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How to Leverage a 4-Day Design Sprint at Your Nonprofit

At CauseMic, we help our nonprofit clients apply best practices from Fortune 500 for-profits to scale their revenue and impact. One of the most efficient frameworks successful Silicon Valley companies use is called the Design Sprint, a concept created by Google’s Jake Knapp.

Knapp invented the Design Sprint to save time and money solving complex challenges by having a multi-functional team devote all of their efforts to one vision and goal in a short, hyper-focused burst of work. It was originally intended to be five days, but the improved version encompasses just four days. 

When a nonprofit is experiencing analysis paralysis, filled with a lot of talk and little action, a Design Sprint helps to move ideas into action and start testing things to find out what works. The Design Sprint is defined by four single-day stages: Define, Refine, Prototype, and Test.

Here’s a brief overview of how you can accelerate innovation and make/test changes at rapid speeds using the 4-day Design Sprint at your nonprofit:


Identify Your Sprint Team

First, you need to identify a small team of individuals (5-7) who are skilled in different areas (i.e. Fundraiser, Designer, Marketer, Technologist, etc.). You’ll want to include “people who would be later responsible for the implementation of the idea and hold a crucial set of skills/expertise for its success,” notes Data Driven Investor.


Day 1: Define 

Before you can find a solution, you need to ask the right question. The first half of the day of your sprint is about identifying and defining the problem you are trying to solve. Make sure you keep asking “why” to get to the root cause of the issue. 

Once you’ve determined the problem, you’ll want to start gathering information and insights to inform possible solutions. This often takes interviewing your stakeholders to understand their perspectives on the challenge and their “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves” in a solution.

All ideas for solutions that the team generates should be considered and placed on a white board that everyone can see.


Day 2: Refine

The second day should begin with a review of all ideas for solutions with the goal of narrowing them down to one or two. The team can vote on the concepts they like best until one is chosen to prototype later.

Next, the team should create a User Test Flow that illustrates the customer journey of your target audience (i.e. the journey from supporter to donor to monthly donor). Consider making a visual storyboard that outlines the steps of the solution including messages, channels, and design.


Day 3: Prototype

This is the day when the rubber meets the road. Every team member has a role and responsibility to do their part and put all of their focus on bringing the identified solution to fruition through implementation or configuration. Keep in mind that due to time constraints, the solution should be functional enough to test, but is not expected to be perfect or in an ideal state. Progress over perfection is absolutely a necessary mindset when conducting a Design Sprint.


Day 4: Test

Recruit various stakeholders you interviewed on day one to test the solution and provide feedback. Your stakeholders will tell you if your solution solves the original problem, is clear enough for them to use, functions the way they need it to, etc. 

Put it to the test amongst the Sprint Team and ask: does this solve our problem?

Document all feedback and if necessary, begin another Design Sprint the following week to incorporate feedback and iterate your prototype.


How do you know if your Design Sprint was a success?

Here’s a great excerpt that sums it up: 

“If your solution has good feedback: you just saved 3 to 6 months of work on proving that.

You aligned your team on the same vision, got a tangible prototype that would help you to unlock further funding as well as created confidence and momentum for moving forward.

If your solution has mixed feedback: you’re on the right track, and you know how to move forward. Use all this new knowledge and data, make some tweaks, redefine your audience if needed, and test again until you are satisfied with the result.”


---> Check out the results of a 4-Day Design Sprint for the nonprofit Greater Good Charities on our Digital Transformation page.