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Donor Relations: Understanding the Donor Experience

Resource Center - Foundation

(Feb. 23, 2010) Do you know what it's like to be a donor to your organization? Bridget Brandt, senior marketing manager at Sage Nonprofit Solutions, offers tips on evaluating your organization's "customer experience" and enhancing your relationship with donors to foster long-term support.

Brandt is also presenting an interactive session on this topic at AFP's International Conference on Fundraising in Baltimore, April 11-14, 2010.

"Whether it is a for-profit or a nonprofit, people who support a cause or buy a product or service are looking to have a positive experience," says Brandt. "If they do, they come back. It's that simple." But assuring positive customer or donor experiences means knowing what it's like to walk in your front door and talk to the receptionist, or call organization staff, or visit your website. "So often executives and leaders are oblivious to what it's really like for someone trying to get information or get a question answered at their own organization," she says. For many, when they finally find out, it is a real eye-opener.

Act Like a Donor

Brandt suggests making a call to the general phone number and asking a question about the mission of your organization. Ask what happens with the charitable donations your receive. Or, send a friend to make a visit to the organization and report back on their experience. Was the reception welcoming and informative, or unpleasant?

What you find out about your organization's donor experience may not be pretty, but if you are open to the feedback and honest about the situation, it can trigger real improvements for the organization. "You should evaluate your frontline volunteers and staff, but do not punish people for being honest about what they do and don't do for callers, guests, etc.," says Brandt. "This should be a learning process."

In fact, improving donor loyalty through a more positive donor experience also means creating a more positive environment for your staff and volunteers. Are they properly trained and prepared for their roles? Are they encouraged to do well?

A Unique Experience

Don't stop by just tying up loose ends and assuring you are providing a positive experience for donors, though. Brandt explains that your organization has to stand out. Ask yourself: "What are we doing to create a unique experience?" Be creative. Use new technologies. Be interactive. Make it fun to be involved with your organization. It's not good enough for your donor to have a pleasant experience with your organization, whether online or on the phone or in person-it needs to be an experience that makes them want to come back.

To sum up, enhancing your organization's donor experience means taking a close and honest look at the various touchpoints of your donors. Each one should be informative, welcoming, even inspiring. Once you fix the flaws, then you can work on making the experience exceptional.

Bridget Brandt will discuss specific methods for evaluating and enhancing your organization's donor experience in her session at the 47th AFP International Conference on Fundraising in Baltimore, April 11-14. Her session is titled "How You Can Create Experiences That Foster True Loyalty" and will be presented Monday, April 12, at 1:15 p.m. Hurry, Advance Registration for the international conference ends soon! Register by Feb. 28 and save $100 off of the regular conference registration rate.

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