I added “clueless” to the title because, gosh, we sometimes really are. Our questions often start with “Who are WE?” Rather, they should start with “Who do YOU think we are; Why do you CARE?” We simply don’t do enough to ascertain and incorporate the customer point of view into our marketing efforts. We think we know better. We don’t. If you want to know what really motivates consumers to engage or disengage with your brand you have to ask them.
|Donor churn is money down the drain|
Those of us who work in philanthropy have known for years that donor stewardship is essential to long-term success. Without stewardship, you have a one-time transaction. With it, you build a relationship. Securing the donation should be the beginning of the donor relationship; not the end. But development staff, boards and executive directors forget this all the time. And the end result is what has been called donor churn.
|It takes working together to get to our goal|
Communicating these days is a lot more work than it used to be. See •Digital Darwinism: Plus Ça Change Ce N’est Pas La Même Chose. The exciting ideas out there are amazing. Yet it reminds me of a quote from the renowned management guru, Peter Drucker, who wrote that “everything must degenerate into work if anything is to happen.” No one promised us this was going to be easy. Because it is so challenging, we need to be disciplined in creating our communication strategies in this era of endless, rapid change. The central part of this discipline is asking questions and assessing our best opportunities. A great place to start is by asking our stakeholders – customers, clients, donors, volunteers and, yes, our social media networks. The key things constituents are telling us as a group is: (1) our posts are too promotional; (2) the content isn’t relevant; (3) we’re too conversational, repetitive and boring without adding value, and (4) we communicate too frequently.
This reminds me a lot of the groundbreaking donor research by Penelope Burk (I completely changed how I did fundraising after attending her seminar a decade ago, chanting “donor-centered,” ad nauseum, until everyone around me was chanting it too). The core of Ms. Burk’s work is that 93% of donors would definitely or probably give again if we communicated with them more effectively, 74% would continue giving and 64% would give more. All they want from us is a few things: (1) prompt, personal acknowledgment; (2) indication their gift is being used for the intended purpose, and (3) some additional communication about the gift’s impact. They don’t want constant, long-winded, newsletter narratives. They want, if anything, a single page newsletter or even a tweet with anything truly newsworthy and relevant. Subsequent to Ms. Burk’s original research, donors started to report that a key reason they stopped giving was over solicitation. They feel constantly barraged.
All of this leads us in the same direction. Quality over quantity. It makes little sense to keep acquiring new donors – at significant expense – only to lose them shortly thereafter. It makes little sense to do list-building campaigns if we have no plan to follow up with our new email addresses, “likes” or “followers.” What is our bottom line? Why are we engaging in all this activity? It constantly amazes me how often we forget to ask and answer these questions.
Just because what we’re doing right now is sucking us dry and yielding unsatisfactory results, we are not absolved from having a relationship-building plan. It makes little sense not to acquire constituents who can turn into folks who sustain a long-term relationship with us. And this is especially true in the public benefit sector. We’re here to make a difference, and people, animals, culture and environments are depending upon us.
So, what do we do? First, we stop to think. We do not run around like chickens with our heads cut off saying “there’s no time to think and plan.” We cannot afford not to stop and plan. Next, we ask ourselves some critical questions about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This can be done on a micro or macro level; you know what makes sense for your organization at this point in time. Then, we ask our constituents some critical questions about what they think we’re doing and why they care. Finally, we look at all the answers and seriously think about what they may mean for us moving forward.
When all is said and done, we need to put our resources into those aspects of our business/mission that the preponderance of our constituents agree with and care about. That probably means some restraint in building our strategic communications plan. We cannot be all things to all people all of the time. But we can be a lot more meaningful to the folks who are our best customers. And that’s the way we’ll keep them.