When thinking about technology and donor engagement, we know that having two things are critical:

  1. Having two-way communication, and
  2. Ensuring that a donor can get in touch with the nonprofit at all times and via multiple platforms.

The first step to drive donor engagement is to make it easy for donors.

Do you have an easy and clear to see donate button on your website? Are you sure that all of your web forms work properly? Can someone donate from his or her mobile device? It’s amazing how simple these elements are, and how vital they are to the organization, yet how many times they go overlooked. If a donor emails or comments from your form, do you have a follow through process to ensure all donors are responded to in a timely manner?

Once you have the basics down and you know it’s easy for someone to donate, the next step in mind for technology is using it to collect data on your donors to truly be aware of who they are and what they want.

One quote that has stuck out to me since the moment I read it is this,
Donors, not your organization, should decide how much donor engagement is enough.”1

aha moment

So many organizations spend time thinking about how they think they should engage with donors, when in reality, this is something that can be decided by the donors themselves. When was the last time you simply asked your donors how often they would like to be communicated with? Have you ever queried donors on what medium works best for them?

The best way to get this kind of insight, without making a million phone calls, is through donor technology. The options here are endless. Good internal systems ensure donors are stewarded in between asks. These systems exemplify good donor relations and ensure that fewer donors get lost in the database void.

Create Donor Personas
One thing you can do with any amount of technology is create donor personas. This means that you identify 5-10 categories of donors and then begin to segment your donor base into these levels. This shouldn’t be only by gift size. This could include the type of communication they have with your organization, level of volunteerism and event participation, and gift size and frequency.

KnowYourDonors Classy.org

(Source: Classy.org)

Once you have a good glimpse of what kind of donors are in each pile, write out a donor personality for each of these categories. This can help larger organizations identify how they should be talking to and considering a donor when they have a one-on-one interaction.


(Source: Classy.org)

Let me explain in a much more simplified version of categorizing customers: One of the best-known customer service leaders in the world is John D. Julius and he runs a variety of hair salons worldwide. At his salons, they have two categories of customers: those that have been to their salons before and those that are new customers. They give their new customers a white cape and their existing customers a black cape (unbeknownst to the customers). Just this slight change allows everyone in the organization to greet customers appropriately. If the customer is passing a stylist on the way to the bathroom that doesn’t know them, and they are wearing a white (new customer) cape, that stylist can welcome them graciously, show them into the washroom, and let me them know any information about the lighting in there. Where as if they are wearing a black cape, the stylist can simply say something relaxed, like, “Oh this isn’t your first time!” that makes the customer feel like an old friend.

It’s these subtle aspects of customer (or donor) service that make a big difference. Being relevant and personal creates a donor engagement experience with heart.

Be Personal and Relevant
No matter how much technology is being used to track all of this data, we must remember the human element of it all. Being personal and relevant to donors is of the utmost importance. A personal note or call is especially effective at generating repeat gifts and turning supporters into long-term donors:

Research shows that a personal call has proved to have a positive impact on the future of giving. The 2013 Burk Donor Survey found that “34 percent of respondents who made a gift after receiving a thank-you call attributed the call to their subsequent decision to give again. And, among those donors inspired to give again because of the call, 21 percent made a more generous gift than they had in the past and attributed that generosity to the thank you call they received.”2

I’ll leave you today with a great example to date of WOW donor engagement utilizing technology: the Swedish Blood Bank. Recently, the blood donation service announced an initiative where donors are sent text messages telling them when their blood has actually been used. Now that is a WOW donor experience! Let’s dig into a scenario like this:

Meet Sandra.
Sandra works for a large investment firm and is often found eating lunch at her desk due to the busy nature of her schedule. Due to a new campaign by the Swedish blood donation service, she sees a few ads on our commute to work that are asking for Type A blood. Sandra takes her lunch break at 12:00 p.m. and walks over to the local blood donation bank. She has to fill out a large form and wait in line for half an hour, and finally gives blood by 12:45 p.m.. She’s asked to wait 15 minutes before returning to her office, to ensure she doesn’t faint or become weak. She makes it back to the office around 1:15 p.m. She’s a little rushed, hasn’t eaten and thinks to herself, “Maybe that wasn’t the best idea. I don’t have time for this.”

Shortly thereafter, Sandra gets a text message from the local blood service, thanking her for taking the time to donate blood, expressing how important this is to the lives of so many Swedes. This is enough to raise her mood for the afternoon, but it’s not going to push her to go back tomorrow, the next week, or even the next month. Sandra goes about her regular workweek and doesn’t give it another thought.

Saturday afternoon approaches and Sandra is enjoying some time off with a girlfriend, eating lunch on a patio. All of a sudden, she receives a text message that says, “Hello. The blood that you gave on the 14th of July was just used for a patient at XYZ Hospital. Thank you for saving lives.”

Enter jaw dropping moment here.

How do you think Sandra felt? What do you think she talked about with her girlfriend at lunch?

The moral of this story?
Use technology to gain information from your donors, not about your donors. And then use that data with heart.

Add value to their lives, and they will, most certainly, add value to your organization.

1 http://philanthropynewsdigest.org/columns/the-sustainable-nonprofit/what-does-it-really-mean-to-be-an-engaged-donor

2 http://www.nonprofitpro.com/post/bill-sayre-its-time-rethink-your-donor-engagement-strategies/

Images http://www.classy.org/blog/create-donor-personas-step-one/