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Asserts that competitive pressures make careful applications of marketing management tools imperative for the survival of time-dependent non-profit organizations. Illustrates a pragmatic tool which a volunteer-dependent organization can use to determine its strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis the competition. This tool is used to assess the competitive weaknesses and strengths of Big Brothers/Big Sisters vis-a-vis Special Olympics. Concludes by offering constructive advice as to how Big Brothers/Big Sisters can turn a "latent competitive advantage" into a "solid competitive advantage".
Today, a number of trends ranging from time poverty caused by harried lifestyles and increasing number of dual career households to resurgence of a "me-first" mentality among the American public and the emphasis they place on pursuit of hedonistic leisure pose serious threats to non-profit organizations' abilities to recruit volunteers (Riecken et al., 1994; Wymer et al., 1996). In an environment characterized by a dwindling pool of volunteers, non-profit organizations not only strive for volunteers from the general public, but also try to attract each other's volunteers. These competitive pressures make careful applications of marketing management tools imperative for the survival of time-dependent nonprofit organizations.
The purpose of this article is to illustrate a pragmatic tool which a volunteer-dependent organization can use to determine its strengths and weaknesses vis-a-vis the competition. Equipped with this information, administrators can design the necessary strategies to rectify weaknesses and exploit strengths. In this article, the proposed tool is used to assess the competitive weaknesses and strengths of Big Brothers/Big Sisters vis-a-vis Special Olympics.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters attempts to match a child in a single parent home with a volunteer who provides a positive role model as a surrogate for the absent parent. Special Olympics brings together mentally challenged people (predominantly children through young adults) who participate in athletic competitions. Volunteers organize and supervise the activities. Both organizations rely on a volunteer base and both generally attract volunteers who enjoy the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child. Consequently, they tend to compete for the same volunteer pool.
The proposed tool
The managerial tool proposed in this article is based on the familiar importance-performance analysis (Martilla and James, 1977). Importance-performance analysis is a graphic technique based on the conceptual foundations of multi-attribute choice models. The technique identifies strengths and weaknesses of a marketing object in terms of two critical criteria that consumers employ in evaluating that object. The first is the relative importance of the attributes to consumers. The second is consumers' assessment of the performance of the object in terms of these attributes. By defining a two-dimensional matrix with the horizontal axis representing the perceived performance of the object from low to high and the vertical axis signifying the importance of the attribute from low to high, the analysis yields prescriptions for four strategies (see Figure 1).
Attributes in Quadrant I are evaluated high in both importance and performance. What is needed here is to "keep up the good work". Quadrant II prescribes a "concentrate here" strategy by signalling those attributes that need special marketing effort. These attributes are high in importance but rated substandard in performance. The attributes in Quadrant III indicate those rated low in terms of both importance and performance. Because of their low salience, these attributes are considered low priority and require no additional resources. Attributes contained in Quadrant IV are rated high in performance but low in importance. This implies that an overkill has occurred. Perhaps the resources committed to these attributes should be channelled elsewhere.
The traditional importance-performance analysis, which has been applied in a number of product and service settings (see, for example: Cheron et al. 1989; Crompton and Duray, 1985; Keyt and Yavas, 1988; Sethna, 1982), however, has two inherent weaknesses. First, while the technique considers an object's own performance in terms of a particular attribute, it ignores its performance vis-a-vis competitors (Burns, 1986). Yet consumers do not evaluate an object in a competitive vacuum. On the contrary, the ultimate differential advantage a product has is determined by its performance relative to competitors. Hence, the absolute own performance measure of the traditional importance -- performance analysis needs to be augmented with a relative performance measure. Second, while the technique takes into account attribute salience (i.e. importance), it does not recognize the determinance of an attribute. Determinant attributes are those that discriminate well among competing brands or products and directly influence consumer choice. An attribute, say worthiness of the cause of a non-profit organization, may be very important (i.e. salient) to consumers, but if the potential volunteers feel that two organizations have equally worthy missions, then worthiness of the cause is not a determinant attribute. Thus, solely focusing on salience at the expense of determinance may misguide strategy.
The amended framework depicted in Table I is designed to rectify these two weaknesses by incorporating both the determinance and relative performance dimensions. Simultaneous consideration of salience (high vs low), determinance (determinant vs nondeterminant), own performance (good vs poor) and relative performance vis-a-vis competition (better vs worse) results in 16 possible outcomes.
Table I Outcomes grid Attribute Attribute Own Relative salience determinance performance performance Salient Determinant Good Better …