Take a minute to put your ego aside… would you want to be a donor to your organization?
I mean this seriously. Would you be happy with the process, the acknowledgment, the fulfillment of giving a gift to your own organization?
Here’s the real tough question…. After giving once, would you want to give again?
Donors DO give out of the goodness of their hearts, but they also want to feel confident in their choice to support your organization. They want to see that their gift was put toward the cause and purpose they intended. They also want to see that the organization they chose to support is efficient and effective in their work. Who can blame them for wanting proof that their dollars are being used as strategically as possible!
Unfortunately for small teams, the donation process can cause hurdles to instill that confidence in your donors. I remember in one of my nonprofit roles, I was the only employee handling donation acknowledgments (among all the other steps and components of the organization’s development and communications process!). And each month, no matter what I did, it felt almost impossible to get these letters out on time. Inevitably, it was the thing I stayed late to do, running them to the post office half the time to ensure they got picked up and out the door.
This experience is not a good one – for the nonprofit employee or the donor!
So, as a small nonprofit team – how do you avoid this “hamster-on-a-wheel” feeling?
You analyze what you’re currently doing (with objectivity!) and you identify ways to work WITH you rather than against you. Whether it is making your process more aligned with your schedule, your team’s natural work rhythms, or your donor base’s interests and desires, working from where you are is key to an authentic and sustainable donation process.
Below, I walk you through an abbreviated donation process audit. I am using online giving as an example, but the same formula works for any giving format. Once we’ve highlighted areas where your current process is falling short, we will identify ways to better align the process with where you are at today.
(If you don’t have these, there’s your first thing to address!). Highlight, scribble or note down any area where you know your process is breaking down.
(I’m being serious! Think of one of your donors and picture them through the rest of the steps).
How are they introduced to you? In this case, your website and social media presence. If they found you today, what would they see? Imagine landing on your website home page for the first time. You have no understanding of what your organization does. Would you understand why your organization exists? How easy is it for a prospective donor to understand what you do, why you do it? How easy is it for them to jump on board to support you?
Bonus: if they sign up to stay involved but aren’t quite ready to donate yet, what type of communication do they get? Are they welcomed to your community with some sort of personalized (automated) email? Or are they namelessly added to a list with no notification or welcome?
Congrats! Because of your communications, your donor feels connected to your organization. They have decided they want to give a donation. But what comes next? How easy is it for this donor to find your donation page? How compelling are your donation levels (do they tie back to your mission and goals, or are they arbitrary dollar amounts?) Are you offering a variety of ways to pay? How many pages do they have to click through before they complete their donation?
What is the first thing they will receive after making their donation? Is it a bland receipt? Is it an email with a generic “Thank you for your gift” statement? Is it…. nothing? Look at the first thing the donor receives after their gift with “outsider’s” eyes. Would that make you feel warm and fuzzy, or blah and uncertain? Do this for every post-transaction communication received.
Bonus: How long (if ever) does it take for your donor to receive your first piece of personalized communication after their gift? Even if this is a quick note on the formal acknowledgement, identify how long it is before the donor knows that a real human knows about their gift. And then ask yourself, how would that make you feel as a donor?
Now, where do you see your organization falling short or misaligned in the process? The answers to this question are the components you are going to focus on tweaking. They aren’t working for you (or your donors) right now. So how can we focus on making them work for you going forward?
These fixes might include:
Reducing the difficulty
Reducing/refocusing the workload
Focusing on personalization
When you are seeing issues with where your donor starts, you’ll want to focus on reducing the difficulty of the process. Take some time to reimagine your website or social media to make it as easy as possible for donors to give. This may mean turning the donate button into a brighter color with a bigger font size. It may mean linking your donation page directly from your social media accounts. It may mean changing the dollar amounts of your giving levels to those that match your mission and goals so it’s easy for the donor to understand what the gift will do. The changes will vary based on your circumstances. But keep your focus on how to make it as easy as possible for the donor, and you’ll make forward progress.
If your issues are in the transaction process, you need to look into reducing and refocusing your workload. Is your current donation processor system (Paypal, your CRM, etc) working for you? This may require a longer-term fix, but it’s important to identify now. If the issue is on the “human” side of things, there are a few things to consider. Can you automate different parts of your donation acknowledgment process? Can you block schedule a time each week to complete this process? Think about your natural tendencies – how can you fit what needs to get done into the natural rhythms of how you work?
Finally, especially in the follow-up phase, focusing on personalization can make a big difference. (And it can soften some less than stellar past donor experiences…. hint hint). When considering personalizing your process, don’t only consider how you can personalize for your donors’ needs. It is also worthwhile to take time to consider how you personalize to your team’s workload and capacity.
If you have looked at your entire process and can’t see any specific changes in the first few steps that you need to make, but still feel your donation process is a mess, personalization may be your ticket to providing a better experience. The more personalized you make the entire process, the more seen and understood your donors will feel. And the more your team will feel equipped to complete the process on time – every time!
My gold standard example for this is a small organization I once donated to (I donated a small amount – around $25). Within 24 hours of making my gift, I received a personal email from the Executive Director. It was brief and rather casual. They thanked me for my generosity and noted how much each gift means to the organization. Additionally, they explained their acknowledgment process: as a small team, they have made the decision to send formal acknowledgments out at the end of each month to maximize the team’s efficiency. Finally, if for any reason I needed it sooner, they would be happy to get it to me.
My reaction? I was mind blown! Not only did I get personal thanks from the organization for what is traditionally considered a “small” gift, but they showed me firsthand that their focus above all else was on their mission and efficiency in their work. I walked away from the transaction confident that my dollars are being put to the best possible use. And you can believe I continued to give!
This is just one example of how to personalize the process to meet your and your donors’ needs. You could create a thank you video to plug into your automated donation acknowledgment email. You could assign Board members, volunteers, and staff to write a few personal notes or make calls each month. The goal, no matter how you personalize, is simple.
Develop a donation process that is authentic to your team, aligned with your mission, and cognizant of your donor’s desires – and everyone will walk away happier, more confident, and ready to give again.
So – what are you going to put in place in your donation process to better serve your community and your team? Let me know in the comments!
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