What would Steve Jobs do at your Nonprofit?

Written by
James Read
November 21, 2011
Steve Jobs will be sorely missed. What difference would it make if your charity disappeared suddenly?

Steve Job’s death on 5 October unleashed a worldwide outpouring of grief that, to me, was surprising. Why did the world care so much about the departure of a corporate CEO? Why was I sad about his passing – someone I’d never met?

I think the answers are found in what Jobs meant to the millions of people who bought, loved and used his products every day. A few observations:

People queued overnight to be first in London’s new Apple store.
  • Jobs had a vision for a better world. He believed people could use beautifully designed products to accomplish more, stay in better touch with people they loved and live a richer life.
  • Jobs knew what we needed next, often before we did. He was a digital guide whom we trusted to invent things that would amaze us. We were always curious about what he’d come up with next.
  • Jobs created an experience around Apple products that transcended their utilitarian value. To buy an Apple product was to buy into a lifestyle, not just another phone or computer.
  • Even though we paid good money for Apple products, there was an element of gifting to them. They had an intangible X factor and performed even better than expected, so it felt like we were getting something extra for free.
Apple products are a lifestyle, not just another computer or phone.

Wow your donors

Yes, Steve Jobs will be missed. And as I thought about the lessons of his life, I wondered: are there many nonprofit organisations out there that would be similarly mourned if they disappeared overnight?

Tough question. Unfortunately, many nonprofits wouldn’t be missed. They’re competent, good and provide life-changing services, but they have yet to wow their donors like Steve Jobs amazed his customers. So, for just a moment, imagine what Steve Jobs would do if he were CEO of your nonprofit.

  • Jobs would paint a compelling vision for a better world and offer donors relevant, concrete ways they can partner with your organisation to make it a reality.
  • He would anticipate what your donors want. He would make sure they received timely receipts, reports on what their gifts accomplished and surprise them (in a positive way) with all the good that’s getting done.
  • Jobs would no doubt weave a compelling experience for your donors. Through the stories he told, your organisation’s website and every other touch-point, he would pull your donors into the excitement and drama of how your organisation is changing the world.
  • Finally, Jobs would make sure that your nonprofit delivered amazing value for every dollar your donors contribute.

The world won’t see another Steve Jobs soon. However, each one of us can borrow from his playbook and do our part to make the organisations we serve even more amazing to the donors who support them.

This article was first published on SOFII in Nov 2011.

About the author: James Read

James Read, believes the best days of fundraising are ahead of us. A creative director at Grizzard in the USA, he focuses on understanding how rapid changes in technology and culture apply to strategy, messaging and copywriting in nonprofit fundraising.

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