What Do Your Donors Really Want?

“Walk in Wisdom” is the theme for this year’s AGRM Conference. If wisdom is asking the right question at the right time, the savviest fundraisers today are asking this question: “What do my donors really want?”

And rightly so.

In today’s Experience Economy — first described in Harvard Business Review in 1998 — organizations that create exceptional experiences for their “customers”  set themselves apart and reap enormous rewards, including:

  • Stronger donor relationship
  • Enhanced loyalty
  • Reduced churn
  • Increased revenue
  • Reduced costs
  • Increased referrals

If one thing differentiates the most successful organizations in our marketplace today, it’s a focus on the customer experience. McKinsey Consulting emphasizes that the leading organizations understand that they’re in the customer-experience business.

Think Apple, Starbucks and Amazon.

Ask anyone in those companies what their central offering is. They’ll tell you it’s not merely a product or service, but their customer experience. (Read the book The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.)

Customer-experience focused companies today are winning in the marketplace. A recent survey by Forrester found that three out of four organizations report that “delivering a great customer experience” is their top strategic objective for growth today.

Next-gen donors crave experiences

Since 1998, the shift to the Experience Economy  has only accelerated, especially among the next-gens — Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials — the three generations now giving three-quarters of all dollars to charity.

I call these next-gens the “experience generations.” (Baby Boomers were known as the Woodstock Experience Generation.) These generations represent 86 percent of all donors to charity today. And three out of four of them would rather spend their money on an experience than merely purchase something desirable.

Say hello to the Experience Economy

If you want to generate more sustainable revenue quickly, give next-gen donors what they want.

What many next-gen donors want and crave, it turns out, is an experience — something memorable that creates an emotional connection as they interact with you — as they give their time, talent, and treasure to make a difference. (Positive emotions lie at the root of donor loyalty.)

Yes, as a fundraiser, you’re transacting with your donors. But what else do you have to offer them? Can you fulfill a need they didn’t ask you to meet, or maybe even one they didn’t know they had, somewhere within their interaction with your brand?

Can you help them feel more connected to each other, their community and their world, and more passionate about your cause? That’s what four of five next-gens say they want. (Think about the last great customer experience you had. What made it so amazing and extraordinary?)

Accomplish this, and you’ll have the loyalty of a mobile, social generation of next-gen donors who can’t wait to share their experience with their friends and loved ones.

Want to optimize your organization’s donor experience?

I believe that optimizing your organization’s donor experience is the single most important factor for achieving breakthrough success in fundraising today.

Want to learn how?

We’re offering a special learning experience at this year’s AGRM Conference, June 12–15, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

On Thursday, June 14, from 3–4:15 p.m. (Seminar Group 4), I’ll offer the workshop “Fundraising Breakthrough: Unleashing the Donor Experience.”

You’ll learn how to:

  1. Engage donors so they feel less like cash machines and more like passionate participants.
  2. Differentiate between experience enhancers and experience detractors — and why it’s not enough just to deliver positive experiences.
  3. Use the three essential building blocks of the donor journey to maximize emotional connection and generosity, providing an experience that leaves donors wanting more.
  4. Use new technologies to amplify the donor experience and build an experience-creation life cycle that transforms last-century Fundraising 1.0 into breakthrough Fundraising 2.0.

Until then, “walk in wisdom.” And keep asking, “What do my donors really want?”