Anyone who gives time or money to a charity does so with the expectation of satisfaction.
That’s not to suggest their motives are selfish. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Donors and volunteers simply want to know that their time or money has been invested wisely, and that our organization has helped them make a difference in the world.
That is, after all, the promise we make in our value proposition. (Assuming, of course, our value proposition is clear and compelling.)
This isn’t new information. Every leader in non-profit organizations I’ve encountered understands this at an instinctive level. Unfortunately, the concept of donor satisfaction rarely finds its way into the marketing or donor development activities of charities, and almost completely overlooked on the ministry side of their operations.
For-profit organizations live or die by customer/client satisfaction. In the non-profit world, satisfied donors and volunteers do two very important things: they donate or volunteer again, and they tell other people about our wonderful organization. And that’s the key to maintaining financial stability while cultivating steady growth.
Many charities eagerly devote precious resources to acquire new donors and volunteers, yet give little thought to making donating and volunteering a satisfying experience.
Seasoned leaders, however, understand that the key metric in organizational growth is not new name acquisition or even first-time donations, but consistent re-engagement. Astute leaders understand that ministry operations and donor development are not two separate functions, but interdependent teams that share a symbiotic relationship.
Consider, for example, two of the largest Christian humanitarian aid organizations in existence: World Vision and Compassion International. Both use a child sponsorship model, which is clearly not appropriate for every kind of charity and may not even be possible for most. However, their system leverages several principles that can be adapted when developing our own marketing and communications strategy.
In this series of articles, we will consider some of these principles and explore ways to apply them.
Principle 1: Donors and volunteers give to people, not to causes or organizations.
If the majority of promotional literature and donation appeals are any indication, this principle isn’t as basic as it might seem.
The child sponsorship model maximizes donor satisfaction by maintaining a direct connection between individual donors and the people served through the organization. Donors get to see the faces, and learn the names, and even carry on direct communication with the people they are helping. This helps each donor experience the satisfaction of generosity while appreciating the organization for its role in facilitating the work.
Any communications strategy we employ needs to connect donors and volunteers to the people they are helping as closely as practically possible.
Take a few minutes to examine your promotional literature and the last several appeals for donations or volunteers.
Who is the hero of the story you tell? Do you highlight the size, strength, successes, or qualifications of your organization? Or do you show the reader how to become a potential hero, a genuine change-agent in the fight against a particular evil?
Do you present statistics or describe the size of the problem you address? Or do you highlight the people potentially helped by the donor or volunteer? Can you tell the stories of representative individuals whose lives have been changed by the efforts of past donors and volunteers?
Can you communicate your value proposition in terms that feel accessible to your potential donors? What can be accomplished with a single donation of [insert reasonable donation here]? How will that donation or volunteer activity change the life of someone for the better?
Now the more difficult question: How can you bring a sense of satisfaction to the donor or volunteer after the initial transaction is complete?