Mon, September 12 2011

6 steps to far happier supporters

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

As I posted recently, the single most important thing you can do in this economy is to treat your existing supporters far better.  It’s a tough year for fundraising, and so you want to do all you can to keep the donors and volunteers you have.

One way to do that is to overhaul your acknowledgment process.  Thank donors early and often.  Another way is to overhaul your “customer service”—the service you provide to your supporters when they contact you.
Customer experience guru John Goodman, author of Strategic Customer Service, recently presented a paper on donor, member and client behavior, and he offers these six steps to better customer service.  As he notes:

Donors who encounter problems and slights, similar to business customers, not only tend to discontinue supporting the organization, but also spread negative word of mouth. On the other hand, a social service agency found that if a high end donor has a problem and complains and is satisfied, their propensity to continue donating increases by 15 percent and their willingness to suggest other donors to be approached for gifts increases up to 30 percent. Likewise, museum and professional association members and educational and social service clients who receive great service are more willing to pay the requested fees.

Here are his tips:

1. Strive to set proper client and donor expectations and give great service, especially via delivering “Psychic Pizza.” What John means by “Psychic Pizza” is to deliver what people need before they ask for it.  Make sure all aspects of their interaction with you is easy, intuitive and gratifying.  Then they won’t need to contact you in the first place.  Your delivery cost per client or donor will go down as revenue goes up.

2. Solicit complaints and feedback from all stakeholders including donors and front line employees.  This is very important in the nonprofit sector, where people get annoyed with organizations but don’t bother complaining because they don’t think it will do any good.  A message of “we can only solve problems we know about,” builds goodwill, breaks down trained hopelessness and surfaces issues you would normally not hear about.

3. Educate each constituency and communicate aggressively on the why behind your policies. This is important because people are far more likely to be understanding and tolerate problems if they know why they happened and the rationale behind your organizations’ policies.  Equip front line staff and volunteers with clear, believable explanations for your services and policies and be flexible when possible.

4. Consider focusing more attention on your mid-level donors and customers. Those donors and customers may have greater incremental revenue potential than your top customers who often are giving you everything they reasonably can. 

5. Train and empower staff to recognize opportunities for improvement and practice continuous experimentation.

6. Measure your word of mouth and “word of mouse” and create a plan to manage it.  Everything said online is amplified, so make sure you’re actively engaged in conversations about you - even then they aren’t positive.  Be proactive, non-defensive and helpful.

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