Frictionless, Convenient, and Emotional – Branding Your Donor Experience

A few days back, Tom Groenfeldt, a contributor to Forbes, wrote about the intersection of technology and shopping patterns at Kroger’s grocery stores.  If you missed it, it is a worthwhile read on how Kroger (and other major retailers) are getting to know your shopping habits better than you know them yourself.

The article introduced a few interesting ideas for us in the charitable giving sector.  Groenfeldt says that Kroger aims to understand how customers “travel across the store and see how to make the experience frictionless, convenient, and emotional.”   Kroger doesn’t want to better understand their customer demographics, they want to better understand their customers.  To that end, they are developing unique customer DNA buying models based on each customer’s behavior and then targeting coupons specifically for them.

If you think about what Kroger is aiming to do in strengthening their customer relationships, there are clear applications for us in advancement.  It would seem that having a goal in which more and more of our donors enjoy a giving experience that is “frictionless, convenient, and emotional” would be wise.  Of course Kroger had almost $81 billion in sales last year.  They are resourced far differently than all non-profits when it comes to building their capacity to better understand the behaviors of each of their customers.  But that shouldn’t stop us from working toward a better understanding and enhancement of each of our donor’s experiences.

Think about each of those words and how they might apply in your shop:

  1. Frictionless – today, act like a donor and make a gift through your online giving portal.  Go through the whole process.  How easy and intuitive is it?  Or, what about the endowment reports you send to endowment donors.  How inviting and straightforward is the data presented?  Or, what about your donor recognition events.  Are the agendas streamlined and does the event leave people wanting more (instead wishing they could head for the door before it is over)?
  2. Convenient – when you visit with board members to talk about their giving, do you make a special trip to visit them on their turf and at their convenience?  Or, do you wait until they are coming to your campus or site and ask to speak with them for a few minutes after a meeting?  Do you have the technological capacity to accept recurring monthly or quarterly credit card or debit card gifts online?
  3. Emotional – read through your recent direct mail and electronic solicitations.  Are you telling a consistent, compelling story of how a donor’s gift will make a difference in another person’s life?   Or, are you filling the content with numbers, graphs, and trend data showing some measure of your efficiency or macro-effectiveness.  Remember – numbers numb and stories get stored.

We talk a lot about “branding” our institutions.  And we tend to think about branding at the institutional level.  It’s something that happens magically in the macro.  But the truth is that your institution’s brand boils down to how individuals perceive you and what they say about you when you aren’t around.  Building a strong and positive brand is an individual by individual challenge.

While your institution may not have the resources to ensure that every donor has a personalized frictionless, convenient, and emotional giving experience, that shouldn’t stop you from moving toward that goal.  At the very least, we should start with our major donors and develop strategies to ensure that we better understand their interactions with us and how we can make those interactions frictionless, convenient, and emotional.  To be sure, over time the institutions that provide this type of giving experience will thrive.


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