It feels like all the big shops are talking about donor journeys these days. It's the new buzz word and catchphrase that everyone is getting excited about.
But for small nonprofits, it can feel a million miles away.
"Who has time to focus on or craft a donor journey? What is a donor journey anyways? Is this really that important when I have a million other things to do? Maybe it can wait until we have more time and resources. I'll add it to my never-ending to-do list and we'll see, maybe it will get done in the future."
A donor journey is just a fancy way of describing how you deliberately craft a relationship with your donors so they get to know you better and you get to know them better. Is this important? It's not just important, it's urgent! This is one of the most impactful areas on which your organization can be spending its fundraising energy.
Here's the good news - it's not as hard as it sounds.
Recently on one of our free monthly fundraising masterclasses (you can register here for the next one) we had as our guest Brock Warner, fundraising geek extraordinaire. He broke down the mystique of donor journeys and showed us what he and his organization does. Here are some of my favourite insights from our masterclass.
The donor journey starts when someone first learns about your organization
I've heard a lot of people talk about the donor journey as starting when someone makes a gift, but Brock's insight that it starts when someone first learns about your organization is bang-on. I want you to think of everyone you and your organization meets as a potential donor. How do you communicate your work in a simple and compelling way that can excite them and build interest. Cut out jargon and use lots of stories to build a meaningful connection.
A welcome matters
That period right after someone makes a donation is critical. Many large shops produce beautiful glossy packages to send in the mail that deep dive into the impact of supporting the cause. I am not advocating for a glossy brochure, but there are low-budget things you can do to welcome first-time donors.
Start with a thank you call - totally free and deeply meaningful, have a board member, staff or volunteer simply call to say thanks. Do this right away.
Tell your donors what to expect - let your donors know how often they can hear from you, if they give monthly, when their donation will be processed, you can even go so far as to tell them what time of year you send appeals! Include this in their acknowledgement email to make it simple.
Have a special webpage showcasing their impact - instead of a brochure in the mail, send them a link to a hidden webpage (meaning it's not accessible through your site navigation) that is special to your donors. Tell stories and showcase impact.
Communicate regularly and batch it out!
In our most recent surveys with donors across organizations, donors are saying they want to hear from the charities they support monthly. That can feel super overwhelming to small organizations. But it's important that your donors feel connected. Here is one hack to churn out a year's worth of content without too much work - send a monthly story. Here are 12 people you can profile in your monthly story. Keep the email simple and straight forward. Pre-write these emails in advance to save even more time.
a client/someone who has benefited from your organization
the founder or executive director
a front-line worker
a board member
someone who endorses your work
a partner or someone who helps you deliver you work
another board member
someone beloved within the organization (volunteer, staff, client, etc.)
Get to know your donors (micro surveys)
When Brock mentioned this I got super excited. So much of what we do to "deepen relationships" is in pushing information out. Tell stories, send information, etc. This allows us to build the other side of the relationship, how we get to know our donors better. Include simple survey questions in your regular communications (change up the questions on set a rotation) to hear from your donors. You can ask things like "what's one message you want to send to the population we serve" or "what do you want to know more about".
Capture it - a database matters
Okay, okay. Databases won't make or break your fundraising. Especially pricey databases. And yes, they can be a huge source of headaches. I'm like most of you - I don't like databases and I get lazy. I don't put in the information. But (and this is especially true for small organizations), it is so important that your organization capture information beyond giving history. The more you invest in building relationships, the more important it is to get that down somewhere. Especially, especially if you are really small and all that information lives inside the ED's head (yes, I'm talking to YOU).
I've done a lot of looking at database for our clients and the one I hands-down recommend for price and functionality is Bloomerang. If you have a budget under $250,000 and fewer than 1000 records, they have really amazing pricing for the first two years, but even after that, it's only $99/month (USD). I wouldn't usually describe a database as beautiful, but this one is. I love it so much that I'm signed up as a partner. If you tell them The Good Partnership sent you, you'll get 10% off your fees from their full-price packages. Don't worry, I don't get anything in return, other than knowing that more organizations are doing better fundraising, which is my mission.
I'll leave you with this thought: don't reinvent the wheel. Become a monthly donor to a few organizations you admire and learn from what they do. In online marketing they actually sell products called "swipe files" where you basically copy what someone else has done, but making it your own. Don't be afraid to model your own work after other organizations.
Take it step-by-step. You've totally got this.
And hey - sign up for our email list below so you don't miss the next masterclass. These are amazing sessions where you can learn so much from industry experts and how to apply it to your small nonprofit.