Nonprofit Awareness 50 Points Behind Consumer Brands

Retention rates for some of the top consumer brands eclipse 90 percent. The average nonprofit hovers at just over 40 percent. It begs the question: What the heck are they doing over in corporate America and what can be replicated for the charitable sector?

Rachel Muir , vice president of training at Pursuant, and Kristine Leja, chief development officer for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, sought to uncover some answers during their session, “How Would Your Favorite Brands Steward Your Donors,” at the 2017 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference in National Harbor, Md.

    Americans have been trained to enjoy quality customer experiences and personal touches, Muir said, and poor experiences stand out. Muir provided a personal example of animal clinic that sent her a condolence card with a dog on it after her cat died. With donors looking for high-quality customer experiences, and mindful when they don’t get them, Muir and Leja provided six tips from the for-profit sector to improving donor and constituent relations:

  • Create strong core values. Customers will never love a company unless its employees love it first, Muir said, paraphrasing Simon Sinek. Companies like Southwest Airlines engage in employee profit sharing and others like Zappos are intentional about culture all with the idea that if employees enjoy where they are working and buy in, it will be paid forward to the consumer;
  • Solicit feedback. Many clothes retailers will ask customers to fill out an experience survey after a purchase. Does your organization do the same? The presenters showed a video of women on the street talking about bad haircuts they received. None of them told the hairdressers themselves, but all of them never went back to the salon and told their family and friends to do avoid it as well. Survey donors and ask for information about their experience and why they gave. Many donors are happy to give such information and it also allows the organization to segment donors;
  • Personalize. Have you ever walked past a refrigerator full of Coca-Cola bottles looking for one with your name on it? The campaign worked for Coca-Cola because people value personalization. Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco has tried to adapt to constituents’ personal preferences such as preferred means of contact — the majority of its file preferring electronic communication. Similar seeking of preference has impacted volunteer efforts.
    Volunteers are asked if they’d recommend the experience to another person on a scale from one to 10. Scores of six or below are followed up with a call to find out why. Volunteer greetings, safety talks, and the like have been adjusted as a result:

  • Think bold. Habitat for Humanity UK experimented with money-back guarantees. After six months, if donors did not feel good about their gifts, they could ask for them back. The organization didn’t receive any refund requests, but did see a 50-percent increase in donation amounts;
  • Go for emotion. Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco was thinking about how an organization dedicated to building and repairing homes could tap into the current political climate. “I Stand With My Neighbor” was born out of stories like a woman who had lived in her community for 65 years, fed dozens of local children every Sunday, and faced losing her home due to a poor roof. “I Stand With My Neighbor” can be as simple as the local affiliate helping repair a neighbor’s home, but has greater connotations, Leja said.
  • Think from the constituent’s point of view. Find the stories that you want to tell, but tell them differently to connect with specific people. “They don’t give because we’re great, they give because they’re great,” Muir said. “It’s not about impressing them with ourselves, but them impressing us with their generosity.”