"If you want loyalty, get a dog" — so said Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart.
That’s the attitude of some businesses, and sure enough, their customers roam from vendor to vendor seeking the lowest price, without demanding high levels of customer service.
These businesses are happy and indeed set up to comply — short-term relationships, no questions asked and no hard feelings when the relationship is over.
This is known as "transaction marketing." Tell a compelling story, make the sale and move on. But, "transaction marketing" is not what most nonprofits want to do; they instead value long-term donor relationships — at least that’s what they say.
The 2009 eCampaigning Review, however, found that although nonprofits were adept at attracting new supporters, many were unsuccessful when it came to staying in touch with them; a third failed to even send thank-you e-mails.
Does that mean we’re more interested in making a fast buck?
I don’t believe so. Nonprofits don’t intend to give a poor service, and if they do, it’s often that they can’t — rather than won’t — do better.
So, here’s my theory: Compared to commercial organizations of a similar size, most nonprofits face a specific challenge — that is, how to deal with the sheer volume of customers in a personal and timely way, and help build donor relationships. It’s not unusual for a small nonprofit to have 100,000 donors, whereas a commercial organization, with similar revenues, serves 500 customers.
At that level, only by truly embracing technology can the nonprofit hope to engage in true "relationship marketing" or "relationship fundraising." And, the investment in customer relationship management (CRM) and the Web is likely to be disproportionately large for a nonprofit compared to its counterparts in the commercial world.
Many large, consumer-based businesses invest heavily in state-of-the-art CRM and data warehousing, so they can reach each customer with exactly the right message at right time, building loyalty that results in deeper support — often for a lifetime.
But, improving customer service needn’t break the bank. Here are two technology tips to improve customer service:
- Use business automation software. This can be a lifesaver — it runs silently alongside your database and can be set up to "spot" situations and respond accordingly. For example, upon entry of a large donation, the business automation software could immediately send an e-mail or text to the fundraiser and prompt him or her to make a thank-you call. Or, an inbound e-mail complaint can be intercepted and forwarded to the customer-service manager for action, and a polite response can then be immediately sent. Once set up, you don’t have to remember to respond; the business automation software does it for you.
- Capture enough (but not too much) information at the time of a donation. Remember the five W's: who gave the money; where can you get in touch with them — at least one mailing address, e-mail address or phone number, and the preferred contact method; what they supported; why they gave — did they click on a banner ad or respond to a piece of direct mail; and when — the date and time of their gifts. This data is critical to making your subsequent communications with the donors more relevant.
So, "relationship fundraising" is a mind-set — but the right technology will help you implement it.
Robin Fisk is senior charity technology specialist at ASI.