Having built one of the the first charitable crowdfunding websites in the world, I feel uniquely qualified to answer this. The answer is that in the non-profit sector (and I'd argue enterprise as well), it's not one or the other, it's really both. Without a "forcing function" of some bottom-up adoption, it's really difficult to get non-profit decision makers' attention. But without the ability to answer a lot of questions, and hand-hold them to adoption, no bottom-up approach is going to really gain traction.
Happy to talk to you in a call about your specific questions and challenges.
I would suggest the first question to ask is "what problem do I solve?" And of those people I solve problems for "who do I create the most value for?" In the non-profit world you need to add "How does my business help the non-profit run better and/or help the group the non-profit focuses on?"
For example, if you've created a platform that drives donations, your company "has created a platform that helps you reach fundraising goals faster."
What you don't want to do is market and sell to B2B and B2C audiences simultaneously. They have different ways of buying - a B2B audience needs to have their benefits quantified (using your thing makes me x amount more) - and it's extremely hard for a startup to be able to do both well. Better to start with one, execute really well and move into the other.
Feel free to give me a call and we can dig into who your most valuable audience is.
Companies that implement both B2B and B2C products have a deliberate strategy around it.
1) Supply & Demand
Often times, you'll notice see a company seek out businesses to create the supply and then consumers to create the demand. These companies are usually in a chicken-and-egg situation where they need both to actually have a complete product. Think of travel (Orbitz/AirBNB), e-commerce (Amazon), dining (Yelp/OpenTable), etc. The hottest companies in each of these areas needed to create the supply (hotel rooms, retail products, restaurant listings) to ensure consumers would have a reason to stop by and purchase. While working at DIRECTV, we had to have a strategy to gather exclusive content (NFL Sunday Ticket), the supply, to drive demand. We also had to make a push to gather customers (typical TV commercials to even working with larger apartment complexes to demonstrate that it is always legal to put up a satellite dish regardless).
2) Moving Up/Down the Value Chain
Some companies have great products that achieve product market fit with either consumers or businesses. After this milestone, these companies adapt their product, messaging, and/or strategy to tap into the other market by going heavier (B2B) or lighter (B2C) with quality/service/customization. They often use freemium pricing models to get the best of both worlds. Some examples would be Dropbox and Google Apps. While working at Cisco, I was part of the Linksys group where more basic products would be sold under the Linksys brand whereas those with more business features or better quality would be sold under the Cisco brand.
The non-profit sector is unique but the above strategies still do apply. So I would recognize the nuances of non-profits but still assume that standard business/product logic remains. I would be happy to give more specific recommendations over a call where you can tell me more about your background and product ideas.
First of all, you are asking a question that is well down the road. I would first want to know what work you have done around your idea.
1. what are your assumptions
2. do you have a problem hypothesis you are testing or have tested
3. have you a specific target audience
4. how many of those have you contacted to vet your idea?
5. what learnings did you come up with beforehand to guide those conversations?
Your first and only job is to find product/market fit in a market large enough to support your goals. When you go through this process, the answers to the above questions are much more likely to reveal themselves.
I treat non-profit sectors exactly like for profit businesses. If you do not do this you may have the false assumption that people automatically care as much as you do. That is seldom the case. Find out what people care about, who is your market and what do they want. It is easy sell food to a hungry crowd.
Don't stop taking massive action.
Best of Luck,
Michael T. Irvin
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