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Chapter Leadership Brief 12.20.19

Chapter Leadership Brief 12.20.19

Steve Jacobson, AFP-NYC President-Elect and CEO, JCA, Inc.

The Donor Experience

As some of you may know, I lead and manage a for-profit company that serves the technology and information management needs of nonprofits.  Over the years, we have built software products and established a consulting business.  Essentially, our nonprofit clients are our customers.  So, when I received an email invitation from an organization called “Meetup” about how to build a better customer service experience, I figured that this would be a great opportunity to learn more.

So, off I went last Thursday, ready to steel myself with the latest and greatest tools, procedures and methodologies for giving our customers the best treatment.  It didn’t take more than 10 minutes into the presentation for me to figure out that what I was learning was 100% equivalent to how nonprofits should be treating their “customers,” namely their donors.

One of the first points made was that, to be successful, you have to treat your customers with sincerity; they are your partners and you are trying to make things right.  This is no different from how we should strive to treat our donors.  If we mistakenly referred to you by the wrong name or failed to send you an event invitation that you were expecting, the canned response of “sorry for the inconvenience” just doesn’t cut it.  Instead, let’s agree on a way to make things right and make sure this never happen again.

Another tidbit I learned is that, before you can fix a problem, you need to know that you have a problem.  How many days does it take for you to acknowledge a gift?  How many donor visits has your team made this week?  If you don’t know the answers to these questions, chances are that you have a donor service problem.  You have to proactively measure your team’s performance to understand whether your donors are being treated the way they should be.

Another thing that I learned was that customer support is a subset of a larger, more important measure: customer experience.  Let’s think about the donor experience for a minute.  Sure, we want to fix problems that donors have – and that’s your version of customer support.  But, what about those donors you rarely engage?  What’s their experience like?  Are you keeping them informed of the latest developments?  Are you engaging them in your mission through volunteer or educational programs? Building lifelong relationships with your donors is a key component of the donor experience. 

As we head into 2020, I hope that you keep the donor experience top of mind.  I also hope that you’ll join us for our chapter’s Annual Membership Meeting and State of the Industry event on January 17th at Chelsea Piers.  Early bird pricing is still in effect, but you need to hurry! Click here to register. 

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