What Nonprofits Can Learn from Drone Makers

Photo via David Rodriguez Martin on Flickr
Photo via David Rodriguez Martin on Flickr

I can’t wait for the day when drone deliveries are as common as pizza deliveries. I’m breathless at the possibilities. Drones can take my kids to soccer and lacrosse practices. A drone can fetch my coffee from Starbucks. Out of sugar for that coffee? How about a drone delivery of a sugar packet from my neighbor down the street?

And, yes, your nonprofit absolutely, positively needs a drone. Need a new coin canister for your register fundraiser? I’ll fly one right over! Ice so you can complete the Ice Bucket Challenge? Cubed or crushed?

Of course, it will be a few years before you’ll have a drone. But that doesn’t mean you can’t—TODAY—start thinking like an organization that plans to use a new, radical technology. Google, Amazon and other drone innovators have a few lessons to share with nonprofits.

Get real.

Google is one company that embraces the truth. If something is broken, it needs to be acknowledged and fixed. But most nonprofits don’t embrace the truth. They deny, minimize, and obfuscate. But embracing the truth about your organization, its challenges and what’s holding it back are the things that will set you free.

Sweat the details.

Amazon is legendary for breaking down each step of the checkout process to make sure they are not giving customers an excuse to say no and to buy elsewhere. Is your nonprofit bringing the same kind of analysis to your checkout process? You’re saying, “Wait, I don’t have a checkout process!” But you do. If you have anything online with a donate button, you have to be obsessive about making sure it’s easy for supporters to give.

Be a searcher.

Planners have a preset idea of what should work. Searchers figure out through trial and error what does work. Wowza. Google’s drone program, for instance, isn’t waiting for the FAA to get their act together. They’re already testing drone deliver in other parts of the world, like Australia.

Nonprofits tell me all the time about their websites. They want to do this or that, and, of course, they desperately need a mobile website. But while they’re planning, they’re missing the fact that no one visits their website anyway. Nothing. Zero.

The action is on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, which are naturally optimized for mobile. If they had bothered to search and analyze the data and trends they would know what works!

I could go on and on, but I have work to do. That helipad in the backyard isn’t going to build itself!

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