The Commission on the Donor Experience (CDE) is a sector-wide response to the pressing challenges facing fundraising – centred on sharing ideas on improving the donor experience.
Copper has written before on this topic, borrowing the language of customer service to urge charities to: “Stop Doing Dumb Things to Donors”. And we see this vital issue, more generally, as a subset of the #Impact2.0 accountability imperative.
Improving donors’ experiences is also, not co-incidentally, what we do day-in day-out for our clients.
So we were delighted this week to see a really cogent piece from a CDE Commissioner (Grant Leboff) on this topic of improving donor experiences. And an explanation of what emergent practice looks like . Do Read it here.
His piece is, in essence, a call for fundraising modernisation. He lays out three core arguments that build to a logical conclusion, which I paraphrase and summarise here:
1. That power has irrevocably shifted from the Institution to the Individual and that these individuals have themselves become (online) channels.
2. That marketing must therefore move concertedly and committedly from Interruption to Invitation – by contributing meaningfully to existing ‘social’ conversations.
3. That delivering on service expectations depends firstly on delivering behind Donor Intimacy – through optimally tailored experiences – but also increasingly on facilitating community Interaction.
This is especially in social channels – which the individuals themselves ultimately ‘own’.
So we agree 100% with Leboff. In the spirit of #Impact2.0 we would simply top and tail his argument by mentioning two additional ‘control-shifts’ that are necessary, to close the communications loop and optimise donor impact.
First and foremost, on simple grounds of authenticity (a sinae qua non of modernity), it should be assumed that the beneficiary – or a proxy – should be directly and meaningfully represented within the cause community the charity creates:
This shift we would characterise as the move from mere packaged Information about programmes and their beneficiaries, to their active Inclusion within the donor proposition and experience.
Crucially, for charities, it is this effort to tell their impact stories ‘in the authentic voice of the beneficiary’ that promises to avoid the worst unintended consequences of the marketing mind-set: inadvertent mis-selling, mismatched expectations and trust breakdown.
Secondly, in parallel to the direct representation of the beneficiary, we would continue to emphasise the need for the purposeful participation of donors in contributing to social impact. The ‘work’ of charities is the product of an entire relationship ecosystem. And this should be explicitly acknowledged.
A charity’s donors (whether of cash, time, voice or expertise) are its greatest asset. They must be inspired and involved. They should want to self-identify as brand ambassadors. They should have a clear and actionable intention to achieve a specific social change.
This is a fundamentally different fundraising philosophy to transactional, interruptive, institutional marketing, however intimately ‘targeted’. It can of course be just as pragmatic and rigorous as transactional targeting. But is fundamentally less cynical: focused on driving the motivation (social change) not the outcome (cash).
This final donor shift is thus a recalibration from offering Incentives to nurturing Intent.
Instead of adopting a consumer-ised fundraising approach, that tries to persuade a donor of ‘what’s in it for them?’; and beyond even the customer-ised mindset that focuses purely on a differentiating ‘service experience’, the logic of #Impact2.0 is that donors should fundamentally be seen as brand-cause advocates in waiting. And treated as such.
On this basis, the future for Charities is dazzlingly bright.
More than any other organisation type, Charities intuitively understand how to manage intangible value – and how to manage multiple and complex motivations. The driver of that ‘value’ though – the accumulated goodwill that drives trusted human relationships, cannot be abused or taken for granted.
It’s time to reinvent that instinctive skill for a social, and digital age. And Modernise! as Leboff suggests.
Tim Kitchin is client service director and director of consulting at Copper, the digital marketing agency.