I used to work in the for-profit sector as a banker and as a publisher of a business newspaper. It was customary for us to regularly conduct focus groups or surveys of our customers to find out what they were thinking about our product or services. Based upon this input, we would redesign our products to offer improved services to our customers.
In my opinion, the nonprofit world does not seek input from our clients often enough. We assume we know what is best for them. Based upon our assumptions, work experience and academic training we design programs that hopefully can be funded that meet the needs of our clients.
Two weeks ago Health Forward held a retreat where we invited uninsured and undeserved individuals to join board members and community leaders to participate in discussions about the future direction of this foundation. With all due respect to everyone who attended, the most insightful comments that I heard came from the consumers. This should not be surprising to me, but it was.
At the end of our day long retreat several consumers thanked me for inviting them to our board retreat and one very articulate and proud lady — with a tear in her eye –told me that this is the first time she has ever been asked about what could be done to improve her health delivery system. She was touched with how she was treated — not judged — and how respectful the rest of the conference participants were to her.
It is amazing how much we can learn if we simply listen to our clients.