Start with user needs

The aim of a charity is clear; delivering that aim can be complex. Why do we say that? Well, when a charity is set up it is generally with the aim of providing some measure of practical, financial, awareness or other support in response to an identified need.

So far, so good! Where the complexity comes in is in developing a functioning entity which will deliver on the aim. You can’t simply say ‘we’ve got a great cause’ and expect everything else to fall into place. For a start there are the normal considerations of running a business, managing the accounting functions, IT, advertising, delivering products and services and so on. Those may be relatively straightforward, simply requiring good business practice, but there are other areas which are more complex.

Take customer service for example. Charities don’t generally have a linear supplier/business/customer relationship. You could argue that those who benefit from the charity work are end-users and therefore can be seen as customers. But what about those who may buy goods in a charity shop, they are customers too. And what about those donating to the charity? They shouldn’t be seen as pure suppliers in a business relationship and charities may therefore find it preferable to treat donors as quasi customers.

Adding to the challenge, charities can also find themselves faced with what can be a fairly complex mix of employees and volunteers, researchers and subject experts. Balancing the competing needs of these individuals is a complex task in itself, even when they are all working to further the same end.

All in all therefore, running a charity is not a straightforward business and charities need all the help they can if they are to successfully deliver on their aims. With this in mind, the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) has released ten digital design principles for use by non-profit organisations. The first of these is to ‘start with user needs and keep them involved;’ researching users needs and behaviours in order to develop a deep understanding which will inform digital services alongside the provision of ongoing support. Other suggestions within the list highlight the importance of areas such as collaboration, inclusivity and teamwork.

With the new data protection regulations very much in mind (GDPR) the importance of privacy and security including data ownership and processing is also highlighted. This is particularly important in the charity sector where end-users may be vulnerable. Taken together, the ten principles will enable charities and other non-profit organisations to deliver a better outcome for their service users.

Another area which charities should consider is the way in which they advertise and operate their telephone services. Opting for an 0300 number highlights the charitable or non-profit making nature of the organisation and can therefore help to boost its visibility. Calls to 0300 numbers cost the same as normal calls to landlines and are therefore generally free within minutes packages, thereby making it cost effective for people to pick up the phone and call. Callagenix supports charities and other not-for-profit organisations by offering reduced rates for telephony packages.

Whether you are looking to attract donors, reach out to beneficiaries or simply to promote the charitable aims of the organisation; starting with the end-user can enable you to devise a pathway which will best meet requirements. We now live in a technological age and making the best use of digital and telephony solutions could just help charities to do more without breaking the budget.

Written by Alison