Using Your Contact Center to Strengthen Donor Relationships

In a past blog, I talked about the important role contact centers play in enhancing donor lifetime value.  I outlined several best practices, including availability and responsiveness, producing a high level of service, gathering information to strengthen relationships and acknowledging donor contributions.  Today, I’ll highlight some examples of how contact centers can be used to proactively reach out to donors to strengthen their relationship with your organization.

First Impressions and Ongoing Relationships

How you proactively communicate with donors can determine how successful you are in your donor retention. After all it's not about getting the donor to give just once; it's about nuturing the relationship to secure their continued support. When a donor gives for the first time, the quality of their experience can determine whether they choose to give again.  According to Network for Good, the number one reason that donors stop supporting a nonprofit is the way they were treated by the organization. 

Here are some ways your contact center can actively reinforce relationships and achieve better retention rates.

Thank You Calls

In her book, Donor-Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk reports that responding to donations with personal thank-you calls has shown to result in a nearly 40 percent increase in donor retention. When you call, the goal is to express genuine gratitude for the gift without a re-ask, making your donors feel acknowledged and appreciated.  When your nonprofit connects with donors without soliciting them, it gives donors an opportunity to share any stories or sentiments they might have about the cause or the giving process. Capturing that feedback can be valuable to your organization. It’s important that donors know you’re not calling with an underlying agenda.

Alicia Watts, contact center manager at Merkle Response Management, noted how reaching out solely to show appreciation helps maintain relationships.

“It’s those non-transactional moments that keeps us on their mind,” Watts said.  “It makes a great impression on the donor while reminding them about the cause.”

Recently, Merkle Response worked with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to call and thank 1,000 donors within a three-day period. Two weeks later, IOCC sent a targeted mailing to solicit the same subset of donors. They also mailed the same solicitation to a group of donors who did not receive a thank-you call for their prior donation. When comparing the two groups, IOCC saw substantial differences in response rate and gift amount.

“The donors who were called and then received a mailed solicitation had a 58 percent higher response rate, and their gift amount was 63 percent more than those who received just a mail piece,” said Jan Buchanan, integrated direct marketing manager at IOCC.

When staffing these call campaigns, be mindful of personality types; agents who are personable, patient and friendly are generally best suited for these roles.

“We identify our ‘warm and fuzzy’ agents for that process,” said Watts. 

Credit Card Recovery

When you need to update a donor’s expired payment information, calling is likely to yield the best results. At Merkle Response, we see about a 20 percent success rate when we attempt credit card recovery through a mailing. When we call, the rate of success nearly doubles to about 40 percent.  

Spoken conversations also offer a chance to thank the donor for their support, address any questions or concerns they might have and verify that their record is up-to-date.  A live conversation also makes it easier to discuss account details with the donor, establishing trust and providing assurance that it’s safe to share their payment information.

Follow-Up to Survey Feedback

When a donor calls or uses your website to give a gift, you might offer them the chance to take a survey on their donation experience. How you respond to their feedback can have a major impact on their perception of your organization and, ultimately, their willingness to donate again. Implementing constructive feedback also helps improve the experience for future donors. To let your donors know you’re listening, you need a system that helps you respond appropriately to each and every feedback instance. This will result in a higher level of service overall.

Merkle Response provides in-bound contact center services toProject HOPE, a nonprofit delivering essential medical support to areas affected by disaster and disease. Project HOPE recently began using a donor feedback platform developed specifically for the nonprofit sector by DonorVoice to collect feedback in a structured way at key interaction points across channels (e.g., in-bound donor service calls, online, direct mail, etc.). 

As part of the scripting for handling an in-bound call for Project HOPE, our agents ask each donor to take a survey and send an e-mail with a link to those who express a willingness to provide feedback. The survey is also offered when donors make an online gift.

When participants submitted their feedback, DonorVoice received the results and converted the data into a file for each respondent. The donor data was organized around three measures: level of commitment (attitudinal measure of loyalty), level of satisfaction with the specific interaction and open-ended comments. Feedback was segmented based on this information, and follow-up was customized appropriately.

Some positive feedback didn’t require further action, but some warranted an additional, tailored response - particularly in response to specific comments.

“They may ask for more information about the program, or an update on what’s going on in Nepal right now, or a request to change their address,” Watts said. “We have the ability to respond accordingly.”

By mining information from the comments, Project HOPE was better able to pinpoint the root causes of user experiences requiring fixes, and identify opportunities for one-on-one engagement. Meanwhile, they were able to use donor data to prioritize responses for more efficiency in their follow-up process. Donors with a high level of commitment and low satisfaction levels were addressed more urgently than those with low commitment levels who were highly satisfied.  By leveraging the data provided by DonorVoice, Project HOPE was able to more quickly meet the most immediate needs while acknowledging all participants in a more personalized way. 

Listening and Learning Breeds Loyalty

Be proactive in the way you react. Acknowledging donor gifts, calling to resolve issues and responding to feedback shows donors you’re available and they’re appreciated. Use out-bound communications to show them how much you care, and the mutual support you offer each other will benefit your cause overall.