Donor engagement is a very dynamic and ever-evolving journey. Drawing on several fields of study, donor engagement primarily centers on understanding donor behaviors. How you interpret and respond to these behavior patterns will shape the journey you hope your donors take with your mission. Research has shown that the engagement path is not a linear one, but rather an elliptical one. It is not limited to a single interaction; instead, it includes all of the touch points that an organization has with a donor. The path is shaped in a positive or negative way by the donor’s overall experience. And, there are many specific factors, strategies, people, communities and resources that influence engagement and loyalty along the way.
As you think about someone taking a journey with your mission, you might envision moments where they become aware, start considering your organization, decide to evaluate it, become engaged in some aspect of your mission and become loyal. The experience at each stage influences the connected donor to continue on the journey or opt out altogether. Continuing on through multiple cycles creates greater engagement – donors who advocate or decide to serve on the board. Each loop through the cycle creates a level of loyalty that is harder to break than the previous one. Donors who opt out after one loop through a cycle probably did so due to a bad experience at one or more points in the first journey.
There is a stunning yet simple truth about the connected donor: the connected donor’s experience is not limited to his or her own. In the age of social media, where one donor’s experience can be shared with thousands instantaneously, the power of shared experiences is amplified. These experiences, good or bad, shared via social media or traditionally, influence the path as well, and can affect decisions made by potential donors who may be considering the same journey.
Because the donor experience is so dynamic, it can be challenging to figure out where to start. Here are some ideas on how to help keep your donors engaged:
- Call lost donors – Every month have your executives, or as many people in your organization you can, call at least five donors who have left you. Don’t have a script. Nothing is really required other than the ability to really listen. Create a summary to share results.
- Call loyal donors – We often focus on lost donors, but it is also important to know what you do right and keep doing it. Create a summary to share results.
- Be a donor – Ask everyone in your organization to do one thing you require your donors to do once a month. Create a summary to share results.
- Connect with the frontline – Bring in people from all the frontline operations and give them an opportunity to talk candidly with the CEO about donor challenges.
- Do donor math – Talk about lost and gained donors in every meeting you can. Relate the loss or gain to donor experience issues you are aware of, to what the frontline is saying and to what you experienced as a donor yourself.
If you want to go deeper, get a FREE eVersion (PDF) of the book “Digital Business Transformation in a Donor Obsessed World”.