The power of relationships

The power of relationships

If the past few years have shown us anything, it’s that donor-centricity has really taken off around the globe. However, as Adrian Sargeant, renowned author, Fundraising Professor and co-Director of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy asks in his recent blog post, how far have we really come?

Whilst some charities are doing ground-breaking work, too many are merely swapping out a few keywords in their communications, ticking a non-existent donor-centric box and hoping for the best.

Why is this?

Well, according to Sargeant:

“Because the metrics organisations use to assess fundraising are still all about the money. Very few charities measure the quality of the donor experience, and how giving makes donors feel or contributes to their sense of wellbeing. Almost no-one rewards their fundraisers for improvements in any of these latter relationship metrics, so financial measures continue to dominate.”

As detailed in our recent publication, The Donor-Centricity e-Book, we believe that donor-centricity is the ongoing dedication to increasing the depth and breadth of your donor understanding, so you can connect more meaningfully, collaborate more effectively, and – most importantly – genuinely care for your donors in order to create ongoing value exchange, build trust and increase loyalty.

By continually seeking to understand your donors, you gain insights that can be used not simply to tailor your communication, but also to adapt your engagement efforts, provide a more positive donor experience, and demonstrate to your donors that they are at the heart of your entire organisation. This builds trust and loyalty – the critical foundations of any lasting, sustainable relationship.

How do we know this?

Because we’ve seen it before in the commercial world, with our parent company Marketsoft.

Whether we’re a customer or donor, a positive experience makes us feel good and – as humans – we are motivated to act based on how we feel. We tend to make decisions based on emotion, then find a way to justify that decision based on logic.

To deliver the best customer experience and earn a sustainable competitive advantage, businesses need to earn trust and build loyalty by adopting a customer-centric approach. They do this by:

  1. Understanding what their customers want, need, like, dislike, hope, fear and value at each stage of their life;
  2. Infusing these customer insights across all their business functions to help shape decisions;
  3. Creating a unique and ongoing value exchange for their customers;
  4. Engaging in open, honest and transparent two-way conversations with their customers, across many different channels; and
  5. Empowering customers to interact with their brand on their own terms.

This same applies to not-for-profits looking to generate sustainable giving, you need to earn trust and build loyalty by adopting a donor-centric approach.

Sustainable giving will only ever come from sustainable relationships, and therein lies the source of donor-centric gap. Too many organisations underestimate the power of building and nurturing meaningful relationships. Instead, they measure fundraising teams purely on the literal sense of the word.

But fundraising’s true power comes not from focusing on the dollar, but from focusing on the relationship between donor, charity and beneficiary. If an organisation can keep their focus on the donor, on finding ways to forge genuine connections, of caring for them whether they are giving or not; if they can listen and learn from their donors; if they can involve them in decision-making, and if they can make them feel heard, recognised and a valued member of the ‘family’, then trust and loyalty will follow.

So, yes, we’ve come a long way on the journey to donor-centricity, but there’s still a long way for organisations to go, especially when it comes to where their priorities lie.

“Let’s focus instead on what we ourselves are well placed to do best; the building of deeper, more fulfilling relationships, that can grow the human capacity to love others. That should be the real purpose of fundraising.”

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If you’re guiding your organisation towards donor-centricity, you’re not alone! We invite you to join our FREE donor-centric community and learn from your peers, share the successes (and the failures!) and together we can grow sustainable giving in Australia.

The 8 Steps (& 4 Principles) to Becoming More Donor-Centric

The 8 Steps (& 4 Principles) to Becoming More Donor-Centric

Having explored some of the barriers to donor-centricity, it’s time to focus on the 8 steps you can take to help your organisation become more donor-centric.

At LemonTree, we define donor-centricity as: “The continual dedication to increasing the depth and breadth of your donor understanding, so you can connect more meaningfully, collaborate more effectively, and – most importantly – genuinely care for your donors in order to create ongoing value exchange, build trust and increase loyalty.”

Much like the relationship we have with each of our friends, the members of our family and the people we work with, there is no single, linear path you can take to build trust, earn loyalty and nurture a long-term, sustainable relationship with your donors. However, there are some critical steps we can take to create the right environment for a relationship to flourish.

