Donor mountain

Psst! NGOs don't have a marketing funnel

Donor Mountain

These days I am obsessed with – “Why do people give?” or “Why don’t people give to a specific Nonprofit?” I am having dreams where I am simplifying email conversations. Or trying to remove frictions from the post-donation process or the Thank You page.

For instance, take a look at this thank you message from we/can. The copy is effective it reminds me how my contribution is going to make an impact on the extremely poor families in Jharkhand. But there is a confusion between the main campaign and the thank you note. (I will share more details next week when I am done with my small experiment with Indian NGOs and COVID19 online fundraising).

Why not embed the sharing buttons to be more evident and the hashtag can be removed. Serves no purpose. Additionally, some of the social icons fail to work such as WhatsApp and Linkedin.

Obsession is not healthy, especially for a person like me who only understands black and white. (More on that in my coming weekend newsletter)

So where was I – “Why do people give.” But to answer the question we will have to take a step back and look at the classic marketing funnel. I am not a smart or a kick-ass marketer so I have always stayed away from such fancy things. I try to fit into the shoes of a consumer and think from her side. But how relevant is the classic marketing funnel for Nonprofits?

According to the smart folks at the NextAfter, the traditional donor funnel looks like this:

NGO Marketing Funnel

Within this funnel metaphor, we are trying to move people consistently from interest to involvement, and ultimately to investment. The goal is to turn some of the visitors to our website into prospective donors. Then, we turn some of those prospective donors into new donors. And finally, we turn some of those new donors into passionate and generous givers that support our cause. Over time, we want them to become advocates—or even evangelists—for our organization and bring other people into our funnel.

When I started my journey as a digital strategy consultant working with a Nonprofit organization, my thought process was similar. Conversations(Content) lead to Commerce(Donations) but the Nonprofit world is slightly different and it is not about one-time giving.

There is no funnel, in fact, all this while we have been seeing the funnel in the wrong way. Tim Kachuriak, CEO & Founder of NextAfter does a great job of explaining this in their study Why Should I Give to You. “This is how many of us view the online donor funnel. In fact, this is how I viewed it for much of my career until I was challenged by the folks at MECLABS.”

MECLABS, the largest marketing optimization institution in the world shared with Tim that it’s a primary analogy because all marketing should be influencing somebody to make a decision. But there is a problem with the funnel.

The industry benchmark for nonprofits is between 1 and 4 percent. In other words, for 100 people that come to the website, between 1 and 4 people will make a donation. That means that most of the people are not falling into your funnel, they’re actually falling out of your funnel. You need to take your funnel, flip it upside down, and realize that gravity (meaning the organic forces in the marketplace) is not leading people to convert—it’s actually leading people to abandon. Instead of traveling down the center of your funnel, people are climbing up the sides.

Reverse the funnel and it becomes a steep path ahead which is nothing but your Donor Mountain. I am sure you must be confused by now. I was when I was offered this explanation but be with me and let me simplify for you.

Donor Mountain

Let’s take an example: I have done so many bad things in my life so I suddenly decide that let me do some good work. I love children and I want to give them food and education so I subscribe to Food for Hungry newsletter. Now let’s assume a set of things will happen before I am converted as a donor.

  • I receive first direct email appreciating my support for the NonProfit
  • My first question should I open the email and second should I even read it
  • My third question should I even click on the link that the NonProfit has provided
  • Let’s just say the link is of a one-time donation. Now there is another set of questions that I will ask myself – should I donate, how much should I give, will the money go to the right people, is it safe, and what about my data.
  • The sad part is that at any given time I am not happy with my answer I just quit. A very sorry state for the NonProfit and they don’t get the money

So every question that a donor asks is a hurdle that the NGO in fact crosses and brings it one step closer to the payments page. So it is like trekking where you overcome one hurdle at a time to reach the peak. This is your Donor Mountain.

If our ultimate goal is to get somebody to give a gift, then our “macro-yes” is a donation. But in order to get somebody to the “macro-yes” at the top of the mountain, there are a series of “micro-yeses” that must occur along that journey.

Donor Mountain

So the next question is what is the tool that we marketers have in our fundraising toolkit that we can use to help our donor get to the top of the mountain? That tool of course is our message.

Messaging & Value Proposition

Messaging is the essence of marketing. And our message acts as a rope that we lower from the summit of the mountain to help “pull our donor up” through the series of “micro-yeses” that ultimately leads to the “macro-yes.”

So what is the message that you want to share with someone for him to become a donor? “What is the heart of the message? What is the strength of our rope? What is the force behind the message that we use to help pull people through these series of “micro-yeses,” on the journey to the “macro-yes?” That force is our value proposition.”

Donor Mountain1

Your value proposition is balancing between Cost and Value as shown in the above image. For the donor to say yes at every hurdle the Value should always weight more than the cost.

In order for our message to be effective—in order for it to move our donors up the mountain towards the “macro-yes”—it must consistently convey a stronger perceived value than the perceived cost at every single decision point.

If the value proposition is cost heavy and value light, that will yield a “no” and lead people to abandon the process. If the value proposition is value heavy and cost light, then that produces a “yes.” And if we keep our donor moving with a continuous, unbroken chain of “micro-yeses,” then we will achieve a “macroyes” and get a conversion. This is why the value proposition is so critical to fundraising success.

A value proposition is very different from a mission statement. In fact, it is not a statement at all—it is an argument—an ultimate reason for taking a very specific action. The value proposition must answer the one fundamental question,

“If I am your ideal donor, why should I give to you rather than some other organization, or not at all?”

Within the answer to that question you will discover your value proposition, says Tim.

Now that we have some clarity with Donor Mountain. It’s time for a NonProfit organization to ask themselves the same question that I started with –

“Why should I give to you.” Once you have the answer ask yourself how are you achieving it.

I am sure the answers will not be simple. I will come back again with my quest to find answers for the same with examples and data. And more on Value Proposition.

Till then peace and happiness ❤️

P.S. In the last two weeks, dear ladies and gents you have donated more than ₹52,000/- to my personal ongoing fundraising COVID-19 campaign. Thank You! Sorry for spamming you enough on your social networks and inbox. If you want to contribute then here it is: Donation Link