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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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3 Keys to Persuading Donors to Give

As I work in digital fundraising and talk with other nonprofit leaders, one key question continues to emerge: Why do our donors give? On the surface, the answer may seem obvious, but the question persists because it’s truly difficult to answer. We all give for different reasons and with different motivations.

Yet, the question of “Why?” follows the challenge of “How?” How do we motivate the giving of a gift? It’s fairly obvious that we can’t force someone to give if they don’t want to.

To help answer both questions of Why and How, I’ve started constructing a model called the Donor Persuasion Model. It’s based on the work of Stanford Professor, BJ Fogg, and his Fogg Behavior Model. Fogg’s research shows that “three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.”

This model attempts to address motivations for giving, as well as how to encourage our donors to take action on those motivations. At a high level, here are the basic components of the Donor Persuasion Model:

Motivation

There are three core motivators that we all share as part of the human experience:

1. Sensation: Pleasure/Pain
Will our giving lead us to greater pleasure or diminish pain – either for ourselves or for others?

2. Anticipation: Hope/Fear
Will our giving help us provide hope or reduce pain, suffering, or fear in the world?

3. Social Cohesion: Acceptance/Rejection
Will our giving help us to feel more accepted by others or keep us from being rejected from social groups?

Ability

Each ability is focused on the notion of simplicity.
1. Time
2. Money
3. Physical Effort
4. Mental Effort

As fundraisers, we must constantly focus on making actions as easy and simple as possible, particularly when it comes to the digital space. Fogg advises us to think of the relationship between Ability and Simplicity like this:

Simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at that moment. Think about time as a resource, If you don’t have 10 minutes to spend, and the target behavior requires 10 minutes, then it’s not simple. Money is another resource. If you don’t have $1, and the behavior requires $1, then it’s not simple.

Trigger

Think of Triggers as recipes for spurring action depending on levels of Motivation and Ability.

1. Facilitator: High Motivation/Low Ability
A supporter has just read an amazing story or watched an impactful video about our organization’s work. They’re primed to give, but don’t have the time to complete a lengthy donation form or can’t easily get their credit card. This Trigger is about finding ways to make the donation process simple. Think of Amazon’s One-Click Shopping button as an example.

2. Spark: Low Motivation/High Ability
Another scenario is where we’ve made the donation process easy…now we have to know which message will best motivate and mobilize our donors. This is the most challenging trigger because it demands that we have consistent, current, and deep data on our donors. We don’t just have basic contact data, response rates, and giving history; we also have an understanding of what each of our donors believes is important about our organization’s work. This Trigger urges us to provide an emotional Spark to ignite action and complete the ask.

3. Signal: High Motivation/High Ability
All of our nonprofits have true believers who champion our cause. But life can get busy and they just need a little nudge every once in a while to continue their role as champion.

I’d love to get your thoughts and feedback. This model is currently in version 1.0 and I welcome your expertise as a fellow fundraiser. You can download a PDF of the model below.

thumbnail of inspectiv-donor-persuasion-model_v1

Download “inspectiv donor persuasion model” inspectiv-donor-persuasion-model_v1.pdf – Downloaded 73 times – 351 KB

I truly look forward to the conversations to come.

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One Question to Make a Better Fundraising Ask

hang in thereI recently got a card from my 85 year old grandmother. It showed a kitten hanging in a rather precarious position and looking troubled. The message inside was: “Hang in there.” While things are going well for me, it was just her way of showing concern and also expressing a desire for me to give her a call more often. How could I not feel compelled to pick up the phone and give her a call?

It’s not like we don’t talk…she just doesn’t feel like she hears from me enough. She wants to know how I’m doing. She wants to know how my family is doing. She wants to know that we’re safe and feeling good about all the great things taking shape in our life. She wants to know if there’s anything she can do to help.

And it’s really not about how many times we talk, it’s how we continue to build on a loving relationship.

Now while the relationship I have with my grandmother is not quite the same as we have with our donors, there is some relevance. It connects to an excellent question raised by Richard and Jeff at the Veritus Group blog: Are you asking too often or not enough? While they’re largely focusing on major gifts, the question is applicable to digital donors.

We often get wrapped up by our own sense of myths and half-truths. In this case, we feel we shouldn’t bombard our donors with constant asks. Well, when stated like that, there’s some validity to the concern. It would be like me hitting my grandmother up for a few bucks every time we talked. Similarly, if those asks come from an organizational “me-centric” perspective which disregards the value and relationship to the donor, then constant asks will not just annoy them, it will drive them away to give their money and support elsewhere.

However, as Richard and Jeff write, if the messages speak from a place of “we” and “us”, if they’re not always about asking for money, if they’re about building stronger relationships, then those communications take on a new level of meaning and power. In their post, they offer an example of a successful nonprofit, which:

“most likely, was continually telling the donor that her past giving was making a difference, was excitedly talking about what “more we can do together,” and was not shy about talking about need at a variety of times and in a variety of forms. In other words, there were a lot of touches and quite a few points at which the donor could engage and give, i.e., a combination of soft and hard asks.”

Think of it this way. It’s less about frequency (too much or too little) of fundraising appeals. Instead, always ask: Will this communication help deepen my relationship with my donor?

If your answer is “No” then reconsider why you’re possibly jeopardizing your relationship with someone who cares about your organization’s mission and their desire to be a part of it. Then look for more ways you can answer with a “Yes.”

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