You’re the One That I Want! How to Be Your Donors’ Favorite Cause
I don't suppose they meant to, but John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John neatly summed up every charity's desire — to be their donors' number one cause. OK, the analogy may quickly wear thin, but it turns out there are rewards for being chosen as the favorite, if not the one and only.
Seventy-eight percent of donors give to more than one charity, according to the Charity Dynamics/NTEN 2012 Nonprofit Donor Engagement Benchmark Study, but it's never even. One of those causes gets most of their attention — their money, time and talents — while the others get what's left.
Similarly, only 2 percent of U.K. donors think that charities engage with them properly, and 17 percent of U.K. consumers say that they would give on average £15 ($23) per month more if charities provided a more personal approach via their websites or e-mail, according to the Eduserv 2013 YouGov research.
"Consumers increasingly expect good online interaction with websites because the likes of Amazon have done it so well," says Eduserv's Haylie Oriot. "Genuinely good Web engagement, which understands a donor's previous interactions and uses this information to provide a more bespoke experience, has yet to take off in the charity sector."
So how do you become your donors' favorite cause? Maybe it's just a case of natural selection because of the type of cause you are. Or is there something you can do about it? Putting it another way, are you the Amazon.com — understanding your customers' wants and needs, and serving them accordingly — or a traditional bookstore waiting for customers to come in and buy something? Of course you can choose to be whatever you want, but ask Borders and my bet is it will tell you it's tough being the latter.
Unsurprisingly, the answer to a 21st century question like this is partly about technology, as Oriot suggests, but it's also about making the effort to engage. The rewards are huge, of course — not only are these donors of a higher monetary value, they are much less likely to leave you.
So if you think you'd better shape up, here are five things you can do to increase engagement:
1. Personalize your supporter e-mails
This is a quick win. It’s much more engaging to start with "Dear John" than "Dear Friend." And with most e-mail campaign products you can embed conditional paragraphs or “stories” into your e-mail that relate specifically to each recipient's history.
2. Personalize your website
Amazon promotes stuff I’m interested in on the homepage. It upsells and cross-sells according to my history. How? Because Amazon knows my buying history, and also what I’ve clicked on but not bought. You can’t become the charity equivalent of Amazon if your website isn’t in touch with your donor database with its history of donations to various programs.
3. Let your donors share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
Easily achieved with sharing Web gadgets, but why not add deeper engagement by allowing social login on your website (log in with Facebook, Twitter, etc.)? That gives you access to those donors’ social profiles, giving you the chance to build an even closer relationship with them.
4. Become indispensable
Is your website the place that people gravitate to for information on your subject? A private social community can provide a trusted environment for them to engage peer to peer and share resources, all of which subtly builds loyalty to your brand. This allows you to establish your credentials as thought leaders by blogging to the community.
5. Quickly ask new donors to do more
Donors do more for their favorite cause than simply giving money — in fact it’s often how they express their favoritism: 36 percent of donors engage in volunteering activities for their favored cause, 32 percent participate in fundraising events and 29 percent actually fundraise for their top charity. By encouraging participation across the various touchpoints your charity offers, you are rapidly building your status as their favorite cause, let alone the value they represent.
Robin Fisk is global fundraising product manager at ASI Europe.