We use cookies. You have options. Cookies help us keep the site running smoothly and inform some of our advertising, but if you’d like to make adjustments, you can visit our Cookie Notice page for more information.
We’d like to use cookies on your device. Cookies help us keep the site running smoothly and inform some of our advertising, but how we use them is entirely up to you. Accept our recommended settings or customise them to your wishes.

A Practical Guide to Creating a Donor-centric Fundraising Program

As most of you reading this post will know, the well documented buzzword in nonprofit fundraising is donor-centricity. Everyone has bought into the concept that we must focus on donor experience above all else. The legacy focus on siloed, channel-specific strategies and tactics served us well in the past. Yet in today’s fragmented media landscape, where donor expectations for user experience have been raised by commercial juggernauts like Amazon and Zappos, we must create a donor-centric experience that combines online and offline efforts.  It is essential to integrate across programs to craft a connected, personalized donor experience that is aligned with a donor’s mindset, affinity, and needs at each phase of their lifecycle. In the competition for donor giving, the idea stands that if you don’t create the expected experience, then somebody else will.

Agreed? Agreed.

OK, so now comes the hard part. How does, a seasoned nonprofit fundraiser who has run a successful direct mail program for decades, who has grown a solid digital team over the past few years, and built a profitable events program, re-orient not only the organization’s programs, but  the entire organization? How can you enable this shift away from channel-specific communications, revenue goals, and silos?  It’s a big, audacious shift, and one that needs to be made in bite-sized phases.

Our latest whitepaper, Donor-centric Fundraising: A Practical Guide to the Next Generation of Fundraising, maps out meaningful steps you can take to begin this shift, by starting at the beginning: defining your audience via sophisticated, enterprise-level motivational segmentation, and delivering a great experience for each donor being respectful of their preferred channel and cadence. Let’s explore these interrelated approaches in more detail.

How to craft a successful Donor-centric fundraising program

At the core of a donor-centric program are the following:

  1. Donor Segmentation and Strategy: Do you have a fully functional enterprise segmentation definition – one driven by motivational segments, targetable in online and offline channels. Does that include donor lifetime value (LTV), channel preferences, and motivations/reasons for giving? Are the enterprise segments shared across the fundraising organization?
  2. Experience Delivery: Are you building donor journeys? Do they assemble the right media mix that also targets and personalizes the journey for each segment?

Defining the donor and the donor experience

Start with the core program elements of defining the donor:

  • Neuroanalytics-Driven Market Research:
    This Merkle proprietary approach delivers a real understanding of the donor audiences based on donor motivations and reasons for giving, using both qualitative and quantitative research.

Then, proceed with the development of the audience segments:

  • Personas and Segmentation: Using the market research results, we develop donor segments based on commonalities in decision-making about giving. We then project the segments into your prospect and donor base.
Using the donor segments, you must define the core marketing program:
  • Donor Experience and Journey Mapping: For each segment across the stages of the donor lifecycle, we help you define the donor needs, the value proposition (case for giving), and the content, creative, message, and offer. Lastly, define the multi-channel media mix and plan that best personalizes the journey for the segment and their specific persona definition. The donor-centric approach improves on the status quo by segmenting, targeting, personalizing, and generally creating a more relevant experience for the donor. The experience mapping process is a cross-stage, cross-channel, cross-program methodology.

Finally,  execute the program in market:

  • Activation: With the segments and plan established, pilot in-market using the personalized journeys to present a dynamic, personalized experience for each donor.  Establishing structured testing guides program optimization.

Program enablers

While a robust donor strategy and experience delivery are at the core of any donor-centric program, it is also true that an organization must have the following enablers in place to support them:

  1. Data and data infrastructure: Do you have a 360-degree view of your donors? Does it integrate online and offline donor records, transactions, promotion history, and fundraising costs?
  2. Organization: Do your fundraising departments share a unified structure, donor vision, and a common knowledge of fundraising goals that allows them to collaborate productively across an integrated, cross-departmental program?
  3. Financial Strategy: Are you able to measure and attribute the value of donations to the individual marketing touchpoints across the multi-channel promotion? Are you using that attribution for bottoms-up campaign planning and top-down budget planning and optimization?

Again, I understand that this is a big, audacious shift. But remember what we agreed: if we don’t deliver the expected experience, then somebody else will.