The Donor Experience – Map the giving journey to predict outcomes

October 4, 2016       The NonProfit Times      

Meet Carla. Carla is a prime donor for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Canada, better known stateside as Doctors Without Borders. She is well-educated, lives in a Canadian metropolis, is age 55 or older, and is either employed full time or retired. Carla is not a real person.
Carla is, rather, a persona created by the staff of MSF Canada in Toronto to represent a mid-level donor. Using Carla, representatives from across MSF Canada’s fundraising, finance, human resources, communications and other teams mapped out how a typical mid-level donor is engaged by the organization and the overall customer experience.
Journey mapping tracks customer or donor experience by plotting theoretical interactions between the individual and the organization. Vivienne Chartrand, MSF Canada’s annual giving coordinator, and Jessica Lewis, senior consultant of strategic services at hjc in Toronto, used the Carla persona to provide tips and lessons learned for journey mapping during the recent Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference in National Harbor, Md.
The first step to journey mapping is identifying key personas and challenges the organization faces in interactions with them. MSF Canada identified personas for emergency supporters, advocates, major donors, monthly donors and mid-level donors, ac­cord­ing to Chartrand, the latter represented by “Carla.”
MSF Canada used donor survey responses, constituent relationship management (CRM) data and staff input to flesh out personas. Mid-level donors such as Carla, for instance, are defined by MSF Canada as giving between $500 and $4,999 annually, with an average 12-month value of $1,416. The challenge, Chartrand said, is retention. Only 35 percent of mid-level donors give a subsequent gift, a rate that increases to 80 percent after three years or more of giving.
Staff across departments mapped Carla and the other four personas’ experiences during a four-hour session split up among five teams. The idea, Lewis said, is to use the persona as a means of thinking about how donors in that group are interacted with and how they are likely to feel during those interactions.
The communications Carla receives after her first gift have included a thank-you call, welcome package, personal email, 2016 annual appeal, requests to sign petitions, bi-annual newsletters and holiday solicitations. The facts that Carla is noticed, appreciated and made to feel as though she is having an impact were identified as highlights on her journey. Being added quickly to the house mailing stream, limited personalized messaging, and being made to feel as though the organization wants another gift quickly were seen as negatives.
Strategies gleaned from the exercise include more new-donor-appropriate communications, leveraging CRM data to create better segmentation, sending thank-you videos from the field and increasing opportunities for engagement — including telephone town hall meetings and invitations to documentary screenings and other events, Chartrand said.
She recommended taking on fewer personas than MSF Canada did and giving staffers more than four hours to work, pointing out that other personas can be identified and evaluated afterward. MSF Canada conducted the journey mapping exercise during an organization-wide technology upgrade and Chartrand advised that organizations could map out journeys during similar times of wide focus, such as during annual planning.
Once a system of journey mapping is developed in the organization, the concept can extend beyond donors to other populations interacting with the organization, she said.