When fundraisers think about the current donor experience, now more than ever, we start by thinking about the donor journey: how donors experience your non-profit through your touchpoints. But this introspective strategy is inherently flawed. By only looking at your existing touchpoints, you fail to understand all of the moments in between - the moments where your donor is making a decision to stay with you and continue the journey, or not.
Only by understanding the complete journey, both introspective (looking internally) and extrospective (looking externally), can fundraisers design experiences that meet the needs of their donors, and ultimately pull more donors further along the journey - where donations are consistent, often and generous.
Now to get to those in between moments, you need to go deep with your donors. You can’t rely on your touchpoints or assumptions to reveal your true donor journey. You can’t send static surveys to donors and expect to get back these juicy nuggets of insights. You need to speak with them, one on one, and get the full story. You don’t have to speak to all 1,000 or 100,000 of them, but you need to speak to enough of them to understand patterns in behaviour.
Here are a few examples of introspective and extrospective tools:
In a recent Real Path project, we created the alumni donor journey map for a major Canadian university, specifically focused on varsity athlete alumni. In an ‘introspective’ journey map, we might have missed the critical high point that alumni players get from rehashing memories from the good old days with old teammates. We might have also missed that the first year post graduation, an alumni’s decision to continue playing their sport is a key factor in their propensity to give in the future. The introspective insights, such as an ask from the athletics department within 3 years of graduating being a major grievance for recent grads, would have come out either way, but the extrospective moments solidified why that introspective insight was critical in the overall experience. By adding these extrospective steps into the donor journey, we could clearly see that existing touchpoints were happening around the university’s schedule, not the potential donor.
When fundraisers focus on their existing touchpoints, they can only improve those same touchpoints. The donor journey may improve marginally, but critical understanding of the donor and what moves them to donate may be lost. This is why Real Path is so focused on deeply understanding the full donor experience. We know understanding these in-between moments allows fundraisers to create truly exceptional experiences for their donors.
In the case of the varsity alumni donors, we completely overhauled a static fundraising program based mostly on one-time donations and basic monthly gift asks, into a monthly giving campaign based on a deep, rich understanding of the donors (and potential donors) and their motivations. We took that understanding, and we developed a new journey, a journey that satisfied the in-between moments, and focused on donors. And what’s even better is that it doesn’t require a big budget or resources to execute - in fact, it didn't cost an additional cent. We focused on reducing the effort put into moments that aren’t important to donors, and putting that time into the moments that really matter.
So far we’re knocking it out of the park. After just 4 weeks of execution, the pilot program has:
attracted more new donors with this single campaign than the last 2 years combined
moved 5% of the existing target donor base from one-time donors to monthly donors
9x increase the number of monthly donors
which will increase the annual income from recurring revenue by 625%
Now if we think about that all together in terms of lifetime value, it’s pretty huge. Importantly, this is not a one-time push - the program has been built with sustainability in mind, both in terms of the stewardship plan for these donors, but also in terms of bringing in donors beyond the ones we have pulled in, in the initial push.
With every non-profit partner, we are proving that having a complete understanding of a donor’s real journey is the way to move the needle on fundraising, but that journey is quite nuanced. Let us show you what’s hiding in plain sight so you can give you donors emotional reasons to engage with you long term.