Like any relationship in your life, professional or personal, there are different phases to a donor’s relationship with your organisation. There’s the flirtation phase, the honeymoon period, the ‘comfort zone’, the seven-year itch, the renewed passion, and so on.
As a relationship progresses through each different stage, a subtle shift occurs in the way in which each party communicates, interacts and behaves with the other. The language we use, our tone of voice, the actions we take – or don’t take, the degree of trust we have in each other, the reliance we place on each other, the compromises we’re willing to make, the expectations we have. All of these evolve over the course of a relationship.
As you and your organisation follow the steps required to become more donor-centric, you first need to identify and understand what stage your donor relationship is at so you can work towards connecting more meaningfully, collaborating more effectively and genuinely caring for your donors in a way that makes sense for that particular stage of your relationship. In doing so, you will create ongoing value exchange, build trust and increase loyalty with your donors.
Stage 1: Catch Me
This is the stage of courtship. You are marketing yourself amongst a sea of competition, trying to attract and woo a donor by appealing to your similar interests and beliefs.
Stage 2: Welcome Me
This is the honeymoon stage. It’s where you learn how best to communicate with each other, how to support each other, and how to value each other.
Stage 3: Teach Me
This is the engagement stage. Things are starting to get a little more serious. Curiosity is peaked. Questions are asked. Information is sought. You want to learn more about each other so you can connect on a deeper level.
Stage 4: Grow Me
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.
Stage 5: Keep Me
This is something of a warning stage. It’s a reminder to never get complacent. For the relationship to work, it’s important to show respect, care and attention. Remember, trust and loyalty must always be earned so never stop striving for them.
Stage 6: Endear Me
This is the rekindling stage. Focus on reminding each other why the relationship exists, what attracted you to each other in the first place and why you still belong together. It’s an opportunity to reflect on all you have accomplished so far and ignite the passion to continue on your journey together.
Stage 7: Renew Me
This is a re-establishment stage. It’s an opportunity to breathe fresh life into the relationship in a bid to make it stronger. It may even be time to start afresh; to revisit expectations and work on understanding each other.
Stage 8: Win Me Back
This is an acknowledgement stage. It’s time to listen intently; to face up to the issues and accept the role you played in creating them. You might even need to apologise. Above all, it’s about understanding whether you’re meant to be together and then putting in the effort to make that happen.
As you embark on this journey on the journey to donor-centricity, ask yourself what stage of the donor relationship at you at with your donors? Remember, each stage comes with its own challenges and opportunities. Knowing a little bit more about each phase can help you navigate the journey. So, our next blog series will be dedicated to each stage of the donor relationship journey – stay tuned!
You might also be interested in joining LemonTree’s free Donor-Centricity Collective (DCC)? Every event we do a deep dive into one of the stages so you can learn from your peers, share your experiences, ask questions and keep up-to-date with the latest strategies to help you through that stage 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.
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
Donors are people, not ATMs: loyalty will be created by treating donors as equally as important as your cause itself.
Knowledge is power: the best, most engaging donor experiences will be created by leveraging the data, analytics, insights and observations available to you.
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.
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.
Next up in this series:
The different stages of the donor relationship and how they impact donor-centricity