What I have for you is something you can do this week (or you can pick another week on your calendar that isn’t already overfilled with appointments, assignments, meetings and what-not). It’s really simple and really powerful. There’s one catch: you have to put aside 45 minutes/day for five days. If you’re resistant to change, read no further. This post isn’t for you. If, however, you have a hunch you might be able to move from good to great, then… read on (oh, and there’s a little bonus ‘gift’ at the end).
I’m going to show you how to become a donor-centered fundraiser in just five days. And by “donor centered,” I don’t mean pandering to donors, letting them abuse you or succumbing to mission drift in order to please them. That’s extreme. I’m going to show you how to simply follow the “Golden Rule,” and do unto donors as you’d wish them to do unto you.
Like I said, it’s simple. But you’ve got to dedicate the time. Go ahead. Find yourself a week where you can dedicate just 45 minutes/day to find out what ‘donor-centered’ may mean to your constituents.
This exercise is something I hope will dramatically change – and improve – how you approach your donors. And this change can happen for you in just five days.
In a nutshell, I’m going to ask you to:
- Make a list.
- Pick five things on your list.
- Do the five things.
- Consider what five things you’ve learned.
- Make an action plan to change how you approach donors based on what you’ve learned.
Ready to get started?
1. Make a List
Begin by making a list of all the ways a potential donor interacts with your organization. First impressions (and second and third ones) count for a lot. To get you started, here are some ideas of ways your donor may encounter and interact with you:
- Does an internet search for your cause.
- Googles you on Candid/Charity Navigator.
- Comes to your website via a link from social media or a third-party website.
- Shares one of your social media posts.
- Follows you on social media.
- Receives your newsletter.
- Receives your event invitation.
- Receives your fundraising appeal.
- Encounters a street fundraiser working on your behalf.
- Receives a catalogue, brochure, flier or other mailing from a program.
- Calls your front desk for information.
- Attends an in-person event.
- Attends a virtual event.
- Participates as a direct service volunteer.
- Participates as a committee or board volunteer.
- Participates in a free program.
- Participates in a fee-for-service program.
- Has friends or family involved as participants.
2. Pick 5 Things on Your List
Choose the ways donors find and/or interact with you where you think your organization may not being putting your best foot forward. Just pick five. One for each day of the “Be Your Donor” work week. If you look at one thing every day, you’ll have some valuable insights by the end of the week. You can always do more later if you wish.
Getting Real: I want you to do this. If you can’t do this many, just pick two or three. If you want to pick them all, set aside more time. Maybe even decide to make it “Be Your Donor Month!”
3. Do the 5 Things
Spend 45 focused minutes per day exploring how your donor may perceive you when they interact in any of the five ways you selected. Or ask a friend who doesn’t know much about your organization to do this on your behalf. Better yet, do both!
For example, depending on what you selected as a priority area for improving your would-be donor’s experience, you could do some of the following:
1. Do an internet search for your cause.
What do you discover? Type in several different key words on which you think donors might search. You might also search for the name of your executive director. Do you come across as a thought leader? Do you show up in Google results on the first page? If not, it’s almost like you don’t exist. This may be a sign you need to work on search engine optimization. Notice who does show up. Check out their home page, engagement mechanisms and social media. Is there something you might emulate?
2. Visit your website’s home page
Do this on every device you can think of. Desktop. Laptop. Tablet. Smart Phone. You never know where someone will encounter you, so it pays to optimize for all possibilities.
At minimum, your home page should answer these questions: Who are you? Why do you do what you do? How do you do it? How can people connect with you?
- How user-friendly is it?
- Do you show a clear mission, vision and values?
- Are the copy, design and images emotionally compelling and relevant?
- Can people easily find financial data?
- Is it easy to find out who leads the organization?
- Does the information appear to be current (e.g., no dates for events already passed; a blog that hasn’t been added to in over a year, etc.)?
- Is your contact information obvious?
- Does the “donate” button stand out?
- Does the donation button text make your best call to action?
- Do you have an easy way to capture visitor emails that stands out?
- Do you offer a compelling reason why they might like to join your list?
- Overall, do you appear transparent and trustworthy?
3. Visit your website’s donation landing page.
Ask yourself: What would a donor think, feel and/or want to do when they land on it right now? Is it easy and straightforward to give? Do we make it compelling and inspiring to give by telling a brief story (maybe just a photo + caption) intimating how the donation will be used? Does the donor get taken off the site to move to a third-party site? Does it look trustworthy?
