Focus On: DRM: Mastering the Virtual Handshake
Suppose a new or potential donor visits your Web site looking for more information about your organization. She finds an online tool called “My Guide” that promises to give her just what she’s looking for. After spending less than two minutes providing some simple, personal information, she clicks the “Submit” button.
Every two weeks for the next several months, she receives an e-mail. It helps her understand how your mission is relevant to the things that are most important to her, and she’s amazed at how the communications speak directly to those issues. She’s also impressed that the communications come directly from her personal donor relationship manager.
After receiving the final e-mail, she gets an invitation to take a brief survey and evaluate your organization. She gushes about the attention showered on her by her DRM and says that what she’s learned will have a lasting impact on her — and on her loyalty to your organization.
So, how much time did the DRM spend sending all of those e-mails? None.
That’s how easy it is to apply donor relationship management. You listen to your donor, try to understand her wants and needs, customize your communications and services, and measure the impact. And, with some upfront planning, you can set up parts of your DRM program to run automatically.
With a little LUCK
DRM — or CRM in the for-profit world — often is perceived as complex, expensive and time consuming when, in fact, it can be quite simple. Organizations that want to have more personalized and profitable relationships with their donors can rely on LUCK™:
- Listen. Remember a broad range of information about your donors, including names, addresses, preferences, profitability, purchase patterns and complaints.
- Understand. Review, analyze and data mine that information to understand what donors want and to segment your most valuable relationships.
- Customize. Put that understanding into action by customizing everything that can make a difference to your donors — from your communications to your mission and services.
- Know. Measure your efforts so you’ll know if you’re making a difference.
The above story is based on real-life events through a nonprofit organization called Halftime. Its constituents regularly say that they feel as if someone at Halftime has been “reading their journal” because its communications speak so directly to the issues in their lives.
But most nonprofits still blast out large volumes of irrelevant direct mail, phone calls and e-mails to their most important donors. And many of those that have invested in CRM tools only seem to be getting more efficient at annoying the folks they should be courting.
The first step
It’s tempting to fall in love with some of the high-tech DRM tools on the market today. But those tools often carry high sticker prices and steep learning curves. And trying to do too much, too fast with a comprehensive DRM tool is the single biggest reason that many DRM investments fail to produce a return. It’s helpful to keep in mind that the goal of DRM is to discover processes that will help you to both get donors faster and keep them longer and then to automate those processes.
Buying a DRM technology solution before you’ve started to find and automate some simple processes might require everyone in your organization to tackle a steep new learning curve — without any real concept of how it will help them do their jobs better or make the organization more effective.
Instead of jumping into an expensive DRM software (or service) commitment, give yourself a DRM learner’s permit. Start with a goal of accomplishing one new task (or improving an existing task) with a modest investment.
When you are driving with your learner’s permit, you should not yet be asking which car you should be buying (i.e. what software you should buy). Rather, you should be asking more basic questions such as: How do I start? How do I stop? How do I avoid a costly accident?
Look at one part of your organization and evaluate where you have some pain. Does your call center follow up with every new donor within 30 days? Does your service team measure the satisfaction of every donor periodically — and conduct exit research with lost donors? Do your direct mail promotions produce a measurable improvement — and do you know which promotions have worked best?
Are you leveraging e-mail and your Web site to develop new and repeat donor relationships? Can you measure the retention rate of your current donors? Do you have processes in place to communicate with donors at critical stages of their life cycle?
Where should you start to apply DRM? The correct answer is not “all of the above.” Choose only two areas, at most, to focus on initially.
While driving with your learner’s permit, you’ll only be accomplishing a few simple goals. But by the time you’ve completed those goals, you’ll have a much better feeling for what your long-term needs are.
Your next project should be to assemble a complete plan for all the goals you want to accomplish. For example: Are you ready to invest in a system that will require significant training for every employee, or do you need something that works quietly in the background with relatively few changes required in the day-to-day routine of your staff? What is your software budget? How will you prioritize all the goals of your DRM plan? When do you expect a payoff — six, 12, 18 or 24 months?
Choose your partner
Most organizations will choose to work with an outside partner both during and after the DRM learner’s stage. Don’t expect every vendor to be supportive of the learner’s approach. Most companies prefer to have long-term projects with a guaranteed budget. Make sure you partner with a company that is committed to piloting DRM through the learner’s stage without a long-term contract in place.
DRM involves so many specialized areas that it’s tempting to select a variety of firms to help you. But selecting too many vendors leads to steeper learning curves, miscommunication and no accountability for a single vendor. The best approach is to choose a single vendor who is not biased (i.e., not trying to sell you a particular piece of software — but who wants you to choose the right solution for your organization); can give you advice and expertise related to sales, service, marketing and technology; and can implement projects for you.
Your chosen partner will play a critical role in helping you be successful during your learner’s stage and in writing the DRM plan that will be used to help you improve the success of every area of your organization.
Geoffrey Ables is president and founder of Customer Connect Associates Inc., a Charlotte-based firm that specializes in building customer relationships through technology-enabled marketing and sales processes. He can be reached at 704.892.2633 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.