Most of us realize that the experiences our donors have with our organization carry a fair amount of influence on building the relationship. However, the amount of that influence on not only the relationship, but on future fundraising results, can be surprising.

That was my reaction and conclusion after reading Kevin Shulman’s outstanding article titled “Don’t Measure Donor Satisfaction (it is a waste); Instead Measure and Act on Donor Experience.

It seems we are kidding ourselves with basic donor satisfaction surveys. They are usually general in nature and the donors taking the surveys, being above average in niceness, will usually respond in a fairly positive manner. This makes sense as I often do the same with the numerous surveys I respond to each year. Even the highly acclaimed Net Promoter Score is most likely too general in nature to truly hone in on the customer or donor experience.

Here is a section from the Wikipedia article expounding upon that very notion:

While the Net Promoter Score has gained popularity among business executives, it has also attracted controversy from academic and market research circles.

Even Fred Reicheld, the inventor of NPS admits that the initial research for NPS was flawed: “A number of perspicacious readers have noted that the statistical evidence provided in my book The Ultimate Question is imperfect. It does not provide proof of a causal connection between NPS and growth. Nor are some of the timeframes ideal.” The lack of a proven causal connection is of course a feature of all use of statistical correlation and regression techniques. They suggest where to look for causal connections, but do not provide them on their own.

No wonder Kevin suggests that we dig deeper!

His article outlines how little donor satisfaction really predicts future behavior. In fact, the satisfaction survey literally might product a false positive indicator. He quotes the following sources in regards to customer satisfaction survey results:

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, the authors cite data showing 20% of the “satisfied” customers intended to leave the company in question; 28% of the “dissatisfied” customers intended to stay. Analysis by Bain & Co. found between 60% and 80% of customers who defected scored themselves as ‘satisfied” or “very satisfied” on prior satisfaction surveys.

No wonder we need to find another method to predict future donor behavior.

This is where Kevin introduces the concept of measure the donor experience. In fact, he goes a step further in suggesting the experience measurement be as close to real time as possible. Such real time feedback will require some technology and a change of mindsets.

His example of the online donation experience brings this to life as you can see from this excerpt below:

What about the online donation experience?

  • Doing a search for charity x
  • Finding a donation page quickly/easily
  • Finding a donation page that matches the direct mail offer
  • Filling out the form
  • The confirmation page
  • The email confirmation
  • The thank you
  • Etc.

Each of these reflects, dare we say it, a donor “journey”. A set of steps a donor might encounter and form opinions along the way. If the experience is poor at any point the donor may simply abandon the effort.

Pulling feedback on each step of the experience/journey truly delivers valuable insights on how the donor feels, and more importantly, what future behavior might be. It also clues you and your team in on which donor need extra care to alleviate any concerns.

Proper use of this donor experience information can have a substantial impact on future fundraising results. Please keep in mind as your strive to reach your funding goals.