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September 7, 2022

Mission Multiplier: Do Nonprofits Have Clients or Customers?

Jane Pfeiffer

Hello and welcome to Mission Multiplier. I’m Jane Pfeiffer, founder and president of Fieldtrip. Fieldtrip is an agency that specializes in helping nonprofits and purpose-driven organizations reduce their biggest expense. It’s the cost of lost opportunities and with branding and marketing. We can reduce those expenses and create a mission multiplier. So today I want to talk about clients versus customers. Nonprofits have people that they serve, and those people, regardless of lifestyle circumstances, and trauma, or social status, deserve respect. So are they customers or clients?

I have the opportunity to work with an organization that assists what many would consider to be untouchables. They’re people coming out of incarceration, and this organization helps them re-enter and transition into society, giving them job skills recovery from substance abuse services, education if needed assistance, finding an affordable place to live, just surrounding that person in a transitional environment that improves their chances of being able to stand on their own two feet and to avoid future run ins with criminal justice, future crimes, future victims, future damage to themselves and to others. And when sitting down with a resident, which is what they call their beneficiaries, the very first interview I had, I was shocked to learn that she was in prison and was told by the prison officer to pack up her things, clear out her cell and follow her down the hall. Obviously, she asked, “Where am I going? What’s happening?” The officer said nothing. Absolutely nothing. No answer, wasn’t rude, but considered that that prisoner did not deserve a response. She was not worthy of knowing what came next or where she was headed. So what she found is she was then loaded into a bus and was headed to this re-entry program. She didn’t know that. So she’s in transportation, leaving a facility, driving for a great deal of time and shows up. She’s got the clothes on her back, a small bag of personal items, and that’s it. She didn’t know what she was walking into. And what struck me is the fact that no one, not the officer, not at the point of transfer, not the driver of the vehicle or the officer that was on board took the time to answer her question, what is happening? Where am I going? It’s such a basic human right that I would never hesitate to ask a question. Nor would I ever anticipate that someone thought I wouldn’t be worthy of getting that answer.

So, you know, if you’re in the nonprofit space, I doubt that you would settle for that type of treatment. You know, what I’m talking about, that everyone is worthy of basic human decency. Being able to answer that question, what’s happening, where am I going? At Fieldtrip, we believe that there’s one audience when we map out all the people and different groups and partners that a nonprofit needs to connect with and speak to. There’s one audience above all that is most important and that’s the people that you serve. They may not have the resources to access social media to get your emails, or to make a donation or interact with you in any traditional way, even if they don’t see those messages because they’re in prison When you focus on serving that audience and everything that you put out. Your other audiences have an easier time understanding what you do, why you do it, and the impact of what you do. And you don’t have to explain it. They see it. They believe it. So, the most important audience, the people you serve. Now, in my opinion, a customer is someone who intends to make a financial transaction with a business, whether that’s a retail organization or business to business. But it’s a transaction that may or may not be repeated. Transaction happens. They leave a client comes to a business or an organization expecting to make an investment. Typically financial if you’re in business to business and they’re going to become better as a result of that engagement. If it doesn’t work out, they’re not going to stick around. But it’s more than a transaction. So I’m advocating that the people you support, regardless of social status or what they’re dealing with in the moment, deserve your respect and deserve a higher title than residents, or homeless, or abused, or patient, but client, they deserve it because they’re human, because in working with you, you’re making an investment in them. Which increases the chances that they’ll make an investment right back in themselves and what you’re offering. So client or customer – you decide, or something else. I’m advocating for client. Thanks for watching this week and feel free to visit to register for our weekly videos.