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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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