Think of the Donor Experience as Your Top Priority

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By Kristy Fontelera

A good idea for nonprofit marketing professionals is to immerse themselves in what’s happening with businesses and their marketing efforts. The reality is that your donors and champion supporters are, in fact, your customers. I know that program professionals often consider the people they serve as their customers or clients in the nonprofit sector, which is service-oriented.

But you should consider your donors and supporters as your customers as well. The more you know about marketing trends, which will help you in your organization, the more you’ll see that the customer experience, or that of the donor, is crucial to raising brand awareness and more fundraising dollars with your unique fundraising ideas!

So let’s take a look at a recently published report and get some of the top takeaways so that you and your marketing team could demonstrate impact! The information I’d like to highlight here is from SurveyMonkey, “CX in the New Normal: Why Agility and Collaboration Are Crucial to Success in 2021.”

Our Key Observation

I’ll share with you one of the primary observations our team at our social enterprise learned last year from our work doing nonprofit fundraisers. A lot of leaders in the nonprofit sector gave up. In other words, when they couldn’t do their usual fundraising programs (e.g., in-person events) and when supporters and donors had other concerns, unfortunately, many fundraising and marketing simply stopped.

As we know, that’s a mistake. Our communities need the leadership demonstrated by nonprofits, especially when so many people are out of work. So, agility and knowing how to pivot quickly was essential for those organizations that continued moving the ball forward and those that didn’t. For example, with the right messaging and positive outlook, many other nonprofits made their budgets despite the challenges.

Takeaways From the Report

SurveyMonkey surveyed 1,777 customer experience professionals to understand what successful businesses navigating this uncertain time were doing. SurveyMonkey also wanted to know how feedback from customers played a role in organizations’ success moving forward.

Concerning customer experience, a significant 87% of people say that customer feedback is essential for brands.

In the experience of our social enterprise, that makes a lot of sense. Think about it as it relates to your donors. Social media has broken down silos and walls. As a result, it means that people are much more comfortable directly speaking to brands publicly. That’s what social media is all about — engagement.

That’s why, as a marketer, it shouldn’t surprise you to see that the vast majority of people believe that customer feedback is vital. Years ago, brands dictated the terms of how they interacted with their customers and donors. Now nonprofit marketing teams need to understand that they have to always think about the donor experience first and foremost.

67% of the collaborative organizations were much more likely to experience financial growth.

In other words, internal collaboration matters. When people genuinely respect and enjoy each other, your organization can create and innovate because of trust within teams. Also, collaboration has to involve cross-functional teams because companies need holistic thinking. And as we saw last year, organizations that moved forward with all hands on deck — together — were able to move forward much more quickly because they had all the information at hand. Still, that kind of collaboration takes nurturing.

I’ll share with you that I lead the marketing team at the social enterprise where I work. But even though I do that, I also have another vital role. When we have our team meetings, especially those that involve our entire company team, I come up with team-building ideas and exercises. I do it because I know that it helps foster trust and collaboration between people. It doesn’t matter if we’re doing team painting after work or hunting for gators; partnerships have to get nurtured.

Agility was the top attribute for the organizations to recover quickly from the pandemic’s initial shock.

Finally, as was mentioned earlier, agility and pivoting are crucial to success. SurveyMonkey discovered it was the top attribute for organizations they surveyed for the report. Last year seemed to be a trial by fire, but it was those organizations that were quickly able to think — and move — that succeeded.

Whatever their situations, donors who care about a particular cause don’t stop caring about it even when they go through challenging moments. During the height of the uncertainty in the spring, our team just reached out to people and nonprofits to check in and see how people were doing. That’s all. That human contact made all the difference, and it allowed us to listen to what was on the mind of fundraising teams. That information then allowed us to reorient what we did. Leading nonprofits just checked in with their donors because, guess what, they’re ordinary people who also need a kind word.

Customer experience, or in the case of nonprofits, donor experience, is super important. As we know, nonprofits need their donors to ensure they get the fundraising money they need to continue their programs. So, think carefully about what for-profit and successful nonprofit organizations are doing. Don’t believe that donors aren’t the same as your customers.

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