First things first, what exactly is Donor Journey Mapping?

In simple terms, donor journey mapping is the process of defining the steps your organization will follow when it interacts with a donor. This details all of the interactions a person has with your organization as well as the internal or external influences affecting the person’s behaviors. This map may vary in complexity, from a step chart following an online gift to a year long engagement plan for potential donors to your organization.

In its essence, a donor experience map is a tactical blueprint for donor engagement. Unlike a fundraising pyramid, which is a categorization of donors and the funnel of movement for donors, the donor experience map unpacks each step of the donor journey and how your organization plans to nurture the donor relationship throughout the journey.

This can help you to:

  • Increase consistency in messaging
  • Identify opportunities to help assist donors through the journey process
  • Identify roadblocks to donating, so that you can see and remove these
  • Build empathy for your key audiences among staff

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: While there is a recent train of thought in the industry that donor journeys do not work because they are too tough to implement, we beg to differ. Perhaps the complexity of them can overwhelm some departments and designing them in a constricting way can definitely work against your organization. But we feel that to go through this exploratory process and to understand fully from the donor’s point of view, is to really truly know your organization. You should work with trained professionals to work your way through the process, to ensure you don’t lose context for how significantly a simply integrated donor journey map can change your organization. 

Five reasons to map the donor journey

1. Puts the focus back on donors

The most important aspect of donor experience mapping is focusing on donors and making them the most important aspect of your organization. Just like when celebrities say ‘I would be nowhere without my fans’, your organization would cease to exist without donors. By mapping the donor experience, you are forced to look at the journey through the eyes of the donor. Though this can be difficult, it is imperative.

At its core, the donor experience is about creating and nurturing a positive relationship with the donor. When you look at the experience from the other side of the interaction, you gain a new perspective and can therefore improve your operations.

2. You gain operational control

Another advantage of mapping the donor experience is the provision of a fundraising activity map for your fundraising department. With a road map, your organization can understand precisely which steps come next and will be able to track those steps.

Mapping the donor journey can make you more aware of how your organization interacts with its donors, and can subsequently improve donor service by consistent processes, accelerated response times, and consistent follow up with donors. The map generates a greater control over operations and minimizes fundraising ambiguity. Donor Experience Mapping helps all employees to recognize upcoming steps and understand their importance.

3. You manage your performance

With a donor experience map, your organization has a blueprint of strategies/activities that can be measure and managed. With the details laid out for each step taken in the donor experience, your organization can make operational changes by adding successful strategies and removing problematic/underachieving activities. Furthermore, the donor experience map can support fundraising data collection and data measurement.

4. You can improve the donor experience

A map of the donor experience, beyond focusing on the donor and managing your organization’s performance, will aid your organization in improving the overall donor experience. This is done by lessening friction, removing roadblocks and empowering the donor to be autonomous and active within the organization. With a mapping system, you can outline the ideal donor experience, and strive to achieve that as your benchmark.

5. You stay strategic

In order to map the donor experience with your organization, you actually need to sit down and outline an actual map. This process will incite meaningful thought and discussion. As you delve into these conversations you will begin to understand the real purpose of each activity in the map.

As a mapper, you are an intentional designer of the donor experience and your fundraising activities. The mapping process forces you to be intentional and strategic, defining the intent, value, and rationale for each step in the donor experience map.