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It’s time for missions to rethink donor journeys

What journey do you take your donors on? Is it different based on the audience segment they belong to? Are they getting a consistent story no matter what channel they interact with you in?  

Donor journeys can feel daunting, especially when you start to break them down across lifecycle. But they’re an essential part of fundraising—particularly for rescue missions, whose donors are so connected to the incredible stories of life transformation you tell on a daily basis. 

Unfortunately, we’ve been doing donor journeys a bit backward over the years, focusing more on what offers we’re putting in front of an audience and less on what kind of relationship we’re building.  

In this blog post, I want to dive into donor journeys and share why it’s time to rethink your approach as well as a few ways you can begin to do so. 

Why rescue missions need better donor journeys 

As we saw in the recent rescue mission benchmark report, missions are experiencing a narrowing in their donor base. While donors are giving more frequently and in higher amounts, the total donor universe has a trendline of decline. 

To widen the top of your funnel and attract more people to the transformational work missions do, you have to rethink how these donors are experiencing your organization. This means building a consistent experience for each audience that’s focused on content, intentional experience and moving stories—not on offer or channel. 

How rescue missions can build better donor journeys 

1. Audience Planning 

Successful donor journeys start with audience planning. And audience planning requires the right technology and infrastructure. As the great marketer Marshall McLuhan once said, “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” 

So, start by considering a few things: 

  • Is your data connected in a way that gives you a holistic view of particular donor groups?  
  • Do you have the automation in place to trigger key functions of your donor journey? 
  • Do you have reporting and analytics to help you understand which portions of your donor journey are working and which aren’t? 

If you don’t have the infrastructure to give your audiences the intentional interactions they need, the next two steps will fall flat.   

2. Omnichannel Campaign Development 

An inconsistent brand experience is a negative brand experience.  

Each audience you target should experience your brand consistently across channels. But to do this, you have to shift your thinking away from offer-driven fundraising and toward omnichannel campaign development built on your stories. 

As Heidi Riehl said in her recent blog post, consistent interactions help your donors become more invested, forming identities as compassionate supporters and people who take action to change lives.   

3. Stewardship 

Finally, a donor journey can’t be complete without considering the stewardship aspect of a donor’s experience. As we’ve learned through the years, the ask-and-repeat method of fundraising no longer cuts it. Exclusively looking at the ROI of a campaign limits the relationships you can build with your donors—after all, can you really put an ROI on a relationship? 

So, how do you weave in meaningful experiences that thank donors for their gifts and time along the way? It can look different depending on your organization, but we’ve seen success with things like personalized thank-you calls, letters and videos.  

Rethinking donor journeys is no small task. But I challenge you to think about one group of donors that you can begin targeting with more intentional experiences. Whether that’s major, mid-level, sustainer, core, new or lapsed donors—you'd be surprised how big of a difference it can make in a short amount of time.   

Additional Resources

Glenn McKinney

As Senior Vice President at RKD Group, Glenn McKinney works with faith-based organizations like rescue missions and life-transformation ministries to provide innovative mail, online, phone, research, major gifts and planned giving strategies for clients. A strong champion of RKD’s donor-centric philosophy, Glenn and his team consistently exceed clients’ fundraising goals.

Glenn has 23 years of experience in the mission space. He spent eight years working for two missions in New York -- New York City Rescue Mission and The Bowery Mission -- before moving to the agency side for the last 15 years.

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