Tom just weighed in from summertime New Zealand with the suggestion that we once again take up the important subject of donor service. He accompanied his suggestion with this quote from Seth Godin.

“Reactive customer service waits until something is broken. We leave it up to the annoyed customer to go to the trouble of finding us, contacting us, and then, in real time, advocating for themselves until we finally manage to make things good enough (we rarely make them better than the customer hoped).

“Perhaps we ought to spend more time being proactive.

“How many people on your team are actively advocating for the customer in advance? Guiding the process so that most disappointments won’t even happen, which means we won’t have to fix them…

“Is there any more effective way to engage with customers than to create products that don’t break their hearts?”

                                             —Seth Godin

These days maintaining the status quo will ultimately kill your fundraising. Why? Because more and more of today’s donors are expecting better things now! Fail to deliver on their expectations and you’ll lose ‘em.

And the ‘better things”’ aren’t whiz-bang apps or drop-dead awesome videos, or any of the other stuff that glows in the dark. Instead, what today’s (and certainly tomorrow’s ) constituency craves — and responds to — is something our sector is absolutely lousy at delivering … great donor service.

For the life of me I don’t understand why the concept of great donor care so eludes most fundraisers. Maybe it’s because so many believe it’s the appeals, the frequency of the appeals, the personalization on the appeals, or the ask strings that make or break a fundraising program. WRONG!

Sad but true. Most organizations do not appreciate the damage or value that poor service or great service produces. In short, there’s far too little understanding of its overall impact on fundraising’s bottom-line. As a result the idea of ‘servicing’ donors is generally treated as a cost center and not as the enormous profit center that great donor service represents.

Regular readers are probably aware of my frequent  warning that I consider the biggest risk facing nonprofits these days is sticking with the status quo — Do nothing. Avoid risk at all costs.

Well, I’m not advising you to go nuts with risk-taking. I am advising that if you want to reap BIG rewards with NO RISK (other than to your organization’s ego) you might want to start with the simplest — and one of the most important — elements of donor service … seeking the donor’s feedback.

What is donor feedback?

Feedback is the donor taking time to give you something they consider valuable.

One donor feedback example every nonprofit is familiar with is money. It has obvious value. The organization only got it because it asked . AND…the chances of getting more dramatically increase if we reciprocate the donor’s giving by showing appreciation.

Why is the donor’s opinion not treated the same way?

Why is donor feedback in the sector relegated to a banal direct response tactic with a survey on the reply form or forcing the donor to write a  note on the same reply form and have it summarily dismissed?

The nonprofits that get into the donor feedback game are the ones that will  distance themselves from their competitive set and make a meaningful dent in the retention problem.

The other channel with enormous potential and highly personal experiences and touches occurring every day is the world of donor service be it phone or email based.

In my post Better Than ‘Fundraisiing‘ I observed, ” the received wisdom in our trade is that the transactional and mechanical stuff like copy, frequency, asking amounts, offers, segmentation, and the annual string of appeals is ‘fundraising’.

In fact, while many organizations claim to be ‘donor-centric’, most merely concentrate their ‘donor centricity’ on the transactional and mechanical dimensions of the appeals or collection process itself–what they consider “fundraising.”

By ignoring or neglecting the human interaction–feedback– that results from great customer or donor service, most organizations forfeit enormous sums of money and increased levels of donor commitment and loyalty.

Sad but true. Most organizations do not appreciate the damage that poor service or great service does or doesn’t do. There’s little understanding of its overall impact on fundraising’s bottom-line.

That’s why we’re devoting this week’s post to the subject of Feedback.

Welcome to Agitator Feedback Week

Nick and his colleagues over at DonorVoice employ a series of inbound  and outbound feedback programs designed to quantitatively measure donor commitment and service-level satisfaction across channels and touchpoints.  These are automated programs using business rules designed to spot –quickly resolve–bad donor experiences and reinforce good experiences.

Because this approach uses not only survey methodology, but also free text analysis (the open, non-prompted comments offered by donors)  the insights are particularly rich –and helpful.

Nick has taken a chunk of time out of his life to personally review nearly 30,000 of these feedback comments and present his findings to Agitator readers in this week’s series.

He’ll share the top two donor comments to top organizations…what donors don’t like about your (and almost everyone’s) online giving processes…and the most universally common donor comments and concerns.

Fundraising’s Silver Bullet.

There’s good reason I consider donor feedback a silver bullet for fundraisers.  For so little cost we can uncover and fix areas of donor concern and receive substantial financial rewards and donor loyalty in return.

In fact, the mere act of seeking a donor’s input is not only a fundamental element of the two-way communications that are essential to lasting human relationships, the mere act of seeking feedback will boost returns.

Take a look at the graphic below of a test  involving only a single instance of collecting donor feedback here’s the performance 6 months after the test:

  • Contributions/purchase of additional offers increased 3 times over the control group.
  • There was a 50% decrease in attrition; and,
  • A 35% increase in net income from the test group over the control group.

As the chart notes, “If ever there was ever a ‘silver bullet’ this is it.”

AND…  check out Nick’s post tomorrow to see how one organization moved conversion rates from 12% to 32% by through donor feedback.

Why Bother?

One of the reasons for poor retention and lost donor value is that most organizations design processes and procedures for themselves. And usually the cheaper and easier option is the one that pushes the complexity and ability onto the donor.

Organizations that will thrive in today’s complex and competitive environment are those are the ones who relentlessly ask: Is this more difficult for the donor to do or use or take action?  And they get many helpful and guiding answers from their own donors through the simple process of feedback.

It’s always good to remember that our creator gave us only one mouth, but two ears.

Welcome to Agitator Feedback Week.