Decades ago if you were a non-profit, just getting out a thank you receipt in the mail to a donor was considered a great accomplishment, and the donor was thrilled.
Then donors became more sophisticated and demanding. They wanted that thank you receipt within 48 hours. And, as if those donors weren’t demanding enough, they also wanted to know how their gifts actually made a difference. How dare those donors!
What was once considered great service to donors – getting their thank you letter out quickly and reporting back on impact – today, it’s just expected. So if your non-profit isn’t doing this (this basic service to donors), you are in trouble and it could be why you are seeing such high donor and donor value attrition.
I’ve been reading this great book called Never Lose a Customer Again, by Joey Coleman. I highly recommend it. Even though it’s written as a business book, all of his principles apply to you as a major gift fundraiser.
Overall, his big point is that Customer (Donor) service is NOT customer (Donor) experience. Donor service is reactive; donor experience is proactive. I’m going to give Mr. Coleman’s definition of both service and experience so you can see the difference, but put it into non-profit language:

Donor Service — the assistance provided by the organization to donors who give to the organization to make a difference in the world.

Donor Experience — how donors perceive their interactions with your organization.

You see the difference there. Yes, you have to provide donor service, by meeting the expectations of your donors. That means thanking donors appropriately, reporting back on the impact of their gifts, understanding your donor’s passions and interests before you solicit them for a large gift, and responding to their concerns and questions.
That’s just basic donor service.
But if you really want to set yourself apart and endear the donor to your organization, you have to start thinking what kind of “experience” you are going to give your donor. Then, when your donor is asked to invest their resources into your mission, there is no question in their minds and hearts that they want to help change the world through your organization’s efforts.
And the result of your efforts to create a positive donor experience is that your donor will be with you for the long-term. That is what every major gift fundraiser should be excited about: building relationships with donors that last a lifetime. (Tweet it!)
In Mr. Coleman’s book, he writes that there are essentially six ways you can communicate with your customer (donor) today. The key is to proactively plan for every donor how you are going to give them an incredible donor experience.
Here are the six:

  1. In person — Beyond just soliciting a gift, how can you use face-to-face meetings so that donors feel comfortable seeing you as an advisor?
  2. Email — What can you do with your emails to donors, so they don’t delete them right away. In other words, what do you need to change in how you communicate so that when your name appears in their inbox, they are excited to read it?
  3. Mail — Today this is probably the greatest way to “surprise and delight” a donor. When was the last meaningful piece of mail you received? Create a delightful experience in the mail for your donor.
  4. Phone — Do you have a plan before you pick up your phone to call a donor? How can you respect a donor’s time, yet inspire them as well, to deepen that donor’s relationship to your mission?
  5. Video — Video is incredibly powerful, yet we don’t use it enough to thank, report back and personalize so that the donor can see first-hand the impact they are making. You have an opportunity here that will set you apart.
  6. Presents — Not expensive things. But what can you come up with for a donor that says you know them? Say your donor is an avid fly fisherman. A book on different types of flies may be appropriate. There are many inexpensive-yet-impactful gifts that will leave an impression on your donor.

Recently Richard wrote a great blog post on why you need to have a goal for every donor. With a goal for every donor, you need a strategic plan. For every strategic plan there are a series of proactive touch points that allow you to be incredibly creative in providing a donor experience they will not forget.
As you are planning those touchpoints, use each of these six ways above to communicate with your donor that will leave them with a meaningful donor experience. The result will be donors who want to invest more in the mission of your organization for years to come.