Donor Journeys: Put a Plan in Motion
At a conference I attended recently, one of the most well-attended sessions was positioned as a presentation on “donor journeys,” when in fact, it was an analytics session, charting the time from donor acquisition to second gift or major gift upgrade. With all the dynamic changes affecting nonprofits today, I had expected a case study about the importance of the donor journey and the ways it drives results in a new era of engagement. It was clear from the audience questions that others in that room had similar thoughts.
When nonprofit marketers talk about donor journeys, we’re really talking about the ways we’re creating value with and for donors—by shifting the starting point from an emphasis on campaign and program planning to a focus on individuals first. The steps of journey development require fundraisers to see the world through the eyes of the donor, then align around enabling capabilities, including technology, analytics and even automation.
The questions in that session made me think: many (maybe even most) organizations don’t have a deliberate process for their fundraising journey or even a single view of a donor, but they need to begin the process to make the next leap in their marketing maturity.
As Blackbaud recently underscored in their “Vital Signs Part 1: Monitoring Giving Patterns in the Donor Marketplace,” the donor is more important to the organization than the organization is to the donor. While that may not be a new idea, seeing it in black and white does present a reality check. If we, as an industry, don’t recognize that donors can’t always be counted on to give based on our historical “ask more, get more” paradigm, we could be left scrambling to fund our missions.
And if that doesn’t make you stop and think, what about this statistic shared by Scott Nuernberger, senior vice president of analytics at Merkle:
75 percent of consumers say they would be willing to stop doing business with your brand after just a single bad customer experience. Consumers are changing, technology is changing and the ability to see donors individually is no longer going to be a luxury, but a requirement.
The leading commercial brands have shifted (or are quickly moving) to plan everything through the lens of their customers, moving from a channel-first orientation to the much more personal route of customer first, then best offer, then channel and other key enablers. This type of journey planning and execution is not necessarily easy, but research shows that brands that manage their customer journeys outperform those that don’t.
Though crafting out a comprehensive donor journey requires the right technology for full enablement, there are still some steps all nonprofits can take today to ensure that consumer preference and donor communications are better leveraged to improve both the donor experience and ultimately the value of individual donors.
1. Start with your most valuable audiences. Being donor-centric means journey mapping that starts with targeting a priority audience for whom you can map and pilot an initial journey playbook. Brands that use a customer-centric approach first identify audience groups (or personas) and optimize from there.
Though tackling an enterprise-wide persona planning process may be a bigger lift than your organization is ready for, using a pilot audience strategy will reveal what you can act on now and where your collaboration energy is best expended across departments.
2. Map the key doorways into your organization and the stakeholders who own them.
Outline all the ways donors engage with your organization, including the experience that comes before they donate. Understand who “owns” these channels and experiences and map the constituent experience for each of the doorways. Seeing the full matrix of entry points puts into perspective the different ways your donors interact with your brand and the types of donors you have.
From there, you can identify which internal stakeholders should be included in the donor journey playbook conversation. This process will also help you surface your true technology needs. The digital journey and the data it generates are critical. A truly comprehensive donor journey requires technology enablement, and if you haven’t started the conversation yet, you should.
3. Understand the messaging and the follow up strategies for each of these doorways.
Convene the key internal resources you’ve identified above, and assess how consistent they are across donors, time, events and media. Is there a coordinated schedule or onboarding plan based on the donor’s initial engagement? Can you see common next steps? In which channel(s) did the donor take an action?
This can help uncover initial roadblocks you’ll need to work around and can start to clarify where initial improvements in the donor experience can be made. This step will help you identify quickly where your priorities are based on size and existing communications and can help build the best playbook possible for your pilot audience.
4. Promote visibility for this effort and report to leadership about advances made. Use the pilot program to adjust and optimize the donor journey mapping and execution process. You’re building your proof case to advocate for adopting an enterprise-wide journey mapping approach. Track the impacts and victories, big and small, both donor-specific and across departments.
Regardless of where your organization is on the road to a true donor-first practice, it’s important to take steps today to improve your donor experience. Some organizations are moving more quickly in this new people-based marketing environment, and some will continue to lag even into the future, experiencing higher donor abandonment from lack of the right engagement strategy, lack of insight and lack of value. And though the process can be difficult, surely, it’s worth it in the end. The commercial market is meeting consumers where they are… how close are you?