Why your supporters are wealthier than you expect. Course details.

Don't knowingly fail to meet audience expectations

In that small special mini-sink in between the kitchen sink and the draining board in our kitchen lives a simple chrome cutlery drainer.  You know Cutlery drainerthe sort, all silvery with partitions in it to help your knives and forks stay upright and drain properly.  Nothing flash, just functional and in-keeping with the rest of the sink furniture.

But it’s getting rusty.

It wasn’t expensive but nor was it bargain-basement, discount-shop cheap.  It’s also less than 18 months old.  I don’t suppose it has the world’s greatest chrome plating but as a mid-price product I doubt it has the world’s worst either.


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

But it’s getting rusty.

A product that is intended from the outset to spend much of it’s working life getting wet and holding implements that go into people’s mouths and that should have therefore been made to be fit for purpose is getting rusty.

The difference between a £30 cutlery drainer and a £10 version should be in design features, artistry, form over function.  Not in whether it actually does the one thing it is supposed to do for a reasonable amount of time.  Why would manufacturers knowingly produce and promote products that don’t do what their consumers expect that they should?

Do the same manufacturers expect customers to return and buy repeat or further products?  If so, why, given their failure to meet basic customer expectations?  I suspect someone in the factory or marketing team knows that the drainers aren’t really up to scratch but that it gets signed-off on the grounds of lower-cost process with volume sales supporting the profit margin.  

But what happens if a charity fails to meet their audiences’ basic expectations? What if we don’t thank donors who expect it?  What if we don’t ensure our buildings are all 100% accessible for disabled service beneficiaries?  And how about expecting our staff and volunteer teams to work with sub-standard IT and hardware which should enable their delivery but in reality just makes everyone less effective?

Charities seldom have a ‘volume model’ or ‘back-up profits’ to fall back on if they don’t get this right – particularly with skilled staff and volunteers and the consequences can be very serious.  So before we embark on pursuing the next great innovation, perhaps it’s worth remembering that whilst I will always need clean and dry cutlery, donors don’t need to give to any cause, let alone ours.  And volunteers could find plenty of other things to do with their time.

Shouldn’t we therefore be doing everything we can to make sure our service, relationships and brand perception doesn’t go prematurely rusty?  Otherwise, we’re simply ignoring the things most of us will already know don’t help to meet the expectations of the very people we need to delight.