Our Donors Expect Us to Be Modern
We are no longer in charge of our content. Our audience creates original content about our organizations, and then creates even more content by reacting to ours. Our constituents also expect us to be as sophisticated in our communication with them as large companies. They expect that we will:
To meet these expectations, offer good stewardship and good customer service, and track interactions thoroughly and transparently. To frame that in terms of the Donor Journey, we describe some ideas that can start your organization on the path toward better management of the Donor Journey.
Communicate the Way that They Communicate
As fundraisers, we like our routines. We send solicitations according to a set schedule with direct mail following email, for instance. But our schedule may not work for our donors. What if we are asking the wrong way at the wrong time? Consider your own communication preferences: If you prefer to get a phone call, you might consider it passive aggressive if the company responds to it with an email.
Vendors are entering our market offering artificial intelligence for a variety of uses, including automatically generated emails (see Gravyty’s work). But you can also tweak your less sophisticated tools and launch a more donor-journey oriented approach to fundraising. Here are some recommendations:
For instance, when I ran a phonathon in the 1990s, my callers made their a second-year calls to donors, asking, “Do you remember talking to me last year?” And they got much higher gifts with that technique. The key was coding their first call correctly. Smart coding, as annoying as it is to do, opens a whole new world of communicating with someone the way that he or she prefers.
Remember Their Preferences
Making use of smart coding is an excellent technique for remembering prospect preferences. Almost every presentation I give includes a story on how I prefer to be called, “Miss Pelletier,” and I receive envelopes addressed to “Ms. Pelletier,” hand typed by someone who didn’t look up my preference. I also get a solicitation email addressed, “Dear NULL,” because my gift to that organization were through my company and they haven’t figured out how to make NXT use my contact name. In a world where the front desk clerk says, “Welcome back to the Boston Marriott!” right after looking me up, people are no longer patient with small slights.
It may feel like a continual exercise in producing an annual report that has everyone’s name listed just right, yet you now have the requirement to get it right every time. And remember that if a constituent mentions a preference once – through any communication vehicle – he or she expects the entire organization to remember it.
Smart coding again comes into play here, persistent smart coding. Our CRM vendors have expanded the available fields for information like this – from salutations to interest codes – and building a plan to add that data consistently for every record will make a big difference down the road.
If you are thinking, “Marianne, we do that for our major gifts prospects and we don’t have time for the others,” remember that anyone can become a major gifts prospect (overnight in our current business climate). While an analyst at Harvard University in 1988, I read through a prospect’s folder and there was a torn out, full-page, magazine ad saying, “Get to know this man.” It included a photo of my prospect in the driver’s seat of his car staring back at the camera with a confident grin. The ad was from 30 years prior, and at that time the prospect was an insurance agent. Someone knew back in the 1950s that “Get to know this man” was excellent advice, as he was a multi-million-dollar donor when I profiled him those decades later.
Offer Extreme Personalization
My comments on being called, “NULL”, lead to the topic of personalizing. When I helped clients convert to my company’s software in the early 2000s, the clients often got fatigued during the data conversion discussion. Salutations, though, were a subject that perked interest, all staff were invested in making sure that the college president used the prospect’s first name but that the alumni office used the prospect’s full name.
On top of good database coding, here are some recommendations to make any contact feel personal.
Personalized attention to prospects should feel personal. We absolutely can’t write a note that makes everyone feel special, but we can add something that directly relates to a prospect more often than we do. Vendors are also making toolkits that help us do just that. When you can, say something that related both of you together, like, “I also worked Women’s Weekend in 2021, and it sure did rain that day!”
Social media is also a can of worms to be opened carefully. If you reply to one person’s Tweet, you must then reply to a lot of people’s Tweets. Manage your reaction to offensive material, but draft a plan that adds a “like” to content which supports your organization on those social media platforms where you have a presence. You can set up your own systems to find these posts or use a social media tracking/content delivery product.
Provide 24/7, Instantaneous Service
Frankly, no nonprofit can staff a phone line 24/7. So, your organization needs to use your website, email service, online portal, and voice mail to get the job done instead. As long as you do these maintenance steps, you’ll always have an “Open” sign up.
Wrap Up: The World Will Not Slow Down
The interesting note on living through the Covid pandemic is that people slowed down, but expected technology and communication to speed up to accommodate their being at home. Fundraising shops also had to slow work down, but were asked to increase gift receipts. There is no escaping the ever-increasing race toward instantaneous interactions, and we need to meet the speed.