Are you listening?
I gave a webinar a week ago with my friend, Tim Sarrantonio, about donor experience. (You can still see it here if you’re interested.) Listening as well as talking really matters.
One thing we talked about was the importance of feedback. Because relationships are not one way. If your communication plan is all about pushing information at donors, you’re missing wonderful opportunities.
So, let’s talk about feedback – or listening.
But let’s step back a little first.
If you see donors only as financial sources, you should broaden your outlook. No one wants to be loved only for their money. Do you want donors who feel more connected – more passionate – about your cause? Spend some time thinking about what they want from you, instead of only what you want from them.
I’m not talking about tote bags here. (Though, who knows? Maybe that is what they want! Or read this piece by my friend Steven Shattuck about stickers.) I’m mostly talking about emotional and intellectual satisfaction.
- Do they want to confirm their essential goodness?
- Show the world they’re good people because they support you?
- Meet others who share their interests?
- Be more involved as volunteers?
- Know their gift made a difference? And exactly how?
- Even be left alone, except for one mailing at year?
How do you know what donors want?
You ask them. In small ways, at every opportunity. Think about how you can build questions into your communications strategy.
The key, as my friends at Action Graphics note, is not to overwhelm them with questions. Don’t make them work. Especially if you’re using digital channels, a few good questions – asked throughout the year – can give you good insight.
And that’s one of the first things you might want to know about your donors. Do they prefer mail or email?
Note, this isn’t about what you prefer. If you love all things digital, but your donors are more comfortable with mail (many are), you need to know that. And then you’ll want to rethink your plans.
Try a donor survey to learn more
I’ve written about print donor surveys. (You can find an example of my first try there.) In print, you have room to include more questions. But make sure the questions are relevant. Boil it down to “need to know”. Focus still matters.
And please design for your donors. Leave lots of space, use a big font… and include images to remind them why they care. (Also, obviously, include a return envelope with postage paid!)
DonorVoice has a free widget you can look at, as well. And I urge you to read more at The Agitator about feedback throughout the donor’s journey with you.
What to ask? That will depend on your organization.
But here are some ideas:
- The ease of finding information, asking a question, or making a gift
- Why they give
- What about your cause (not necessarily your organization) matters most to them
- What your organization could do better
- Whether they have considered making a gift in their will
- Why they made their first gift to your organization
I like to think about the kind of questions you might ask if you had the chance to have a comfortable, one on one conversation with a donor. Here’s what I mean: imagine you’re talking with a donor. There are questions that seem intrusive. And there are questions that are so sincere and interested that they feel flattering, instead.
And Joe Garecht offers the one question he finds non-profits should be asking their donors that they almost never do…
“What could we be doing better?”
The key is consistency. Build questions into your plans. How?
- Create a welcome series that includes a survey for new donors.
- Or ask questions in a thank you to loyal donors.
- You can ask for feedback as someone is using your website
- Or you can ask an open-ended question with your newsletter
Turn the questions into a conversation
If you ask a question, people want to know that they have been heard. And that you are acting on their input. If someone shares a complaint, answer it – personally. If someone has a question, answer it – personally. Work? Yes. But work that builds stronger donor relationships.
I also suggest telling people who respond that you’ll share what you learn with them. It’s another opportunity to keep the conversation going. And it tells donors you know they care. They’re in it with you.
Collect and use what you learn
None of this work will be particularly useful if you don’t have a good way to collect and then use the information.
A good donor management system will allow you to collect notes about your donors or create flags for particular groups. But even the best system will fail if you don’t use it well. Data hygiene is critical to good donor care!
Listening well makes it a two-way relationship
Donors that feel seen – needed and wanted and thought of as individuals – are more likely to stay with you. No amount of telling will be as effective as also asking. And you might be amazed at what you learn!
When I did my first donor survey years ago, I learned that what the organization thought was most important was not what our donors thought was most important. We changed our messaging focus so that our priorities and our donors’ were aligned. (They were actually more attuned to the original purpose of the organization than we had been!)
Try to build questions into your communications. Then… let me know how it goes!
Photo by Malte Wingen on Unsplash
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