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Take That Donor Survey All The Way Home

take it homeIn my home, I’ve adopted a phrase that reminds my family to not just leave their empty cracker wrappers, finished Starbucks cups, and used paper towels laying about the house. That phrase is: Take it all the way home. What I’m hoping is that it’ll be just that little nudge to take trash to the trash can (you know…where it belongs). Admittedly, it’s still a work in progress as I currently stare at an empty plastic fruit cup with a spoon still inside that’s sitting on the coffee table in front of me. But we all live in hope.

Now, let me ask a question that has nothing to do with trash and everything to do with your donor surveys. Do you take your surveys all the way home?

Pamela Grow wrote an excellent blogpost talking about keeping supporter surveys simple:

Yet most organizations turn a simple survey into far more than it needs to be. Asking your supporter to spend ten minutes reflecting on their answers in an online survey is…well, about eight or nine minutes too much. Make surveying quick, make it easy, make it fun!

How many times have you been asked to answer a questionnaire with so many questions, it would make an IRS employee blush? And then, how many times have you turned around and done the same thing to your donor thinking you have just one chance to ask questions so you better make it big and make it count? Only to then get a response rate that makes you wonder why you put in all the effort in the first place.

I’ve been guilty of this, as well. Even when we know better, it can be a challenge to convince others in your organization that you don’t need to fully interrogate your donors to get quality insight into their interests, desires, and thinking.

So the very first order when crafting a successful donor survey is to keep it simple. However, launching the survey and collecting data is just the first step. You need to know what you will do with all this amazing information. In other words, you need to take that survey all the way home.

Open admission: while I understand the utility of a comprehensive survey of the full donor file, I’m far more in favor of building simple surveys that can glean donor-specific information using forms of progressive profiling. If you’re unfamiliar with progressive profiling, take a few minutes to get acquainted with this method of information collection. Through a series of surveys and other forms of data capture, information is gradually added to a donor’s online profile in your CRM or marketing automation platform and can be used to segment and customize future experiences.

The key benefit of taking your survey all the way home is that it shows we are not just listening but also acting. One of the worst experiences a donor can have is to tell us something important and ignore it. Like, tell us they are really interested in being an advocate for bears, but then we proceed to ask for donations to save spiders. Not only will that appeal not resonate with them, they’re going to wonder if they’re nothing more than an anonymous piggy bank.

But the more we ask questions, the better we get at capturing data and developing an individual donor profile, the more personalized the communications, the more we’re seen as co-creating the donor’s experience with what will start to feel like their organization. And that just may be the key to a life-long partnership. Who doesn’t want to increase their donor retention around something like that?

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Are You Capturing Donor Experience in the Wild?

tiger hiding in the jungleThose of us who work in the nonprofit sector have become overly fond of the concepts like donor-centric, donor journey, and donor experience. Nothing wrong with that. It’s what we should aim our organizations to aspire toward in their pursuit of excellence.

But what does it actually mean to be donor-centered? What exactly is a donor journey?

How do we move from our more familiar and traditional modes of communication that focus on how our nonprofit is the central hero of the story…rather than on how our donor is the hero?

It starts with methodically gaining insight into the wishes, dreams, and desires of our donors. Their own unique sense of how to help improve this world. Their own beliefs for how they want to partner with us to achieve more than they could alone.

However, if you think you can get at these insights solely by putting a group of people together in a room to talk as a focus group or shoot out a survey, I’d like to encourage you to expand your thinking.

If you really want to get the deeply held insights of your donors, think: less talk, more action.

In the quickly evolving field of customer experience (CX), researchers know they have to not only be keen listeners of what their audience says, but also observers of what they actually do. Our actions often tell a different story from what we think and say to others.

But we have to get outside our offices and meet our donors in their own comfort zone where they can be most at ease to show us their experiences, act on their own deeply held feelings, and demonstrate their own beliefs.

The ideas underlying customer experience are not new, and historically many successful entrepreneurs have used essentially qualitative research techniques to develop distinctive customer experiences…Developing a new customer experience involves risk, and research techniques – especially quantitative techniques – may be incapable of eliciting a response from potential customers where the proposed experience is hypothetical, and devoid of the emotional and situational context in which it will be encountered.
Adrian Palmer, Customer Experience Management: a Critical Review of an Emerging Idea

Due to the intimate nature of our work in nonprofits, we have an advantage in uncovering these insights. Most often they come from major gift visits, but that only gives us a glimmer of the full donor experience. That comprehensive donor experience has to be captured in the wild and in the moment. It comes from working alongside volunteers, advocates, and supporters whoever and wherever they may be.

Asking questions during sterile focus groups or through emotionally detached surveys simply won’t get us there. So let’s quit guessing and accepting less. Get out there and go get it.

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