- Does the page mirror your home page branding and seem to be associated with the same organization?
- Have you stripped the page of any other calls to action so the focus is on giving, and the donor isn’t tempted to go elsewhere?
- Is the form intuitive to use?
- Are there too many fields to complete?
- Are there too many options from which to choose?
- Do you offer a reasonable gift string that makes the donor’s options clear?
- Do you clarify what the gift will pay for?
- Do you offer an easy-to-use recurring giving option ?
- Do you offer a tribute gift option in honor or memory?
- Do you let folks know options to give offline, such as mail, stock or donor advised fund, should they so choose?
- Do you have a contact information (e.g., name, email and phone number) should they have questions?
4. Make a donation.
What’s the user experience? How many clicks does it take to complete the donation? Is all the information asked for necessary right now, or could you ask for some of it after the gift is completed? Are you using all the information asked for? What kind of thank you/confirmation do you receive? Are you taken to a thank you landing page? Is the electronic confirmation followed up by a thank you letter? Do all these acknowledgements talk about the impact of the gift, or just the money given? How does making the donation make you feel?
What needs to be changed? Look at some of your competitors to get a better idea of what works/what doesn’t. Decide what you like. Now’s the time to bring in your IT department, marketing department, web manager or an outside vendor to fix what needs fixing. Then don’t forget to test your new pages before you go live.
5. Sign up for your e-news or blog.
What benefits are promised? What kind of response do you get when you sign up? How does the process work on mobile? Go a little further and check what your unsubscribe rate is; if it’s high, it may be a sign you’re not delivering on your promises.
6. Search for your organization on Guidestar and/or Candid/Charity Navigator.
Is your profile up to date? Are you happy with the way you’re presented to the world? Could your mission description be improved? Are your 990s as recent as possible?
7. Call your front desk.
Do you get a live person or a message? What does the receptionist say? Do they refer you immediately to the right person? How do they make you feel?
8. Call one of your programs and pretend you’re a customer/client.
How is your call handled? Call a couple of different points of contact (e.g., your admissions office, box office, volunteer center, after-school program, adult education center, homecare service, recreation program, advocacy center, retail store). How do you feel once the call is completed?
4. Consider 5 Things You’ve Learned
If you and a colleague or friend have both done this, compare notes. What pleasantly surprised you? What made you wince? What made you proud? What was embarrassing?
- When it came to internet search and your website, what did you find to be user-friendly?
- What did you find inspiring, and what was less than compelling?
- What was clunky, or just didn’t work that well?
- Where does your organization put its best foot forward?
- Could you do more of that?
- What are your worst problems?
- What would you need to put desired changes in place?
- How might you get the necessary resources?
5. Make an Action Plan
Compile everything you’ve learned and turn it into an action plan to improve your user-friendliness. Make sure your plan includes all the elements of a S.M.A.R.T. https://kindful.com/nonprofit-glossary/strategic-plan/plan, complete with:
- Specific and attainable goals
- Measurable objectives so you can track progress
- Assignable strategies so responsibilities are clear
- Realistic results that can be achieved and are not outside the realm of possibility
- Timelines to hold yourself accountable
To make sure you actually follow through, strive for no more than three changes in each of the five areas you selected and explored. Think about what your donors, and would-be donors, might want from their interactions with you. More information? More live people with whom to connect in real time? More personalization? More opportunities to get involved? More stories of how you make an impact? More gratitude? Consider the top priorities; put in place strategies to achieve them.
Dedicate yourself to doing this type of “Be Your Donor” self-audit on a regular basis. Things change, so keep paying attention. You can take your self-audit to the next step by using a tool like Google Analytics. See what images and links get the most action. See where people tend to abandon you and jump off your site. If you decide to try something different, remember to change only one variable at a time. If you change too many things, you’ll have no way to know which tactic drove the change.
‘Bonus gift’: Deliver happiness. I offer this to you as a thought/mantra for all that you do. Wherever you can deliver happiness, do so. Here’s a Delivering Happiness website to get you started with ideas and inspiration. I love the motto of this site: “nudge the world to a happier place.” Isn’t that almost the job description for us nonprofit (especially development) folks? I think so!
Go forth. Center on your donor. Nudge happiness. For you and for them.
Please share your results with me and others. Let us know what you learned, what challenges you discovered, and what changes you decided to put in place. And please feel free to contact me personally if I can be helpful in any way as you move forward on your journey towards becoming a donor-centric organization.
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