It’s a bit like growing a lemon tree. You have to do some groundwork first before you can expect a seedling to grow into a fruit-bearing tree. You need to consider the type of lemon tree you want to grow, the seed itself and whether it’s viable, the soil, the pot, the light, the positioning, the climate, the water, the fertiliser, and so on. You have to cultivate the perfect conditions for your lemon tree to grow. Even then, with all your nurturing, it can still take upwards of three years for it to produce fruit…and some trees never will.

The same is true when it comes to creating a donor-centric environment. You need to be in it for the long-haul. This isn’t a quick ‘low-hanging-fruit’ strategy (excuse the play on words!). It takes time and effort to cultivate the perfect conditions for your donors to grow – but it’s an effort worth taking because it leads to long-term, sustainable relationships.

8 steps to cultivating a donor-centric environment

Step 1 – Maximise the quality of your data: the most important asset you own right now is the data on your donors, both past and present. When it comes to data, quality is just as important (perhaps even more so) than quantity. Data is your key to building sustainable relationships between your donors and organisation, so be sure to practice good data hygiene!

Step 2 – Find ways to collaborate: your own data will only ever tell you so much. Donor-centricity is a commitment to increasing the depth and breadth of your donor understanding. Finding ways to partner and aggregate data insights will fuel your donor understanding and lead to best practice communication and donor management.

Step 3 – Ensure strong donor governance: your donors are the life source of your organisation and the beneficiaries you serve. Without your donors, the solution to your cause disappears. Protect your donors by introducing strong governance practices for all your donor engagement processes. Remember, protect your donors to protect your cause!

Step 4 – Recognise their life stage: a donor’s ability and willingness to donate to your cause will vary in both time and dollars as their circumstances change and evolve. Always take into account the life stage and household composition of your donors in order to provide the most engaging experience.

Step 5 – Listen to their needs & wants: “seek first to understand, then to be understood” – so Stephen Covey told us. To build trust in a relationship you need to listen to and understand the wants and needs, hopes, fears, likes and dislikes of the other party. Only by understanding and capturing your donor preferences can you communicate with them in a way that will resonate, connect and build trust.

Step 6 – Lifetime value & share of wallet:  with a wider donor understanding of engagement, a level of sustained giving over longer periods is achieved. History has shown us when donors are over-communicated to, they suffer donor fatigue and reduce overall giving. Factor in share of wallet when calculating lifetime value. Know what is fair and reasonable for your donors.

Step 7 – Optimise your communication: sometimes silence really can be golden. Your messages, channels and the timing of your communication should be based on your donor insights. It’s not always about when you have something to say, it’s about contacting a donor when and where it is appropriate for them.

Step 8 – Nurture & grow: just like any other relationship, it takes time for donors to get to know, like and trust your organisation and the work you do. Invest the time in leveraging your knowledge of your donors, your cause and its beneficiaries to find common ground, make connections and demonstrate your value. Grow the size of your donor pond, by nurturing tomorrow’s givers, today.

Regardless of the path you choose to take, your journey towards donor-centricity should be underpinned by 4 core principles.

4 Principles of Donor Centricity

  1. Donors are people, not ATMs: loyalty will be created by treating donors as equally as important as your cause itself.
  2. Knowledge is power: the best, most engaging donor experiences will be created by leveraging the data, analytics, insights and observations available to you.
  3. Relationships are ‘give and take’: trust will be created by having meaningful, two-way conversations that foster reciprocity and fair value exchange between you and your donors.
  4. It’s a marathon, not a sprint: create the maximum return on your investment by measuring the lifetime value (LTV) of a donor, not just the campaign value.

These principles are the cornerstones of creating a donor-centric environment. They are non-negotiable. They are a mindset. They are a manifestation of your intent to connect, collaborate and care for your donors…whichever path you choose to take to get there.

If you’re on the journey to donor-centricity, why not join LemonTree’s free Donor-Centricity Collective (DCC)? As a member of the DCC, you can learn from your peers, share your experiences, ask questions and keep up-to-date with the latest strategies to become more donor-centric…AND be part of a movement to help grow sustainable giving in Australia! Simply click here to sign up for free.

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Next up in this series:

  • The different stages of the donor relationship and how they impact donor-centricity

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