The term consumer journey is widely bandied about in marketing circles. Simply put, it is the ‘journey’ followed from initially feeling a need for a certain product, identifying possible brands, and narrowing down options to finally buying a particular brand. Just like consumers, donors follow a path starting from initial scepticism, then developing an interest, to finally giving a donation.
Today I want to talk about the donors’ journey and why it is very important for every fundraiser and organisation to measure their donors’ journey.
The donors’ development cycle is like a railway track connecting different stations. Ideally, your strategy would be to shorten the journey between the first and last station for new donors, while maintaining and strengthening bonds with existing donors (committed donors) through a retention strategy.
Here are the stages and what ideally should happen at every station:
1 – Suspect Stage (Awareness and identifying stage).
At this stage, you should work on identifying your donors and work on different criteria to evaluate your donors. At this point, let us call the donor a ‘Suspect’.
Your job is to do all it takes to transport your potential donors to the second station. This could include providing your potential donor with additional information or publishing a report that might attract your potential donor’s attention. At this stage, the ‘Suspect’ is not sure if you are the right organisation to support and is in two minds over the level of support they could offer you. You should get to know more about your ‘suspects’ and provide them with information relevant to them and thus pique their interest in working with you. The ideal step at this stage is to come up with a scoring formula to prioritize your list of potential donors.
To summarize the suspect stage:
- The key task at this stage is to raise awareness to attract potential donors, and to study your donors and understand their needs.
- At this stage, you have:
- No clarity on who your potential donors are or their interests.
- No clarity on the size of gifts and/or donations you might receive from your potential donors.
- Fundraisers need to do qualifying activities to identify the best potential donors who can then be moved to the next ‘station’.
- If you would like to see a simple scoring formula I prepared for a direct email campaign with a call-to-action, then please drop me an email and I will be happy to provide the same.
2- Prospect Stage(Consideration, engaging and decision-making stage).
Potential donors who meet the highest scoring formula should be moved to the second station in the donors’ journey which is the ‘Prospect Stage’. The Prospect Stage is an important part of the donors’ journey as it is this at this stage you have identified potential donors who have an interest (even if it is the most basic kind) in your organisation and mission from your targeted list. Now, based on the scoring formula you created, you will know who is more likely to fund you, or is interested in being a donor, from the list. Potential donors at the prospect stage could still be divided between unqualified prospects and qualified prospects, based on your scoring formula.
The next step depends on the number of names shortlisted and your team’s capacity. If your prospect list has over 1,000 prospects and you have only one or two fundraisers to do the work at this stage, I would suggest you do another round of qualifying activities. Based on the result and prioritization of your list, you can start with the names on the top of the list and engage with them through personalised communication and face-to-face meetings. It is now time to prepare for your ask. How to do the ask is something I have previously covered on my blog. Nonetheless, to put it shortly, assuming that you have done your groundwork by explaining the size of problems and your suggested solution, when you do the ‘Ask’ will show your donor the value of working with you. Share your overall budget with your donor and ask them how much from this budget they want to sponsor/contribute to.
I will soon be publishing a detailed video-blog (v-log) on creating the perfect fundraising pitch, but until then, I request you to read my free e-book ‘6 Tips To Raise More Money’, which can be downloaded for free from HERE.
The next step is to check your bank account for the donation and if needed, do another follow up! As I mentioned in my e-book (link above), t you should never come across as needy while following up on donations. Instead, highlight the value of associating with your organisation and brand, while providing more details on the project/scope of work that attracted your donor in the first place.
To summarize the prospect stage:
- Potential donors have shown different levels of interest towards your organisation.
- Depending on the size of your shortlist, you might do another round of qualifying activities to narrow down your list.
- Meetings or personalised communication, including preparing to make the ask.
- The final stage is the follow-up, where you should avoid being perceived as a needy organisation.
3- Donor Stage (Implementation and Recognition)
By now, you have successfully converted your prospect to a donor. Although you have done a significant amount of work in the past two stations and secured the amount you targeted from your donors, there is still work to do to complete the journey.
The first thing to ensure at this stage is that you recognise the contribution and support of your donor. While this varies case by case, I assume you and your donor have spoken about this and come to an agreement on the level of acknowledgement on your part. Even then, it is always better to go one step above and beyond what the donor expects. Remember, a happy donor is a repeat donor! The second important part at this stage is to ensure successful implementation of the project that the donor is supporting.
The final task at this stage is working on a retention plan that is suitable to your donors and the level of funding and support you have received from them.
To summarize the donor stage:
- The donor has made the contribution.
- You must fulfil any recognition requirement from the donors’ side and deliver more ‘surprising stuff’.
- You must ensure successful implementation of activities funded.
- Working on a retention plan.
4- Repeat Donor Stage (Retention, Reporting and Stewardship)
This is the final and most critical stage of the donors’ journey, so don’t underestimate the level of work required here!
A retention strategy should be tailored to the expectations and capabilities of your donors. You must work on retaining your donors and ideally try to increase the level of funding you receive from them the next time. It is not just funds, donors can help you by referring you to their clientele as well. One of the important activities at this stage is providing reports and project outputs for donors in the form of videos, testimonials, field visits, etc. Here are a few (out of many) activities that might increase your retention rate and hence the number of repeat donors:
- Meeting them without a pitch.
- Organising donor events.
- Offer volunteering opportunities – if applicable.
- Special public relations and communication plans.
- Recognition in your annual report/publication and website.
- Video testimonials from your senior staff and beneficiaries – if applicable.
- Listing their names on a ‘donors wall’ if they have supported the development of a construction project or a similar concept.
- Invite them to events that you attend, including technical events.
- Offer to come and talk to their staff/clients/suppliers/customers to explain how their support made a difference.
To summarise the repeat donor stage:
- Fulfil the reporting requirements.
- Come up with a retention strategy that is suitable for the types of donors you have.
- Utilise your donor and always ask them to facilitate extra funding for you or refer you to other potential donors from their network.
So now you have a complete view of the donors’ journey and some terminologies that might help you strategize your fundraising plans and categorise your donors. I really hope you find this blog useful and beneficial!
I want to end by highlighting that nowadays the internet and latest inbound marketing tools have helped us shorten the donors’ journey and to categorise potential donors and prospects in an easy way.