independent technology platform built on top of Salesforce, that helps a range of nonprofits and philanthropic organisations better their social impact. CEO, Brad Gurrie, said across the breadth of customers, it's all about defining the metrics of what they want to be able to do.

“We see a lot of organisations that want to measure their impact,” he commented. “One of the key things is how to collect primary data from constituents. Corporates are able to achieve that quite easily, but it’s not as easy in the not-for-profit sector, because we're dealing with a lot more complexities, like linguistic challenges or collecting data from people out in remote areas where there's no Internet connectivity, and languages can be an issue. 

“Importantly, the second biggest trend we're seeing is the visualisation of data. How can you see change over time from the people you're serving?"

Gurrie shared an example of one customer in Western Australia running an indigenous program and providing gym memberships to participating kids. Through monitoring and getting feedback, the team identified the kids weren't using the gym membership.

"What they're able to do is actually take that out of the program and redeploy $30,000 into another area that the kids were going to use," he said. 

“I think one of the things we see when we're working with non-profits is the people we're working with are so dedicated to serving the beneficiaries that from a technology perspective, we have to make it easy to be able to collect that data and not distract from the work. 

“It has to be simple and it's also a refinement process as well, in that you implement systems then continue to refine to ensure people are getting the most out of the system, and value is being extracted from it.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

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