Charities can no longer rely on loyalty and goodwill alone to retain supporters. The key to retention, as well as attracting more donations, could lie within improving the customer (donor) experience.
No sooner had charities weathered the impact of the peak-pandemic years, they now (like us all) find themselves facing another huge challenge in the cost-of-living crisis.
Research earlier this year has revealed that regular monthly donations to charities have already dropped by 10% from 30% to 27% – and this reduction is projected to get much worse as the economic troubles unfold, with fewer people donating as individuals and families becoming ever warier of their discretionary spend. To compound the problem, we can also expect an increased demand for the services that charities provide.
Could focusing on improving the customer experience (CX) that donors receive be the answer?
Donors are generous – but expect a good experience
A donor is a customer like any other – they are paying out money, and because of this, they have the same expectations of the ‘buying’ experience as when they purchase a product. CX has been a major source of differentiation in the private sector for years, and consumers’ demands are increasing: they want convenience and they want personalisation (even ‘hyper-personalisation’, where customized, targeted experiences are created by using data, analytics, AI, and automation).
Businesses have got better and better at delivering this, but many charities have not kept up the same pace. As Charity Digital, a non-profit that helps other such organisations accelerate their missions using digital technology, acknowledges, CX is recognised as being crucial in the business sector for driving greater and sustained sales – and is a concept that can greatly help the third sector, too.
The reality is, regardless of the added pressures of the current financial climate, charities can no longer afford to rely on the draw of their cause and the devotion of their donors. But the good news is, those charities willing to be bold and forward-thinking can learn from the private sector and enhance their services – and come out of the financial crisis even stronger than they were before.
Making donating smooth and easy
How do you create the kind of experience that compels people to be an ardent fan, to donate again and again, and be willing to shout from the rooftops to anyone who will listen as to why they too should support your cause?
It starts by understanding your customers and the journey you take them on. Being aware of all the touch points: from initial awareness, to sign-up, to their monthly contributions, complaints or other ad hoc engagements; and in some instances, even their death and beyond. Understanding and assessing each interaction is critical to being able to enhance your donor’s experience.
Engagement certainly needs to go beyond inviting shoppers to manually fill in a form as they make their way up a high street and then ending the process there!
Maybe it’s about sending the donor a message on WhatsApp, using a platform that they are comfortable with in their day-to-day lives that makes them more likely to agree to a regular donation. Maybe it’s about upgrading your CRM platform, in order to eliminate the kind of pain points that can derail a customer journey. Or maybe it’s about connecting your donors to each other, perhaps with an online message board or by setting up social media groups.
And in terms of personalisation, it’s worth noting that many charities already do this to an extent. For instance, sponsor a child with ActionAid and you will receive messages, photos, even drawings from them. But charities should be able to apply this to the donor journey too, at what would be called in the private sector the ‘point of sale’, giving the donor immediate feedback, using whichever channel or channels they have selected. After all, research by Community Boost found that donors are 400% more likely to give again if thanked within 48 hours of giving; that could be via social media, video messaging, direct confirmation email or even at an in-person event.
Right now, retaining their donors moving forward is more important to charities than it has ever been. And so they must act to create a donor experience that is so easy, so gratifying, and so much a part of that person’s life, that cancelling that direct debit is the furthest thing from their mind.