By Drew Fox Jordan • October 21, 2021

    Personalization Mistakes To Avoid For Better Donor Experiences

    Personalization Mistakes To Avoid For Better Donor Experiences

    Picture this: You walk into a department store, and the sales clerk greets you with a smile. "We're having a blowout sale on bedroom furniture," he says. "Would you like to see our selection?"

    "No thanks," you say, letting him know you've come to shop camping gear.

    "Then it's your lucky day!" he announces. "I'm from the sporting goods department; that's my specialty." You spend the next four minutes talking through what you need before your phone interrupts you.

    "Shoot, gotta take this call," you tell him, stepping outside. The clerk promises to wait, and you return 30 seconds later.

    He smiles at you blankly. "Bedroom furniture sale on floor 2!" 

    An in-store experience like this would likely make you feel unappreciated, and the brand would lose the sale. 

    Personalized Experiences Are Within Reach

    Donors nowadays feel the same way. They get impatient with generic experiences. However, the helpful, personalized experiences we all have in our personal lives demonstrate what's possible, setting the bar for all types of donor journeys from first-time givers to sustained benefactors.

    And with the pandemic limiting in-person interactions, the need for a robust digital approach has accelerated. Now nonprofits must meet donors where they are and how they want to give — providing streamlined philanthropic experiences that map to donors' unique interests and needs to drive engagement.

    The good news? As technology continues to advance and cost barriers decline, a sophisticated approach to personalization is within reach for all types and sizes of nonprofits, schools, and hospitals alike. The not-so-good news? Many organizations aren't executing. Inhibited by data silos, outmoded technology, and a lack of coordination across teams, personalization often remains at a basic level, where effectiveness is more limited.

    5 Common Personalization Mistakes

    We all see a range of mistakes in personalization almost daily — from small areas that could use tweaking (like a misspelling) to more embarrassing gaffes (including emails delivered to "Hi, [FIRST_NAME!]"). Here are five common mistakes and tips to avoid them:

    No Personalization at All

    Have a longtime, valued supporter? You're missing an opportunity (and probably eliciting some eye-rolls) if you email them asking for a gift as if it would be their first time giving. Have a mid-level donor that is highly rated? You risk losing their support by asking them to increase their gift via online form rather than connecting with a human fundraiser to make that ask.

    Failing to connect the dots, recognize different types of donors, and vary your approach from one donor to the next is a surefire way to alienate coveted revenue. But for nonprofits, sometimes the idea of getting started on personalization can be overwhelming. However, it doesn't need to be. Nowadays, it's easy to gather data that can power personalization — your organization likely already has mounds of it. And while comprehensive, world-class personalization initiatives aren't born overnight, you can take what Gartner calls a "crawl-walk-run" approach. For example, begin segmenting donors based on data that you have already, like giving history. From there, you can build out plans with how to approach specific donors based on these known data points.

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    Inconsistent Experiences Across Channels

    Whether a donor gave a gift online or worked with a gift officer, they still expect a consistent experience from your organization. Unfortunately, a lack of personalization and continuity or a delay in passing activity data from channel to channel introduces friction into the donor journey. For example, those who consistently give at a high level should not receive the same materials as Annual Fund supporters. 

    Gift officer turnover can also impede the donor experience. Donors want to feel like their relationship with the organization is not lost when a gift officer they had worked with is no longer there. Providing the same experience will help them feel like nothing has changed.

    Lack of Individualization

    Avoid falling into the assumption that certain types of donors are all the same. Not all Annual Fund supporters lack the ability to increase their gift. Not all major donors are sure they will give the same amount next year. And while personalization based on segments is still valid and vital, your organization may be missing valuable opportunities by not speaking to certain donors as individuals. By tapping into artificial intelligence (AI) — which can rapidly process vast quantities of data, uncover patterns, and even determine optimal next steps — you can tailor your outreach to that person rather than relying on broad generalizations.

    Personalization That's too Broad

    Your personalization can also miss the mark when there's not enough specific information to back it up. Once you decide to invest in personalization, make sure you have the right messaging to create meaningful donor journeys. Chances are, the data you have on your donors provides a detailed picture to begin outreach. Developing these relationships only further provides context for how to reach this donor in the future personally.

    Incorrect Personalization

    Sometimes companies try to deliver personalization, but the result is off-base. For example, a donor's interests may have changed from previous gifts — so telling a donor about areas they are not interested in will fall flat. Or let's say after donating online, a gift officer gives them a call asking if they would like to continue support this year.

    In all cases, personalization based on incorrect or outdated data that doesn't paint a complete picture can hinder donor outreach. The lesson: clean up your data, and make sure systems and channels can pass information between them rapidly.

    Personalization Isn't Optional, It's Imperative

    Rising donor expectations and knowledge of the power of personalization have combined to make it imperative for nonprofits of all kinds. 

    Does that mean 2022 will be the year organizations excel at personalization? By taking steps to avoid the mistakes above, organizations can turn bland, cookie-cutter interactions (and off-base personalization that's hard to swallow) into experiences their donors will love.

    AI has the ability to bring your personalization to the next level. Schedule your Gravyty demo today and learn how you can reach more donors personally at the click of a button:

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