What would Steve Jobs do at your Nonprofit?

James Read, creative director and copy chief at Grizzard, Atlanta, USA. 

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Steve Job’s death on 5 October unleashed a worldwide outpouring of grief that, to me, was surprising. Why did the world care so much about the departure of a corporate CEO? Why was I sad about his passing – someone I’d never met?

I think the answers are found in what Jobs meant to the millions of people who bought, loved and used his products every day. A few observations:

  • Jobs had a vision for a better world. He believed people could use beautifully designed products to accomplish more, stay in better touch with people they loved and live a richer life.
  • Jobs knew what we needed next, often before we did. He was a digital guide whom we trusted to invent things that would amaze us. We were always curious about what he’d come up with next.
  • Jobs created an experience around Apple products that transcended their utilitarian value. To buy an Apple product was to buy into a lifestyle, not just another phone or computer.
  • Even though we paid good money for Apple products, there was an element of gifting to them. They had an intangible X factor and performed even better than expected, so it felt like we were getting something extra for free.

Wow your donors

Yes, Steve Jobs will be missed. And as I thought about the lessons of his life, I wondered: are there many nonprofit organisations out there that would be similarly mourned if they disappeared overnight?

Tough question. Unfortunately, many nonprofits wouldn’t be missed. They’re competent, good and provide life-changing services, but they have yet to wow their donors like Steve Jobs amazed his customers. So, for just a moment, imagine what Steve Jobs would do if he were CEO of your nonprofit.

  • Jobs would paint a compelling vision for a better world and offer donors relevant, concrete ways they can partner with your organisation to make it a reality.
  • He would anticipate what your donors want. He would make sure they received timely receipts, reports on what their gifts accomplished and surprise them (in a positive way) with all the good that’s getting done.
  • Jobs would no doubt weave a compelling experience for your donors. Through the stories he told, your organisation’s website and every other touch-point, he would pull your donors into the excitement and drama of how your organisation is changing the world.
  • Finally, Jobs would make sure that your nonprofit delivered amazing value for every dollar your donors contribute.

The world won’t see another Steve Jobs soon. However, each one of us can borrow from his playbook and do our part to make the organisations we serve even more amazing to the donors who support them.


Steve Jobs will be sorely missed. What difference would it make if your charity disappeared suddenly?


Steve Jobs will be sorely missed. What difference would it make if your charity disappeared suddenly?

People queued overnight to be first in London’s new Apple store.


People queued overnight to be first in London’s new Apple store.

Apple products are a lifestyle, not just another computer or phone.


Apple products are a lifestyle, not just another computer or phone.

Steve was unique

What do you mean, "The world won’t see another Steve Jobs soon."? There will never be another Steve. Steve, just as you or any of us are. You-nique! I'm wanting to be positive here. I am really expecting another person to step up and improve on Steve's jobs. In reviewing his biographical articles, people were paid to worship him and his ideals instead of taking care of their families with Steve's jobs. I would like to see the results of people's lives who produce these technical icons of daily communications lead wholesome extremes by example and keep on changing the world into a better place. Tweet this.

I am not sure you're talking about the same Steve Jobs

Much of what you describe is accurate. His drive for perfection in design and execution, that sense of what the market (you say people)will want next...But From the reading I have done the attributes you touch on were counterpointed with the Selfish, arrogant, tyrannical, Impish, taciturn Steve Jobs that through his life allowed him to be almost as destructive as constructive.

I don't think either, we should compare Apple products to have the same level of life transforming capability many charities deliver to their constituents. it is a long bow.

And it should finally be remembered Mr. Jobs was not a philanthropist by any stretch of the imagination.

Having stated this I too admire much of what he achieved. It does inspire awe and many aspects of his focused attention to a given task might - it can be argued - be emulated by people in other organisations trying to make a difference on a large scale.

And for the record there are lots of Steve jobs out there. They just aren't in the headlines or making hundreds of millions of dollars. But in the way they work, raise their families and contribute to their communities they make every bit and in some cases much greater a contribution than Mr. Jobs ever did.

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