This was quite a moment.
Adrian Sargeant had just finished explaining to a room full of fundraisers how marketers depend on satisfaction surveys to sell more stuff.
Frequent little surveys, he'd said, provide the feedback necessary to refine products, improve services, and ensure a satisfying "customer experience."
Then he stepped out from behind the podium. He swept his arms wide and asked, "How many organizations in this room have ever conducted a donor satisfaction survey? How many of you have asked your donors how much they enjoy being your donor?"
There were maybe 150 attendees, standing room only.
Not a single hand went up.
Thus neatly making his point: fundraising is a form of marketing ... and yet most fundraisers do not use marketing's most common and revealing tool, the satisfaction survey.
In his Tiny Essentials book, Dr. Sargeant observes, "We seem to be forever playing catch-up in the fundraising profession with lessons learned many years before in the commercial sector. Corporates have known for over 30 years that the single biggest driver of customer loyalty is their satisfaction with the quality of service provided."
The vital role of newsletters in customer satisfaction
Am I promoting donor satisfaction surveys? Yes; do them. In fact, do everything that Adrian recommends. His meticulously-tested tweaks and enhancements can significantly improve both your giving and retention.
And until you get around to that survey? (What do you think? Another couple of years? Worst case, 5 years? TEN years?!? Ouch! Not until you've changed jobs? Ouch twice! Okay, let's get real....) Until then, improve your donor newsletter.
Your newsletter, properly done, can produce almost magical results.
If you follow the best advice on newsletters - from the Domain Group, from the Gillette Hospital case study, from top-shelf practitioners like Mark Phillips of UK's Bluefrog - you will see two things happen:
(1) giving to your organization will increase, sometimes sharply (how would your hospital like a 1,000% improvement in donor giving? one newsletter I know achieved just that); and
(2) you will retain more donors longer ... maybe even long enough to move them into the "likely to make a bequest" category.
"Your newsletter completes me"
For many charities, I imagine, a newsletter is merely a piece of paper that represents nuisance and cost.
For donors, though, a good newsletter can represent the fulfillment of an implied contract. Donors completed their side of the bargain: they trusted you with some of their hard-earned cash. Now it's your turn to bring back the joyous news that your donors are making a difference.
Remember the virtuous circle: Ask them ... thank them ... report to them. Newsletters are one-third of that circle.
Adapted from my forthcoming 2012 book on donor newsletters, from Emerson & Church.