Ongoing digital transformation has been a huge challenge for non-profits both big and small, with research by Charity Digital reporting that 58% of UK charities said they had no defined digital strategy. But despite this, incredible things have been achieved in the last few years, and there is considerable ambition for more progress to be made. The same report found that charities’ top digital aspirations for the next 12 months included integrating digital into their organisation, developing a digital strategy, raising more through digital channels and embracing a digital culture.

But with limited resources, where should nonprofits be concentrating their efforts? Just as in commercial businesses, the evidence points towards customer experience, or supporter experience as we might call it in this sector. SalesForce found that 75% of nonprofits believe that customer experience is their key competitive differentiator In addition, 57% of those asked said they would stop supporting one nonprofit organisation because another provided a better experience. It’s also worth considering that 84% of companies across all sectors report an increase in their revenue after working to improve their customer experience.

Transforming the customer experience

When someone buys a product or service from a business, their purchase is their core reward with a layer of experience around it. But when they donate to charity, what they get in return is purely the experience of giving and the emotions associated with their wider interactions with the organisation. So it’s crucially important that this experience feels easy, positive, uplifting and authentic. Every interaction needs to be considered because all will impact on how a person feels towards that organisation. Having become used to the personalised, seamless journeys provided by the big names we use every day: Amazon, Deliveroo, Uber, people have come to expect the same level of service in all their digital experiences.

Creating equally smooth tailored experiences across multiple channels is an ambitious goal for most non-profits but one that will reap rewards in the long term. Personalising experiences and serving up the right content to the right person at the right time is likely to increase both engagement and donations. But there are quicker wins that can be tackled in the meantime. When it comes to specific supporter journeys, a journey mapping exercise will show where gaps exist and improvements can be made. It’s important to understand how a person might feel at every stage of the journey, using evidence gleaned from focus groups, call centres, forums and social media. Once pain points and barriers to completion become clear, better supporter journeys can be crafted, simplifying processes, creating more satisfying interactions and reducing costs too. In short, they can empower the organisation to both give supporters the experiences they want and create more efficient back-end processes.

For instance, donation journeys often go straight to a form, with not much feel-good factor around what the donation will do either before or after their action. People don’t always get a personalised follow up about the difference a donation made or the success of a campaign; sometimes all supporters will get is a transactional receipt or more requests for donations. There is so much more that can be done to improve not just acquisition but also retention and engagement, using insights from behavioural science to encourage positive decision-making, uplifted levels of giving and supporter customer journeys.

Improving the supporter experience also requires robust data management. The pandemic has meant organisations had to move fundraising largely online, but this does mean is that they are now privy to even larger amounts of data than before. These can provide valuable insights that can be utilised to personalise communications as well as guiding planning and forecasting. There’s no doubt that for many charities this will mean investment in new data analysis tools, but there are huge potential gains when it comes to measuring the impact of campaigns and planning future ones. 

Building transparency with blockchain

Improving levels of trust is another important factor in the wider supporter experience for non-profits. Overall trust in charities in the UK is currently 6.2 out of 10 – up on the last few years but still not back to 2014 levels. Blockchain is already being successfully used by some charities due to the transparency offered by this decentralised ledger technology. Charities including St Mungo’s, Cancer Research UK and Forgotten Animals are using Alice, a blockchain-based infrastructure powered by Ethereum that makes payments conditional to verified impact. To put it simply, money can be frozen and released when there is proof that a particular goal has been achieved, so donors can track how and when their donation is spent.

It means, for example, that donors to St Mungo’s can donate to a particular person who is homeless, to help them achieve their goal of finding a place to live or getting the training they need to lift themselves out of the benefit system. Donors can track their progress and see them reach their goals, or even claim their money back if no progress is made. There’s a level of accountability that only the transparency offered by this digital technology can provide. It’s an effective way of demonstrating that a donor is getting ‘value’ from their kind gesture, making them more likely to donate again.

Creating cashless ways to donate

Since the pandemic most of us are carrying far less cash, with some carrying none at all. Having fast, easy, secure ways to donate in physical spaces has never been so important. 

The RAF Museum introduced Goodbox, a simple podium unit allowing contactless donations in, for example, museums and art galleries, and in doing so saw a 150% increase in funds raised. A similar venture between the Mayor of London and TAP London raised £7,000 for homeless charities in just a few weeks by enabling cashless donations at locations across the city. 

Of course, there are many other innovations in the wider realm of customer experience that may be of value for non-profits. Chatbots can provide an easy way to access advice and information while freeing up time for staff members who can deal with more complex tasks. VR can be a powerful tool, one very successful example being The National Autistic Society’s ‘Too much information’ video to show what it’s like being an autistic child with sensory overload. Voice search is so far under-used by charities and has many possible applications, from donations to providing easy access to information. 

However, improving the supporter experience should be the No 1 priority for non-profits because it’s the most effective way to boost fundraising and engagement, and better serve their individual causes. By optimising supporter journeys, providing more ‘value’ in the form of an enhanced customer experience and increasing trust, nonprofits can not only boost fundraising, they can also build engagement and loyalty, turning a one-off donor into a lifetime supporter. 

The BIO Agency work with clients to create exceptional experiences that have impact because they’re based on real human behaviour. To talk to us about your business challenges, contact us here

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