Everything That Is Wrong With Our Retention Programs and How to Put Them Right
Is anyone's loyalty program actually working (and, just to clarify, I'm using the more traditional definition of "working" as you used to lose loads of donors but now you don't)?
I've never met anyone who could answer "yes." But that doesn't stop us squandering enormous amounts of time, energy and money on this entirely unproven "best" practice. I know several fundraising directors who know for sure retention got worse after they introduced their loyalty programs. But they continue to run them. It would be funny if it wasn't tragic.
No one has been able to provide a shred of hard evidence that these programs make any long-term difference. Yet collectively we squander millions of donated money into them while continuing to lose anywhere from 60 percent to 90percent+ of our newly acquired donor's year on year. The only people for whom these costly programs work are the agencies and consultants selling them!
You can't go to a conference or read a blog without being preached to about how important it is to say "thank you" and show outcomes. And of course that's true. But when did these things become separate and apart from fundraising? When did we tell ourselves that asking for money equated to fund raising and that saying thank you for the money equated to fund maintenance? If you are working with that formula you are doing neither well.
So what's the alternative?
Getting past the overly simplistic view that loyalty can be built in a day and realizing it has to be built day by day. Understanding that loyalty isn't created as the result of the "loyalty" experience you offer, but rather is a result of a donors' attitude toward the sum total of experiences they have with you.
Think of the enormous volume of experiences, or touchpoints, your organization creates, not just in fundraising but across every department. Every single thing you deliver, tangible or intangible, creates an attitude which in turn has an effect on loyalty. The trouble is you have no way of knowing whether it's having a good effect or a bad one. Of course you can say appeal X did better than appeal Y. But can you say how appeal X influenced attitudes toward appeal Y?