Carefully study Bloomerang’s “Donor Loyalty” chart below.

With the exception of ‘death and ‘poverty’, nonprofits by their own actions — or lack of them — control whether a donor stays or goes.

That’s right, 53% of the reasons donors give for heading to the exit is because the organization failed to properly communicate in one way or another.

The reasons cited in the chart to the right match almost exactly the results of similar studies conducted by The Agitator/Donor Trends in 2005, 2008 and 2010 and by our sister company DonorVoice in 2012.

While every nonprofit can do something about everything except the donors’ economic state and their mortality, I want to focus on one factor that drives me absolutely nuts –poor donor service.

There’s simply no excuse for organizations losing nearly 20% of their defecting donors because of lousy service. Shame on us.

In response to Tom’s post last week, When You’ve Blown It, recounting Maker’s Mark stellar move with customers, Simone Joyaux weighed in with a terrific illustration of how to do donor service the right way.

“One of my most memorable (positive and wonderful) experiences – as a donor – is a mistake made by EMIILY’s List, the pro-choice Democratic women’s political action committee.”

“I received a gracious email saying that my membership was expiring and EMILY would love me to renew. I called and said, ‘Gee, I think I did renew.’

“First, I easily connected with the membership office. No voice mail hell. The membership person immediately found my record and apologized for the mistake. Off I went to a meeting. Returned to my office and an email awaited me, apologizing for the error. ‘That’s nice, I thought. Nice apology on the telephone when I called. Nice email follow-up apology.’

“I work away at my desk. And after traditional business hours, about 6 p.m., I get a telephone call from the senior development officer at EMILY’s List. She apologizes again, explaining what had happened. (By the way, I received an explanation of what went wrong both in my original telephone chat, and in the email.)

“And then the senior development officer says to me: ‘I was looking at your record, Ms. Joyaux. And did you know that 3 days from today will be your 20th anniversary as a EMILY donor? We are so thrilled that you have been such a loyal donor. We hope you are thrilled and proud, too.’

“And I am thrilled and proud to be a loyal donor to EMILY’s List. Wow. 20 years? I had no idea. And I am impressed at their quick response to a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. No big deal. But they acknowledged and apologized for their mistake so well and so quickly and with extra attention and care and graciousness and … I sure enjoyed that dopamine high! I tell the story over and over.”

For the life of me I don’t understand why more organizations don’t fix this part of their leaky retention bucket. Relative to stuff that gets obsessed over — engagement, contact strategy, you name it — too many organizations just don’t get it.

For example, why in the world is Donor Service dealt with by most organizations as a cost center, when good service puts thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands to the bottom line? Or treated like some redheaded stepchild assigned to the junior assistant intern who handles donor calls during lunch hour – if there’s time?

As you’ll see in the graphic below, DonorVoice’s 2012 National Commitment Study of 55 major U.S. nonprofits revealed that Donor or Customer Service is among the five key dimensions of donor commitment.

AND … if you want to figure out how to improve your Donor Service, the DonorVoice chart below pinpoints the key elements that make for great service.

If you’re really serious about retention take a look at one of the major holes in the leaky retention bucket — Donor Service.

And please, share your donor service experiences.

Roger

This article was posted in: Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, DonorTrends / DonorVoice, Nonprofit management.
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