What are the keys to providing brilliant donor experiences?

We all want to provide a brilliant donor experience – so what’s the key to doing that?

Marketers have been talking about the ‘customer experience’ for a long time. More recently, the non-profit world has been taking a leaf out of the marketing book with fundraisers now focused on the ‘donor experience.’

Australian Red Cross’ Belinda Dimovski believes that the customer experience revolution had changed the landscape for all consumer interactions.

“It doesn’t matter whether you view your consumers as customers, donors, supporters or volunteers, and it’s regardless of the industry. The bar has been raised so significantly that a particular value exchange needs to be delivered,” she says.

“This means that your donor will be assessing you on the best experience they have had that day, week or year with any other organisation. Depending on their ‘why,’ it will mean different things to them.”

So, what are the keys to providing brilliant donor experiences? We asked some of our FIA 2020 Conference speakers and Program Committee members to share their thoughts.

Put the donor first

With so much innovation, new technologies, increased competition and dilution across the market, fundraisers can often forget to put the donor first. But MS Queensland’s Claire Hughes says fundraisers have a duty to place donors at the heart of everything they do.

“Too many fundraisers use internal jargon, give out mixed messages, or focus solely on their needs. Sometimes it’s about going back to basics – be authentic, clear and concise and listen to the donor’s wants and needs. Thank them and focus on celebrating their impact and the change they have made to your cause.”

HomeMade Digital’s Meredith Dwyer agrees that it is essential to put yourself in your supporter’s shoes. “Think about how you would feel to receive that email, letter or phone call.”

Get the hygiene right

Belinda Dimovski believes that brilliant experiences happen when fundraisers genuinely understand their donors.

“It’s no longer a one size fits all – you have to ask your donors what they think is a brilliant experience, why they donated to you, what they expect and how they would like that delivered,” she says.

But donors have different ideas about what constitutes a brilliant experience. For some, it might be visiting the website and donating with a single click; others will appreciate being invited to charity events or acknowledged as a donor or volunteer. As a result, you need to find out what makes your donors tick through surveys, chats or correspondence.

“Once you have the hygiene factors right and you understand each donor’s ‘why,’ then you can start creating ‘wow’ moments that connect with their values,” says Belinda.

“The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.”

As a former advertising executive, Foodbank South Australia’s Raquel Dillon loves the above quote from advertising legend David Ogilvy and thinks this equally applies to donors.

“For me, it’s about being personal and finding what in the cause inspires a donor as an individual. Once you have discovered this deep connection, there is your key to relate to the donor (or ‘your wife’!),” she says.

“I love discovering why our donors get on board, hearing their incredible stories and understanding their generosity and drive in supporting our community. From then on, it’s so much easier to deliver a personable, efficient, meaningful donor experience that acknowledges the part they play in making the difference.”

Lend them your ears

Whether a donor wants to donate, ask a question or make a complaint, it’s important to listen.

“You need to ensure your donors feel heard and valued. A brilliant experience for any individual is to always come out of the interaction feeling better than when they started,” says Kristine Pillai, who works at the International Women’s Development Agency.

“Donating should feel amazing, and donors should be thanked and appreciated. If they are calling to give feedback, they should feel their feedback is appreciated and taken into consideration, as they have taken time to engage,” she adds.

Meredith Dwyer also believes it’s important to try harder at every communication point – to thank, steward and inspire your donors – and to consider how technology can enhance the experience.

“Focus on that, not just on how tech can reduce your efforts and overheads,” she says.

For Sacred Heart Mission’s Andy Grant, it comes down to relationship building.

“There’s always time for a quick email or phone call to donors. Both are excellent opportunities for us to make people feel great about their giving. There’s a science behind fundraising, and while data drives a lot of what we do, it means nothing if you can’t reinforce your work and your donor’s values through their giving with a quick conversation and thank you,” he says.

He urges fundraisers to “be squeaky clean, professional and determined in our work to improve donor relationships and represent our brands and our beneficiaries the best we can.

Because we’re fundraisers and it’s one of the best jobs in the world.”

And we think it is! FIA Conference 2020 has lots of opportunities for you to be reminded of why it’s the best job – and learn how you can be even better! Have a look at the program and see why.