Making Services Tangible: "Out-of-the-Box" Lessons from Non-Profits

Non-profit marketers are very inventive.  (Perhaps it’s because they have the most constrained budgets of all).  We can take a few pages from their playbook on making services more tangible, and more desirable by potential buyers.

Donating to charity makes us feel good.  But it’s an intangible "feel good".  Short of reading annual reports from cover to cover, we really don’t know where the money is going.   Unless the charity makes their services into products.

Shelterbox Shelterbox2does a brilliant job of making the intangible tangible.  Instead of asking donors to fund "humanitarian relief services", they ask them to buy a box (or a portion of a box) which contains a weatherproof tent, blankets, cooking supplies, a water purifier, etc, to provide a temporary home for a displaced family.  And the "box" you donate can be tracked online, so you know it’s been received by those in need. 

WorldVision Chicks makes contributions tangible with a gift catalog of farm animals, to donate to families around the world.   My 12-yr old was motivated to donate rabbits and chicks for Easter this year, and we plan to make it an annual tradition.

88Bikes Bicycle was founded by two brothers who visited Cambodia and offered to provide a few bicycles for a local orphanage.  Once they found out the school had eighty-eight children, they got organized.  Now 88bikes enables donors to give bicycles (which lead to schooling, better opportunities and a better quality of life) around the world. 


Every single animal, shelter, bicycle makes a difference.  For the recipient, and the donor.

Product management never has enough money or time to please all stakeholders.  As I’ve developed product strategy and launch plans over the years, I’ve often turned a product into a service to get it to market faster.  Or turned a service into a product to drive sales volume.   Thinking of  "out of the box" concepts like Shelterbox reminds me of how many options are really out there.