Just as for-profit companies focus on providing an excellent customer experience, donor stewardship should be top of mind for nonprofits. It is up to your nonprofit not only to compel supporters to take action, but to foster ongoing relationships that translate into long term support. This means that you need to create an amazing donor experience that will keep supporters coming back to your organization and mission.
In order to create that deep connection with your supporters, you need to optimize the way you respond to and communicate with donors. Many of these principles are rooted in basic customer service skills. Here are three ways you can apply them to improve your donor stewardship strategy.
1. Provide the Right Answers
Whether it’s about donation transactions or login passwords, your donors will approach you with questions and issues. You’d be surprised how often people receive either false information, or an “I don’t know” from a customer service rep. While your team members might not be able to answer the occasional question, you need to invest the time and effort to ensure your nonprofit is as prepared as possible to address supporters’ issues.
There are two main ways to ensure you’re giving supporters the right answers:
1. Train Your Staff
Whether it’s the staff who man your call center, or the volunteers helping at your fundraising event, your team members should be empowered with a deep knowledge of how to assist supporters. Make sure they have a thorough understanding of how your nonprofit operates, so they can help donors to the best of their ability.
2. Provide Self Service Resources
You can also provide content right on your website to proactively answer inquiries. Not only can supporters find the answers to their most common questions on their own, but this can also alleviate some of the traffic to your email or call center.
On top of that, their website provides extra content and resources for fundraisers in a “Fundraising Tips” area. Anyone interested in fundraising can find all the information they need to get started, right on the organization’s website.
2. Make Every Interaction Count
Every touch point a donor has with your organization matters. That one email, call, or tweet they send your way might be the only interaction they ever have with your nonprofit. If it’s a sour experience, they might not come back. If it’s positive and unique, however, you can deepen their affinity with your organization.
An important part of donor stewardship is to demonstrate your brand’s culture and voice with each interaction. If donor delight is a part of your core values, then you have to empower your staff to deliver it each time they talk to a supporter. Whether you encourage them to create a connection with a supporter over the phone, or weave some fun and humor into their emails, let your team members know how they can answer questions, improve donor loyalty, and represent your brand well in any situation. Soon enough, that one interaction can have a donor walk away as an ambassador for your brand.
3. Acknowledge and Thank Donors
Instead of responding to supporters only when they have a question, you must reach out to them when they don’t have anything to ask at all—especially after they have made their gift. Acknowledging donors and their support is a critical element of donor stewardship. A genuine thank-you can determine whether or not the supporter chooses to give again.
Few things top the handwritten note. A recent survey by nonprofit technology firm Software Advice found that most people prefer personalized letters to other forms of follow-up outreach. In an age when people are used to receiving automated messages, a handwritten card from your staff can make a huge impact on an unsuspecting supporter.
In his first year, Vs. Cancer’s CEO and Founder, Chase Jones, spent his time writing personal letters to every person who donated to the organization. This intentional outreach was one of the ingredients to the organization’s million-dollar success within its second year.
The bottom line is that you can’t outdo yourself when it comes to donor stewardship. By applying customer service principles to your nonprofit communications, you can drastically improve a donor’s experience with your organization. These practices can thus turn a one-time giver into a long-term supporter.
Keep Donors Coming Back
Photo Credit: Alan Clark