Engagement is not about voodoo. It is however as much about art as about science. It also draws heavily from social sciences; psychology, sociology, ethnography, and digital anthropology.
The behaviors of donors are critical to understand. These behaviors expresses patterns that are important to the journey you hope they take with your mission. It highlights for you new touch points and resources for potential investment. Your empathy and creativity are inspired by the decisions your donors make. This journey is very dynamic and every evolving.
What is a game changer from a research point of view? It is what your donors are doing online today. Certainly not what they did 2 years ago or perhaps not even 2 months ago.
Your nonprofit needs clarity. You can gain it now and learn where to focus investments and scarce resources. There are many moments of truth around something as straightforward as making a donation.
Be aware that the engagement path is not linear but more elliptical in nature. Many touch points that create amazing experiences continue to influence the journey. There are very specific factors, strategies, people, communities, and resources that come to influence engagement and loyalty.
This elliptical journey tends to repeat itself and levels of engagement increase. Regardless of how many times the journey is taken, the experience at all the moments of truth always wins greater engagement.
As you think about someone taking a journey with your mission, you might envision moments where they become aware, start considering you, decide to evaluate you, 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 donors who become advocates who volunteer. Each loop through the cycle creates a level of loyalty that is hard to break. 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.
Here are the core experiences that need to be intentionally designed to be enjoyable, simple and meet donor needs.
- Mission engagement (donate, volunteer, advocate or participate)
- Share the experience
- Become loyal and continue engagement through another journey along the loop
We used to view these factors as a linear path. Much research has occurred to help us understand that the connected donor moves in an elliptical path that is tilted in a positive or negative way based on the overall experience. When it becomes negative, they begin to loose awareness, stop considering you, etc. In other words, the brakes are on and they fall out of the path. When the experiences are positive, they continue on.
Whether through social search or traditional, shared experiences, whether good or bad, influence the connected donor in meaningful ways. Their shared experience will affect others on the same path who are following them.
There is a stunning truth to come to grips with about the connected donor. Before they can truly become loyal and promote you to others, they must experience the journey a second time to validate their experience. If anything comes up different in the second journey, they may consider other alternatives.
No matter what, the entire journey is very social and very public. Donors are more connected than you may be able to imagine and it is this truth that can define the experience for others who may be considering to make the same journey. Shared experiences are fed into the experience loop. Those experiences are now being indexed and extracted by others who are considering the same journey with your mission.