Infographic: Is your charity investing in its digital supporter care?

Digital Supporter Care Survey


Our latest national survey of senior charity staff finds that less than 20 per cent of charities effectively engage with supporters digitally. I explore the opportunities they are missing out on.

According to our Third Sector Insight survey, less than one in five charity owners feel that they are effectively engaging with supporters through digital channels such as SMS, web chat and in the social media space.

Similarly, the poll also found that over a third of charities spend less than 25 per cent of their time communicating with supporters in a digital environment. With over 33 million adults using the Internet every day, charities should be exploring innovative methods of supporting donors to build strong, sustainable relationships for their charities.

When communicating with supporters, charities should be consistent and reactive to the channels the donor feels most comfortable using.

This may sound simple. However, with many charities often spanning multiple buildings, regions and even countries; there may be several staff responsible for communicating with donors – which throws up potential logistical nightmares.

The answer can often be found in the customer relationship management (CRM) system. Older systems tend to rely on users manually inputting information at the expense of their time. Whereas, more advanced systems automatically input data, and then integrate all forms of donor communication and store it in the same place. In our survey, only one in five charities claimed to already have such a system, but over half said they were working on bringing this kind of advanced software in.

So what are the benefits for charities using digital to improve their supporter care services?

Simplicity and convenience

The donor benefits from being able to ‘self-help’ online, while the charity can store all records of supporter communication in one place.

Donors benefit from time saved picking up the phone or finding a charity branch, as information and advice is available 24/7 at their fingertips. This will increase the likelihood of ongoing and regular engagement if donors can use a method of communication that suits them and their lifestyle.

Building relationships

Over 70 per cent of charities said that building relationships with advocates is of high or very high importance to them.

Building relationships can be achieved through all manner of channels, from pleasant and attentive face-to-face customer service in a charity retail store, to sending a letter to personally thank somebody for their support.

These types of communication – albeit very effective to recipients – are expensive in terms of resources, and can limit the reach of the charity’s supporter care commitments.

Whereas, Tweeting a thank you message to a supporter allows for other interested parties to see that tweet and endorse it through ‘favouriting’ or ‘retweeting’ it, and therefore increasing its reach to others. Social media creates an opportunity to amplify word of mouth – an opportunity definitely worth exploring.

Focus on those who need it 

By enabling digital communication channels, supporters can interact with a charity through self-help features such as ‘ask a question’ or by engaging with specialist knowledge bases.

If their query still hasn’t been answered, charities can proactively help them by entering into a conversation via ‘web-chat’. This allows for operators to help users online by directly responding to their queries in a messenger-style format.

At that point, if the query or question can still not be answered, the charity should then point the supporter in the direction of its specialist telephone operatives.

This tiered approach means charity operatives can focus on those who need help most, while saving time and money on both sides by filtering out the simple enquiries as much as possible.

Making savings  

Nearly three quarters of charities cited a lack of resources as the main challenge to improving their digital service offering. Conversely, placing a digital emphasis on supporter care will save charities both time and money.

Simple things such as sending messages by email, SMS and social media, instead of by post, saves on postage and printing costs.

Allowing supporters to self-help online saves your operators time, freeing them up to focus on the most complex enquiries. Endorsing supporters’ efforts on social media has the potential to hugely increase the reach of your messages for a relatively small time investment.

When considering cost, it’s important to measure long term benefits against the initial outlay.

Final thoughts

A charity’s donors are ultimately its most important commodity. Without them, the organisation would cease to exist. Caring for them is crucial, and there are increasingly sophisticated ways to do so.

This is not to say that you should neglect offline communications. In fact, face-to-face and telephone customer service are still imperative to the success of a charity and will always have a place in the mix.

However, the evolution of digital cannot, and must not, be ignored by the third sector.

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