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Meningitis Research Foundation’s 3 golden rules for a great donor experience

Giving your donors a great experience can be tricky due to people’s individual needs and preferences, so how exactly can you cater to everyone but still leave the office at 5pm?

This article is all about sharing our three golden rules – reviewing what you offer, improving what you do and personalising the fundraiser’s experience as much as possible. When combined, we believe these create a great donor experience.

The Student Team at Meningitis Research Foundation support students across the country to raise thousands of pounds and complete incredible treks across the world. We believe that we provide a great donor experience and have several awards and shortlists to back us up!

1) Review what you do

Anything and everything can be improved, in order to keep providing a great donor experience you need to review and improve what you do.

  • Timing – Try to organise your review during a quieter period; Christmas or January work well, to try to avoid missing any important deadlines. At least half a day is required to get to review everything in detail.
  • No distractions – Take yourselves away from your desk, phone and emails. If you can get an external space, it’s a great way to get the creative juices flowing.
  • Itinerary – It’s important to plan what you’ll be discussing and to having timings for each session to ensure that you keep the meeting running smoothly.
  • Don’t get side tracked – Put the team member’s names up and at the end of each session add their action points so nothing gets missed. Have a section where you can park any discussion points that need to be dealt with separately.
  • Look how far you’ve come – Next time you do this start with looking back at what you have improved since the last meeting, it’s a great motivator!

Last year we took two days out to review our entire student programme from our communications plan, to fundraising support, to our available resources. We ended with plenty of solutions, more questions and lots more time to find in order to make the changes we wanted to implement.

Implementing the changes from this review improved what we provided our student fundraisers, the benefit of which is clear:

  • We had a clearer, more uniform and consistent communications plan.
  • The fundraising support we offered increased donations by 400% from the previous year.
  • Created 65+ new resources to support students with their fundraising.

2) Make improvements

Working with a range of people, it can be tricky to get it right for everyone, so how do you make it personal with so few hours in a day?

Developing a good rapport with any fundraiser or group is the key to success but it can take time. My team have several methods to building great rapport:

  • Share a picture of yourself – Being able to put a face to a name will already start to build that rapport. If you have a photo of you doing that specific event that will demonstrate that you know your stuff. Share on social media groups, in letters or in email headers so that from the offset they know who you are.
  • Phone a friend – Emails are a useful tool but one of the best ways to get to know your fundraisers and their needs is through speaking to them directly. You can get a better impression of your fundraiser over the phone as well as potentially saving time emailing back and forth.

"They’ve (the student team) been incredible, arranging phone calls on a regular basis with the team so that they get the most out of their fundraising" – Lauren, Everest Challenge Leader

  • Face to face support – Meeting face to face to talk over fundraising plans not only increases rapport with your fundraiser but also shows them that they are valued. We found that if our fundraisers attended all three of the face to face meetings we organised, they were 91% more likely to reach their fundraising target.

“The fundraising tips and ideas at our 1-2-1 meeting were so helpful, looking back there isn’t one thing that I would change about the support I was given.” – Eddy, Kilimanjaro Challenge Leader

3) Personalise communications

Most communications are done via email or printed letters which we all know come from a template and definitely doesn’t feel personal. We use several methods to personalise our communications:

  • Pop a handwritten note in a package – We send out plenty of resources to both our fundraisers and groups, by adding a little handwritten ‘good luck with your bake sale’ note shows them that you are taking the time to appreciate their efforts.

“I found a note in my room from you years ago from a resources package and on the back was a joke you wrote too. Really made my day!” – Konna, Kilimanjaro Challenge Leader

  • Send a card – Sending cards to everyone would be chaos, but sending cards out to your groups or fundraisers at a particularly significant date shows them that you will go that extra mile for them. Christmas and exam time are particular times that we send cards to our university groups.

“Thank you guys so much for the Christmas card!! With you all at MRF a very merry Christmas from all here at Exeter” – Felix, Marathon Challenge Leader

  • Customise your letters -– Mail merge is a godsend but it is often underused. Writing personal lines into your excel spreadsheet means that you can insert them into the letters that you need to be more personal and saves you precious time! Also use photos of that particular group or person to personalise your letter further.

Providing a great donor experience is not about spending money. Having that personal touch in your communications with your fundraisers will add value to your donors experience and is totally free! You can also make plenty of free improvements, whether it’s the content of your communications and guides or creating some in-house social media templates to keep on brand, it doesn’t have to be expensive.

So, what now?

Seize the first opportunity you have to review and start improving what you offer (we do it at least twice a year, more if possible). If that is tomorrow or in a few months you can start personalising straight away. Add in a picture of yourself to welcome emails, pop a handwritten good luck in your next package and phone that new fundraiser.

Having a fantastic fundraising programme and personalising that for each fundraiser you support will ensure that your charity provides a great donor experience.

Jenny Robinson is the Fundraising Manager at Meningitis Research Foundation

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