The ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a hyper-personalized donation journey

Dan Kingsley
July 19, 2023

How to make fundraising exciting? Create a hyper-personalized donation journey. Read which steps you can take to make donors feel valued and appreciated.

The ‘why’ and ‘how’ of a hyper-personalized donation journey

Fundraising is a must for many nonprofits. It helps them increase funds and retain donors, thus enhancing their ability to make an impact. And if you’ve implemented a well-structured process, it can be very rewarding. The reason why most charities find it anything but rewarding is that they haven’t optimized their fundraising process. As a result, they don’t reap all potential benefits. There’s a considerable gap between where they are and where they want to be.

Now, here’s the key to getting from point A to point B: hyper-personalization. You want to tailor the individual donor’s journey to their personal preferences and requirements. The question is, how to go about it? Let’s discuss the possibilities, as well as steps you can take to hop on the hyper-personalization train.

The issue of isolation: do your donors feel appreciated?

As a charity, you know donors are your lifeline. So, you want them to feel valued and appreciated. In that light, it’s useful to (re)consider the end-to-end donation process.

First things first: what happens when people land on your website? Do they feel appreciated every step of the way?

And what if they make a donation? Perhaps they get an automated email along the lines of, “Thank you for your donation.” It’s nice, but it doesn’t quite sound the same as, “Thank you for your ongoing support over the past 11 years, as well as your £50 donation to our cause today.”

Unfortunately, most charities can’t create the latter (and, frankly, better) version because their automated reply is isolated from their CRM.

Hyper-personalization: what it is and why charities need it

Here’s what you want to do: trace the individual and use everything you know about them in your communications, automated or not. Every person is unique, so you need to treat them as such. It will strengthen relationships with donors and make them more likely to return.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that different people donate different amounts at different frequencies. So, a general reply won’t do. You need to collect information on how often and why donors make donations. It might take some time and effort, but it’s key if you want to personalize your messages to each individual. It’s also important to figure out the emotions behind a donation right away. Once you’re aware of these, you can respond to them during every subsequent visit to your website.

In fact, this is the very essence of hyper-personalization: tracking and documenting the journey of each individual donor so you can reference it time and again. If you have detailed information about their likes and dislikes, you can create a customized experience during each subsequent visit—which, in turn, results in stronger relationships and better donor retention. It’s quite easy to understand in theory. But how to put it into practice?

Status quo: which scenario applies to you?

First, try and establish where you currently are. Which of the following scenarios applies to your nonprofit organization?

  1. “On your own island”

You’ve invested significant time and effort in building relationships with your donors. But your donation platform is not connected to anything, which means donors are not acknowledged when making donations. They don’t receive a thank-you message, and it might take a week or two for you to discover their donations. Of course, you don’t want to be on your own island at such crucial moments — which are opportunities to strengthen those carefully created relationships with donors.

  1. “‘Bot-like’ thank-you email”

You understand the importance of acknowledging people when they give to charity, and you want to show donors your appreciation. So, you send out thank-you emails. That’s definitely a step in the right direction. But if you’re honest, these messages are quite ‘bot-like:’ every donor receives the same email, whether they donate money for the first time or have supported your organization for a decade. While automation is necessary, there are better ways to go about it. What you’d really love to do is make people feel special with an authentic, personalized thank-you email.

  1. “Manual personalization”

Since you want to show your gratitude to donors, you send everyone a personalized thank-you email after receiving a donation. This is of course great: you’re fostering relationships! But you’d prefer to speed up the manual process, which is very time-consuming. Plus, you feel like you can improve things to leverage your full potential — with the CRM system being disconnected, you can’t tailor each message to the individual who receives it.

Towards an ideal world: what a perfect donation journey looks like

Imagine this: a donor lands on your website, and the website recognizes them. Once they make it to the donation page, it’s fully tailored to them. For example, the donor gets to see donation suggestions based on what they’ve previously given.

If the donor is brand new, they’re asked to fill out a donation form. That way, you can collect their preferences. Why are they interested in your nonprofit organization? What specific goal are they passionate about? What makes them excited about the work you do?

Of course, you also give donors a choice when it comes to payment methods. Some prefer Google Pay or Apple Pay, while others like to use PayPal or go the direct debit route. During their first website visit, you document their preference, so you can remember it for the future. Every time they return, you can suggest a tailored payment method.

Last but not least, the donor receives a personalized follow-up email after making a donation. It’s automated, but it doesn’t seem to be. Using AI tools such as Salesforce’s EinsteinGPT, you can send out personalized emails based on the individual donor’s information you’ve stored in your CRM.

Once implemented, this perfect donor journey comes with two benefits: the donor will feel more appreciated, and your organization will work more efficiently. In 2022, FinDock users reported a 156% improvement in data quality, as the 360-degree view of payment data in Salesforce resulted in better decision-making, time savings, and improved collaborations.

Getting started: 3 questions to move up the ‘personalization ladder’

Now that you’ve identified your current donor journey and we’ve discussed the ideal version, let’s try and move you up the ‘personalization ladder.’ Usually, it’s not wise to jump from point A to point Z. Personalizing the donor journey step by step tends to work better.

With that in mind, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. How do you thank your donors?

Are you not sending them an email at all? Create one. Do they receive generic messages? Personalize them a bit more. Are you handling emails manually? Consider how you can move toward automation. In any case, think about improving at least one element.

  1. Is your donation processing connected to your CRM?

What does your donation processing currently look like? If it’s not connected to your CRM, investigate how to create that connection. Look at payment solutions on your CRM, such as FinDock. If there are none available, review your CRM and see if there are any alternatives that do allow for a connection, like Salesforce.

  1. Have you personalized your web pages?

If you’re working with a generic thank-you page, it’s time to better personalize your website. For example, look at solutions such as Salesforce Experience Cloud to enable personalized portals for your donors. Also, make sure you know who visits your website, and consider implementing customized suggestions and messages.

Want to take your donor journey to the next level?

To retain existing donors and acquire new ones, you need to have a firm grasp of the donor journey. How to capture interest based on donor behavior, enrich your 360-degree view of donors, and manage the donor lifecycle effectively? We’ll discuss this and more during FinDock and Salesforce’s 4-part webinar series on how to maximize donations by improving your donor journey. Request the videos of the on-demand webinar series!