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Unsatisfied: A Donor Story

Swindled at the Market

I was wandering through a popup farmers market and had no intention of buying olive oil. But she drew me in with her chatty, friendly demeanor. She talked about the area in the Mediterranean where it was handmade by her family using only the best product to produce superior olive oil. It was like nothing I’d ever tasted. Not to mention her olive tapenades and other cured delights. I was trying to remember my pantry situation. Did I really need olive oil? But she was so friendly and she kept talking. I could hardly say no.

I selected the olive oil and the tapenade. As soon as my payment cleared, she focused on a new family passing by, as if I’d suddenly become invisible. I don’t even think she said thank you, goodbye, or… “come back again, I’ll be here next week.” In fact, I said thank you and she didn’t even respond. She was fully focused on the new target.

I was incensed. I felt like I’d just been swindled. Not to mention that the metal cap of the olive oil was hard to remove and cut my finger. Twice.

A few tables down, I bought a jar of kimchi from another vendor. He was casual and nice. He chatted about the incredible developments of payment processors and said thanks. “I really appreciate it,” and asked me to come again.

I will buy more kimchi. I will not buy more olive oil.

Does this sound familiar? We’ve all been there. A purchase that seemed like a good idea at the time but with such terrible follow up, we’ve vowed never to shop there or visit again.

Here is the hard truth, my nonprofit fundraising friends. Is this how your donors feel? Unsatisfied and regretting their gift to your organization?

The Donor Perspective

Sometimes donors will let us know how they feel. They might post a negative comment on a campaign social media post. More often they will send back an angry letter with one of your direct mail reply forms. I remember simply receiving our reply envelopes stuffed to the max with junk mail. The addresses were carefully removed from all the brochures and flyers in passive protest.

A better indicator of an unsatisfied donor can be found in your data. Take a look at the number of donors who are lapsed. Evaluate your retention rate. (The number of repeat donors in the current year divided by the number of all donors last year.) According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the average is 45%.

Take a moment to think through your online experience. When was the last time you took a spin through your online donation form? What is in your autoresponder? Do you have any follow up messages or thank you letters that express the true gratitude of your organization? Or, like our olive oil hustler, are you taking the money only to turn on a dime and focus on the next campaign?

I’m afraid the latter is much more common than the former.

There is no shame here. I’m as guilty as the next fundraiser. We get caught up in the frenzy of our campaign calendar, our budget cycle, and the ever-present pressure of meeting goals. Our autoresponders and user journeys are neglected. They become to-do items that never get done.

Optimal Online Experience Tips

Scott Harrison is the founder of Charity: Water. I heard him speak at a Hubspot Inbound conference several years ago. His story was so compelling, there was not a dry eye in the house. I became a monthly donor and bought his book before I even left the main ballroom.

I’ve been a “Spring” member since 2019 and have not regretted a dime of that investment. I get periodic emails with inspiring stories, project updates and beautiful videos. There is a calculation of how many families I have helped in total since joining. Compare that to organizations to which I’ve given and haven’t heard a word since. My dollars lost in the void.

How can we improve? Here are my quick-tips for an optimal online donor experience

  • Ensure you have a compelling reason to give.
  • Brand your donation form either with the campaign or with a message of impact.
  • Make the form easy – avoid “decision friction” with too many questions or choices. Less is more.
  • Ensure that the thank-you autoresponder conveys your gratitude and offers more ways to get involved.
  • Replicate the same grateful message in any email confirmations.
  • Follow up a few days later with additional thank you messages and statements of impact
  • Keep a consistent flow of communication with your donor, recognizing them for their support.

I know we’re frazzled. And this year has been the worst for so many of us. Consider taking an hour out of your day and doing a user journey audit. If we can make even a few changes to our processes, our donors will be happier. They will keep giving. They will be proud to be associated with your organization knowing that their gifts are meaningful. And, as an added bonus, they will encourage their friends to give.

Let’s work to be a little less oil and a little more kimchi.

Note: On September 17 at noon, we’ll be discussing User Journeys and looking at examples of ways to improve our online experience. Join us for the exciting (virtual) CharityChat!

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