Evaluating the Efficacy of Your Fundraising Processes

In Measuring Your Marketing Endeavors, we talked about how fundraising and marketing are both similar to and different from one another. Today, we continue to borrow from the field marketing, with a twist. We borrow the concepts of the customer journey and customer experience, revising them to reflect the donor focus of fundraising.    

The Donor Journey and Conversion Metrics

The customer journey is the overall series of interactions a person takes from first becoming aware of a company to the point of purchase. It lays out all the steps a person takes to result in a sale, along with the processes and procedures involved in completing each individual step. To measure the efficiency of the processes and procedures, typical marketing key performance indicators include metrics about the number of conversions that happen at each step of the process. In other words, the percentage of people completing each step that move on to engage in the next interaction. In this way, business can see where people tend to drop off in the series of interactions and develop solutions designed to keep potential customers in the pipeline. The purpose of customer journey mapping and calculating the related conversion rates are to better manage the customer pipeline and increase the number of sales.

The donor journey is the series of interactions a person takes from first becoming aware of your nonprofit to the point of donating. The series of steps that result in a donation will be different from nonprofit to nonprofit. Because most nonprofits have many ways for donors to interact with them, mapping and managing the donor journey can be quite complicated.

The first thing to do in mapping your donor journey is to write down all the points of entry. For example, potential donors can be volunteers, employees, board members, advocates, community collaborators, business professionals, neighbors, friends, relatives, or people we serve, among others. How do these people find you? How do you reach out to them? How easy is it to respond to you? Do you have a call to action, that is, a message inviting them to interact with you? What is that process? How easy is it to interact with you? Can you or the appropriate person be easily reached? How? Through what channels? Do you have a back-up plan in case one channel becomes blocked, say your website crashes or your phones go down?  

Then you go to the second step and do the same thing. How can people continue to interact with you? What do you ask of them? What can they expect of you? Do you explain their commitment? Do you explain your commitment? Do you offer a way for them to provide feedback? How onerous is your process? What are the barriers to experiencing a satisfactory interaction? How do you know? Have you checked? Do you state another call to action to proceed to the next step? How user-friendly is that process?

And then the third step and the fourth and so on, noting the processes and procedures in place at each step and evaluating their efficacy and efficiency. And when you have it all mapped out, test the process to make sure actual results are what you expected and that the process is consistent across a variety of users and user conditions.

Then track the number of potential donors who go through each step and calculate your conversion rates. This is most easily done through CRM (constituent relationship management) software, such as HubSpot or Salesforce. Some donor management software systems have CRM components to them as well. Just make sure that any marketing software you buy has the capabilities to serve the unique needs of nonprofits and any donor management software you are contemplating for CRM has robust marketing features. There are many CRM products on the market at a variety of price points. Investing in a good CRM system will make performing the marketing activities you need to be the most successful at fundraising easier. A good CRM system also makes it easier to monitor, track, and manage complex donor journeys.

The Donor Experience and Measuring Satisfaction

The donor experience is the result produced from the series of interactions mapped out in the donor journey, your brand touchpoints, and your physical environment. The outcomes can be measured on five different planes: rational, emotional, sensory, physical, and spiritual. A positive donor experience happens when interactions meet expectations.

To establish clear expectations, all of your organizational materials, not only the promotional ones, need to communicate a consistent message. Your agency’s message needs to consistent across all internal and external communications, over time, and across the rational, emotional, sensory, physical, and spiritual planes. In other words, almost all your materials - internal and external, verbal and nonverbal; everything you publicly say; and the look and feel of your nonprofit all need to communicate the same message, from your logo to your training manuals to your marketing vehicles. For a detailed discussion on how to communicate a consistent message to the community, see our discussion Influencing the Conversation About You

You want the donor experience to be a satisfying as possible so the donor will continue interacting with you and give again. This means that you need ways to engage donors after they make their donations. At the very least, thank them. And when you thank them, thank them immediately. And then have a call to action, that is, ask them to do something else. And when they do the next thing, report on the results of their actions. Let them know the impact they made – for the people you serve, not your organization. Remember, always focus on mission as opposed to money. You want to keep the donor journey going, hopefully resulting in a another or bigger donation. Keep the cycle of thanking, making a call to action, reporting results, and thanking again going. For ways to engage your donors and keep them giving, see our discussions Donor Retention: Getting People to Give Again and Again and Bringing in the Money: The Importance of Thanking Your Donors in Achieving Fundraising Success


Of course, and it happens all the time, what you think may not be what your donors think. Ever heard the phrase, “I know that you think you know what I said, but I’m not sure that what you heard is what I meant?” Well, as we said, happens all the time. To really know what your donors think, you need to ask them about their perceptions. Ask them if they find interactions with you satisfactory or rewarding. Ask them how you can improve the process. Ask them if you are providing them with something they need or want and find meaningful. Ask them how the feel at each stage in interaction. Ask them about what they like and don’t like about the look and feel of your materials. Ask them what they think your words and concepts mean. Ask them how comfortable they are with the language you use. Ask them for their input at every touchpoint. And then ask them if you understand them correctly. Check your interpretation of what they said. Your goal is to design and revise a series of interactions that you know for sure donors and potential donors will understand and enjoy participating in. And the only way to know what satisfies them is to ask them. 

That doesn’t mean you constantly ask questions. It means you ask until you get a representative sample of your donors and potential donors. It may mean you send out a questionnaire. Or maybe you conduct several focus groups. You may facilitate one-on-one interviews. Possibly you administer a social media poll. There are many ways to ask for feedback. Just make sure you get the feedback before you go to all the time, trouble, and expense of designing or re-designing a system that you don’t know will be pleasing to your potential donor base. The only way to know for sure is ask.

Data Collection, Recordkeeping, and Recording

Tracking the customer journey and brand touchpoints can be overwhelming. So can recording numerous responses to questionnaires and surveys. You will need a pretty sophisticated software to efficiently keep track of all that data and run reports. A good CRM system will help immensely, whether you use a marketing software that caters to nonprofits or donor management software with robust CRM features. A good CRM system will also have other features too, like automated email sequences, which save time when conducting large email campaigns and integrating fundraising with other agency communications.

Add conversion rates and satisfaction measures to your cadre of evaluation metrics. Use your metrics to really figure out where you can implement interventions that will increase the return on your resources and/or use the least resources possible. Your ever-present goal is to achieve the most amount of impact with the least drain on resources. You want to grow your donor base and increase donations in order grow your agency’s capacity to meet more mission. You want the ‘more mission-more money-more mission-more money’ cycle to take hold. Map your donor journey. Look at your overall messaging. Create expectations that are realized. Be sure that your potential donors will be satisfied. Use the data and tools available to you to knock your fundraising results out of the park 

Bringing It Together

Mapping the donor journey and tracking conversion rates helps you design a user-friendly fundraising system that produces results. Test your processes and procedures to ensure the actual results are the expected results. Conduct multiple tests to ensure consistency across different users and their conditions. Make sure all agency messages are consistent. Go beyond your marketing materials. Engage your donors by thanking them and presenting another call to action again and again. Check your assumptions and confirm your perceptions by asking your donors. Investing in a good CRM platform will help you use less resources to raise more money.

Go ahead and map your donor journey. How easy it is to find and donate to you? How rewarding and satisfying is the experience? How do you know? Have you asked your donors? Let me know where you are by commenting on your results.

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