Could a small change in your thinking make you a more successful fundraiser?
I was reading an article about empathy and marketing the other day. It began with an example of Oxo, a company that makes household items. On the way into their office is a wall. It’s covered with lost gloves – a reminder that they’re making products for real people.
This approach has made the company wildly popular with its customers. Not surprising, right?
The article quoted Mary Beech, principal at MRB Brand Consulting and former CMO of Kate Spade. I loved the quote.
A large part of putting the customer at the center is remembering that they are a human being and not just an end user of your products or services. What you are creating, marketing and ultimately selling is but one piece of your customer’s life as a human on Earth. One very small piece. And if we aren’t keeping in mind their full journey, including their emotional, mental, social and physical needs – as well as the challenges and joys they are facing – we cannot do our jobs well.
This is the donor journey we talk about, right?
Two professors – one from UConn, one at the University of Illinois, ran some tests on empathy and design. Two groups of subjects were asked to design a product. When their subjects were prompted to imagine the user’s feelings, their results were more creative, though still practical. Their thinking was more flexible and creative – leading to better results.
They also believe the results can last.
Kelly Herd, the UConn professor of marketing, said,
… thinking about others’ feelings makes you more cognitively flexible, it makes you more mentally agile, and so that mental agility transfers into other things that might happen.
Be aware of your bias
There’s one thing that can hold you back, though – your own bias. That’s natural. When we think about our donors and what they would like, our first thought is what we would like. That’s a human reaction.
The good news is that being aware of your innate bias can help overcome it.
Don’t worry about being forgotten
Oxo is easy to take for granted. As the article describes, the products become part of the household. They fit right in so well, they’re not noticeable. That’s ok, though – their customers are very loyal.
Can you say that about your donors?
We all know the Maya Angelou quote:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
If you give donors the opportunity to experience the joy of giving, you are helping them feel good. They’ll remember that.
Bake the empathy in
At Oxo empathy is an innate part of their organization. From product design to communications and marketing, the focus is on the consumer.
Are you thinking about what your donors want? Or about what they can give you?
Is your approach empathetic and donor-focused? Or are you feeling chased by year-end goals?
With an organizational culture that values philanthropy, you can put empathy first. But it must be shared across the organization to succeed. (I still encourage you to begin thinking this way, though. Approach your colleagues with the same empathy toward their concerns.)
It’s all about the emotion
I’m not saying that metrics don’t matter – they do. But make empathy your mindset. Then measure your results.
This is where you can dig into the donor experience. How does someone feel with every contact? What are the messages you’re sending out (intended and not)? Can older people read what you write? Can they manage that response form?
Do your digital and print communications trigger emotional responses? Or are you setting out rational, statistics-based arguments? Giving is an emotional, not rational, decision. Put your focus on the feelings.
And recognizing your own bias, seek feedback. This is where getting to know your donors can be helpful in keeping them. And in attracting new donors. Ask often… in easy to answer ways.
Design your giving program around what your donor needs from you.
But wait. Your organization is there to serve beneficiaries, not donors! No. You’re there to serve both. Your organization is simply the connector.