There are many reasons why philanthropy should streamline – excessively long strategic planning processes, grant proposals that take 8 months to be funded, board meeting dockets that measure 3 inches high – and the task can seem daunting. However, there is a way to quickly streamline…by starting small. Let me give you an example: I recently stayed at the Marriot Marquis in Washington, DC and ordered room service. You know the routine: Order food, wait, hotel staff brings it in your room, they hand you a bill, you sign it while they stand around, and they leave. Not anymore. The Marriott has eliminated futzing with the bill! Instead they deliver you the food, and promptly walk out the door. No … Continue reading Streamlining is Simple…Start Small
It’s easy to get mired in the way things have always been done, and sometimes it leaves us blind to our customers’ real needs. So take a moment and ask yourself one critical question: Who is my customer? In my experience this is a question that most foundations simply don’t ask themselves. I was talking last week with a funder client (let’s call her Mary) who said that a big lesson she learned is that they should give their applicants more time to respond to a request for proposal. They had only given their applicants about a month; during that month, the applicant had to decide whether and how to apply jointly with other organizations that were also invited, prepare … Continue reading Who Is Your Customer?
If I had a career do-over, I might choose to be a signage expert. I am constantly appalled by poor signage, and occasionally impressed by excellent signage. To me, useful, informative, and strategically placed signs are one way for people to be kind to each other. “We’re thrilled you chose come to Stanford University’s campus, our signs will help you find your way.” “Road closed ahead? Don’t worry, our signs will provide turn by turn directions and explain how we are redirecting you.” Good signs signal “we’re glad to have you,” “we care about you and your experience,” “put your feet up and relax.” Bad signs tell us we aren’t wanted, our experience doesn’t matter, nobody cares. A few days … Continue reading What Message Are You Sending To Grantees?
I’m working from my laptop in a Panera restaurant near Cleveland, Ohio, one of my many “offices away from home.” I’m desperately trying to focus on work but am continually distracted by the music piped in above my head, because the station they have turned it to is skipping. What is supposed to be relaxing symphonic sounds are quite irritating and painful to hear. I’ve asked two Panera employees what is wrong and suggested ways to solve the problem. Both agreed that it sounds horrible, explained that they “tried turning it off and on” and nothing happens. When I asked if they could simply turn it off, they said they weren’t able to. Panera would rather play music that is … Continue reading Don’t Let Policy Get in the Way of Good Practice