Are you aware one of the hottest things in for-profit management over the past five years or so is “customer service,” otherwise known as “customer experience” or CX? There’s an entire industry that’s grown up around it.
If you want to learn more, I highly recommend Strategic Customer Service and Customer Experience 3.0 by customer experience guru John Goodman.
Guess what? The social benefit sector should be jumping on this bandwagon as well!
Dr. Adrian Sargeant found through his nonprofit research that the single largest reason donors failed to renew was… [DRUM ROLL]
Go ahead… take a guess…
From the fundraising department.
Frankly, I’d wager bad service from anyone at your nonprofit drives donors away. Which is why it’s imperative to evolve towards a culture of philanthropy where everyone is part of the donor love team. But that’s a topic for another day. Right now, let’s focus on what’s within your control.
What? You say no one complains about your service?
Just because you’re not getting a lot of complaints doesn’t mean your supporters are happy. Per Goodman, there are two areas where folks are often unhappy with service but don’t complain much: health care and… [DRUM ROLL]… nonprofits!
For nonprofit donors, generally they’re unhappy due to your perceived lack of gratitude and/or because they don’t really have a good sense what their money accomplished.
These unhappy folks are ticking time bombs when it comes to what you can expect from the lifetime value of your donors.
And it’s why donor retention is so abysmal. The latest Fundraising Effectiveness Project report shows less than half of your donors will stick with you.
You can fix this!
Want some concrete tips to create a better donor experience?
Goodman and Clairification to the rescue!
Both of us advocate a mix of planned and random acts of kindness.
Good donor service is not just sending out a prompt, personal thank you. That’s the bare minimum. It’s expected.
If you really want to build relationships that create loyal, life-long supporters, you need to go above and beyond — verging into the unexpected!
Superior Donor Service Takes a Village
Part of what you want to plan for is building an overall, organization-wide culture of philanthropy so that everyone who comes into contact with your donors – no matter what department they work in – makes your supporters happy. Your organization must choose whether to be one that creates good will, or to be one that ticks people off. It’s a choice.
The other things you want to plan for are specific strategies for thanking, recognizing, interacting with and reporting back to your supporters on a consistent basis over the course of the year. Commit to making involvement and investment with you a transformation experience – a journey, if you will – rather than a single transaction.
Finally, I encourage you to channel an attitude of gratitude that will inspire you to perform random acts of kindness as the spirit moves you. Keeping a Donor Gratitude Journal is one way to get in the gratitude head zone. There are others, as well.
If you take care of your donor, they’ll take care of you.
Here are a mix of Goodman’s tips, and mine, to generate greater engagement, make donors happier and keep them longer.
4 ‘Acts of Donor Kindness’ for You to Try
1. Deliver “Psychic Pizza.”
What if you’re really busy, and really hungry, and someone shows up right now with an unexpected gift of pizza? According to Goodman, if you can proactively anticipate what your donor wants or needs, you can create an exceptionally gratifying experience. They shouldn’t have to contact you to get what they need (e.g., a report on the outcome of their giving). You should provide it before they even realize they want it!
EXAMPLE: You work at a parenting organization. Perhaps your supporter first encounters you when they have a new baby and join a “New Moms & Dads” group. What if you keep track of them and send them information they can use at developmentally appropriate times (e.g., “Thought you might be interested in this “Tip Sheet: How to Introduce Solid Foods.”)
ACTION TIP: Brainstorm 10 things you might do to deliver Psychic Pizza to your supporters in the weeks and months ahead. They do say “it’s the thought that counts,” so think about what you might do. Step into your donor’s shoes by asking “What’s in this for me?” What unexpected gift of content might add a little zip to their day?
2. Solicit Feedback (Complaints Too!) from all Stakeholders including Donors and Front-line Staff.
This is especially important in the nonprofit sector, where people get annoyed with organizations but don’t bother complaining because they don’t think it will do any good.
- To staff, send a message of “we can only solve problems we know about.” This builds goodwill and surfaces issues you would normally not hear about.
- For donors, maybe send out a non-appeal headlined “Don’t send us money!” Rather, say “Opinions wanted!” Simply enclose a brief survey asking for feedback/advice on your programs. What a nice way to simultaneously demonstrate you care about folks for more than their wallets and also get them directly engaged.
3. Focus More Attention on Mid-level Donors and Influencers.
These supporters may have greater incremental revenue potential than your top donors who are already giving you everything they reasonably can. There’s often hidden gold in your existing database, and it’s treasure too frequently ignored.
- Create and send ‘Donor Appreciation Certificates’ to mid-level donors. Figure out when it makes sense. Maybe it’s to reward longevity of giving. Or response to a special campaign. Get creative, and share the love.
- Lavish attention on influencers, especially peer-to-peer fundraisers. In our digital age, a seemingly ‘small’ donor can become the functional equivalent of a major donor by virtue of sharing with their networks.
4. Get Creative with Thank You’s to WOW Supporters.
There are scads of little things you can do to show donors their gift is appreciated – more than they even imagined! Some of them are simple and easy to implement. Others are more labor-intensive, but well worth the effort.
EXAMPLE: Once, early in my career as a development officer, I decided to secretly deliver plates of home-baked cookies to each of my planned giving donors. I just chose a day, motored myself around the city in the early morning hours, and left the cookies on their doorsteps with a little note of thanks. Pure delight on both of our parts! Sadly (or fortunately) my list of planned gift donors grew over time to the point where I could no longer engage in this particular activity. But there are virtual ways to do this too.
Renewing donors: Send a stick of chewing gum in the thank you letter to everyone who renews their gift: “Thanks for sticking with us.”
Upgrading donors: Send some gold star stickers to donors who upgrade their gift: “Your increased support this year merits you a gold star!”
Major donors: Send a 30-90-second video thank you to a major donor. You can text it, send via social media or send via email. It’s easy to create on your cell phone, and it will definitely make you stand out from the competition!
HINT: If you’re having trouble justifying putting time and money into a more robust donor acknowledgement and recognition strategy, consider a test. Do nothing for one group; do something for the next. After a reasonable period (usually you’ll compare Year 2 to Year 1), measure which group gave and/or renewed at a higher percentage and gift level.
As a fundraiser, you’re fundamentally in the donor happiness business.
If you’re not spending a significant amount of your time trying to make your donors happy, you’re not doing your job.
This advice could not possibly come at a better time. People are tired of doom and gloom. Give them some happiness. Tell them what they did that changed someone’s life. Or just change their life.
Success begins — and ends — with how you treat your donors in between the times when they make donations.
How about some planned and random acts of kindness for your donors? They deserve it!
Grab Creative Ways to Thank Your Donors for 62 ideas!
Acquisition is simply a foot in the door.
Retention is the name of the game. And what do donors want most?
A heartfelt thank you!
Simply put, creative thank you’s will inspire future gifts.
This E-Workbook will provide you with everything you need to knock your donors’ socks off.
As with all Clairification products, this includes a 30-day, no-questions-asked, 100% refund policy.
Photo by Ronaldo Santos on Unsplash
Great points! Being proactive makes your donors feel special and this is what donors want to feel that’s why they are giving. Asking for their voice on what is good or bad is a really great way of making them feel that they matter.