Donor experience in the Experience Economy

This is an excerpt from a workshop that Dave Raley will be giving at the Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes Conference 2020 in Dallas this April. If you’re a leader in a Christian nonprofit organization, Outcomes is the place to be. The content is excellent and the chance to connect with fellow leaders and practitioners is absolutely worth it.

THE AGE OF EXPERIENCE — Dave Raley, EVP Masterworks
Tuesday, April 7, 3:30 p.m. Central
Outcomes Conference, Dallas, Texas

We’d love to see you there!

The world is changing. As a society, we’ve moved from commodities, to brands, to experiences. But how does this affect nonprofits? How is fundraising transformed by this Age of Experience? 

Three massive trends are impacting fundraising and marketing for organizations today: 

  1. The rise of the Experience Economy
  2. A massive generational shift to Baby Boomers
  3. Acceleration enabled by technology

Together, these three forces are fundamentally reshaping the way people expect to be treated. 

Let’s start by briefly unpacking the first trend — the rise of the Experience Economy.

Donor experience drives long-term value

We live in the Experience Economy. The same Experience Economy that enables Starbucks to charge $3+ dollars for a 2-cent cup of coffee is also shaping donor expectations today. Donors in previous generations gave out of a sense of duty, while donors today have different expectations for the brands they give to. They’re concerned with value, convenience, meaning, belonging, and affirmation. 

Today, Baby Boomers are the largest group of donors by generation. They’re leading the way in reshaping expectations around donor experience, bringing to the forefront two fundamental truths about every organization’s donor experience:

First, your donor experience is not what you think it is. 

Every donor experience has elements that hurt the donor relationship. Often through no intention of anyone in the organization, donors will face points of confusion or frustration. If you were to experience your organization as a new donor, what would your experience be? 

Second, donor experience is less about filling potholes and more about creating memorable moments. 

While you can just make a bunch of tweaks in the hope of fixing your donor experience, we find that’s like endlessly plugging holes in a leaky bucket. The work will never be done. And every time you plug one hole, another appears. We usually suggest our ministry partners concentrate instead on the few elements of the donor experience that are remarkable — those that have the greatest impact on donor delight and giving. Either they’re remarkably bad or remarkably good. It’s critical to know what they are, so you can improve the good experiences and eliminate or mitigate the bad. 

These four moments are foundational to your audience’s experience:

  1. Peaks
  2. Valleys
  3. Milestones
  4. Transitions

To create a great audience experience, then, you’ll need a deep understanding of the best and worst moments for donors. What are the moments of elevation — the absolute best? Are there any? Likewise, what are the worst moments? Keep in mind that whether good or bad, these moments are ALL memorable. So, what insights can you gather? And what would you add, remove, or change? 

We all have our suspicions about what our audience experience is. And when I talk to ministry leaders and marketers, I find they typically have pretty good hypotheses. But the truth is, they don’t have a completely objective, holistic perspective. 

To get a full, accurate understanding of the audience journey, ministry leaders need several other trustworthy perspectives. First, other staff, particularly on the frontlines. Insight from the person at the front desk, or a service rep answering the phones, or a manager in gift processing are invaluable to creating a fuller understanding of where the problems and opportunities might be.

But if you just involve insiders, it’s very difficult to understand the full picture with clarity and without bias. So it’s important to have an outside perspective too — for two reasons: First, outsiders are far less prone to buy into cultural norms and that’s the way we’ve always done it thinking. And, second, the right outside expertise will bring experience with other organizations and be able to help prioritize the issues that need addressing and the opportunities that are likely to bear the most fruit. 

The best partner will also bring a human-centered design approach to the process. Human-centered design starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions made to suit their needs. The best partner will talk directly to your audience and understand what motivates them, what excites them and what aggravates them. It all comes down to unearthing invaluable insights that will guide you as you take your donor experience to the next level.

We’ll cover much more in the Outcomes Conference workshop on April 7. If you’re considering attending, or if you’ll be there, please drop me a line. I’d love to meet you. 

— Dave Raley