Continuing with our 8-part blog series reviewing the different stages of the donor relationship, this blog delves into donor relationship stage 3: Teach Me. 

For this session, we were joined by guest NFP speaker Jody Crooks, the resident Head of Donor Engagement & Retention at WWF. Jody expanded on maintaining donor loyalty, aligning donor and cause values, listening to your donors and more (Queue the famous Julie Andrews line from The Sound of Music – “Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you.”) 

When I think about the ‘Teach Me’ stage of the donor relationship, I draw parallels with the early stages of a romantic relationship. You’re acclimatising to each other and working out whether you’ll still like them when you scratch below the surface. Will this be marriage or just a short fling?

We all know attrition is at its highest in those crucial early few months. So it’s really important that we help our donors avoid ‘buyer’s remorse’. It’s when they’ll start noticing first debits and will consider whether they really can afford it, or is it really the best use of their money. Will you deliver on what you said you would? To me, if we’ve delivered a successful experience in the ‘teach me’ stage, then our donors will be thinking “It’s so great to know more about WWF and how I’ll be helping for the long-term. I’m going to stick around!”

Ideally they’ll be feeling informed, more knowledgeable about your work, maybe even a little bit obsessive, and that they’ve found their tribe – they belong and they’re proud to be a part of this.

Whilst you’re in this familiarity-growing stage, you’ll want to be setting the groundwork to maintain loyalty. Some key principles to consider to help do this are: 

  • Ensuring the donor can see how your cause aligns with their values
  • How can you help your donor trust you
  • Making it clear how the core benefit you deliver is impactful and what they expected
  • Communication touch-points and personal interactions are positive
  • You make supporting you an easy experience – you are convenient.

A donor will have made the choice to support your organisation because your cause aligns with their values and interests. Like many NFPs, WWF has a wide remit, and our staff are often keen to tell them about everything we do! However, just because someone joined because they love tigers, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re inclined to care about the impact of climate change on people in low income countries – despite both being focuses of our work. They may choose to learn more over time, but it’s important not to overwhelm a new donor. That’s why we’ve developed our communications during this stage to deliver a gradual introduction and exchange of information, specific to the area of work they joined us, before opening it up to broader areas.

Knowing your donor’s motivation is obviously critical in helping you do this. Perhaps it’s based on the product or proposition they signed up on, creative messaging testing, or perhaps you have a post-up sign up survey to help you determine this.

Trust is another key factor to establish at this time, and including a supporter promise in welcome materials is a great tool for letting your donor know what they can expect from this relationship. At WWF we’re always focusing on demonstrating impact as a way for donors to feel confident we’re putting their funds to best use. For example, by sharing regular impact updates, inspiring stories from the field and transparency on use of funds.

We also take the time to welcome all of our new regular givers by calling them to say thank you, and to check that they’ve received their welcome pack. A personal touch-point early on in their relationship is a really positive way to help us both get to know more about each other. We’re seeing great retention uplifts too.

As the relationship develops, it’s time to start peaking their broader interests as we introduce other ways they get can get involved. For example, including advocacy asks in the later on-boarding journey, value exchanges such as advice on sustainable living, bequest normalisation in supporter care newsletters or opportunities to fundraise on our behalf. We find the more actions a supporter takes, the higher their engagement and the relationship is stronger as a consequence.

It’s so important to get this stage of the relationship right if we want to see those depressing early month attrition rates go down. Focusing on the key principles of loyalty should really help you do this, and never losing sight of the donors’ ‘why’. This is a person that cares about your cause – let’s make sure they know how grateful we are that they’re here!

We hope you enjoyed reading Jody’s experience in the Teach Me stage of the donor relationship journey; if you missed out on reading more about stage 1 Catch Me and stage 2 Welcome Me we invite you to check these out. WATCH THIS SPACE for our next guest blog post on the Grow Me step – This is the enrichment stage. It’s a time of excitement and opportunities. It’s time to demonstrate the value each of you brings to the relationship and highlight the impact you can have on the world if you work together.

DID YOU KNOW? Our free donor-centric community – The LemonTree DCC attracts more than 1000+ members across the nation, ranging from small to large NFPS’s?!

Thank you to Jody Crooks for sharing her knowledge on the Teach Me stage in the donor relationship journey.

Previously in this series:

 Next up in this series:

  • Grow Me
  • Keep Me
  • Endear Me
  • Renew Me
  • Win Me Back