Giving Compass' Take:

• Consultant Kris Putnam-Walkerly discusses how grantmakers should look at things more from a business-to-consumer mindset.

• How can we build better relationships through this perspective? Some tips included here are to solicit feedback as a company would in the customer service department.

• Here's why more trust between funders and grantees will bring about impact.

I am surprised by how often grantmakers see their role as funder, but not as a provider of services for which there are customers. True, the philanthropic customer is different than a business customer. As a foundation, you’re not selling a consumer good, but you are selling ideas, change, and a belief that communities can and should become better. And just as a private business needs customers to buy its products or services to keep its operation going, foundations need customers to buy into their missions and be willing to work as partners to achieve them.

For each of these customer bases, it’s critical that you build relationships that are mutually beneficial and foster a sense of trust. For nonprofit customers, that could mean simplifying and streamlining your grantmaking experience. For donors, it could mean creating an easy-to-use interface or providing opportunities for education and engagement. For all customers, it means being crystal clear about your mission, vision and goals so that they can see how their work aligns with yours and why you value their contributions.

  1. Ask everyone on your team (staff, trustees, your spouse) to write down a list of all your foundation’s customers, then identify the top 3-5 most important elements of the customer’s experience.
  2. Determine key expectations for each customer interaction. What can and should they expect from your team? Then ask your team to write down exactly how they are meeting or exceeding those expectations.
  3. Identify areas for improvement and make plans to tackle them.
  4. Create a way to measure customer satisfaction going forward to help you continually inform and improve your practice. This could be anything from an annual broad customer satisfaction survey to a quick poll at the end of an online grant proposal submission process.

Read the full article on taking the customer service challenge by Kris Putnam-Walkerly at the Putnam Consulting Group.