Integrated Response Solutions
That we should establish and continuously develop more meaningful relationships with donors is a given. Finding new solutions to help potential donors donate faster, easier and with greater impact is a challenge as nonprofit organizations continue the process of understanding more about the different needs, habits and demands of multi-generational donors.
Practically speaking, the focus is usually on maximizing efficiency in order to increase the net dollars per transaction. The processing of donations and data management, in most cases, is handled in parallel. While this relentless pursuit for efficiency makes the chief financial officer happy, it does little to assist in understanding and addressing donors’ issues and concerns.
Stepping into the donor’s shoes is a difficult and complex experience. To further complicate the issue, donors are now using multiple channels to communicate with nonprofit organizations, and they expect a relevant discussion in return. The Internet provides a cost-effective channel to “talk” to a large pool of new donors, and there has been a wholesale rush to develop new Web strategy and content to address this. Direct mail has been performing well for decades and continues to be the chosen method of response for many. The telephone shows year-over-year growth, while e-mail and Web chat are increasing in popularity. Keeping up with emerging Web technologies is a challenge and absolutely essential in order to retain the commitment of the donor. As an example, one recent trend is co-browsing. Donors engaged in browsing a Web site decide to call using the telephone to ask questions. In some cases, this has been viewed as a failure of the Web-based content, but it can be argued that this presents an opportunity to create and enhance a relationship.
This approach only works if the people answering the telephone calls have been provided with the tools required to resolve a wide range of issues. They must have access to all data that are relevant to the donor in order to effectively help him. This could include access to membership and subscription databases, donor listings, donation histories and the like. Integrated coordination with caging operations — the process by which a BRE is opened and the donor’s check is removed, scanned, put into the bank and deposited, and then the donor information is put into a database — makes this approach more powerful as a significant percentage of donor contact is related, in some cases, to questions about past donations. Access to current press releases, newspaper articles and speaking points also might be important.
The problem, from the standpoint of the donor, is that in most instances these channels are entirely disconnected. The processing of donations and data management in general is handled in parallel, resulting in a less-than-satisfactory, and perhaps frustrating, experience for the donor. All the work that’s done on the front end to acquire and retain a donor can be undone very quickly due to the organization’s inability to provide an effective and timely response to donor issues.
While an integrated approach to donor management might appear to be more expensive on paper, many organizations have not properly calculated the costs associated with donors having to make multiple contacts to resolve an issue or concern. Donor frustration is certainly expensive and difficult to quantify.
Integrating all these response channels into one comprehensive solution ultimately increases the value of the relationship with the donor by ensuring a consistent and effective response, and at the same time reduces internal costs of managing multiple data streams and processes.
An integrated approach to donor response will assure greater donor retention and increased lifetime value. More importantly, it allows donors to enjoy their relationships with the nonprofit organizations that are meaningful to them.
Polly Craik is president and chief executive of FineLine Solutions, a firm whose focus is helping companies and organizations achieve high-value relationships with customers and donors. She can be reached by calling 204.942.4242.