Thursday, November 17, 2011

Should we focus on donors – or users?

In a fascinating post yesterday on Duct Tape Marketing, John Jantsch presents a podcast with Aaron Shapiro who has written a book called Users Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Business.

As you probably figured out already his premise is that the experience that users have on a website and interacting online with that business are as worthy of attention as those who actually buy. Those who find the interaction satisfying and valuable will share those feelings online and the collateral benefit will generate future business. Using the example of Nike’s tag application, he says that forward thinking companies provide users with the tools to share that experience.

Using his premise, Shapiro says that companies shouldn’t be measuring conversion rates but rather compiling user satisfaction analytics.

So, as it relates to the fundraising sector, the question becomes are users more important than donors? Can improving the quality of the experience that someone has on your site or interacting online with your organization (whether or not that person ultimately becomes a donor) lead to increased donations? And if that’s true, should your website and online strategy be focused less on leading people to the donate now button and more on providing unique and useful experiences that people might want to share?

Not an easy question as is illustrated by two recent posts by prominent fundraising bloggers.

In detailing the online strategy of the Humane Society of United States, Beth Kanter asks When Is One Million Fans on Facebook Worth More Than A Million Bucks? In the end, she doesn’t answer the essential question. Can HSUS correlate a million Facebook fans with an additional million dollars in donations? But, her take is clearly that the visitor and online interaction surrounding HSUS’s 1 million fans campaign will lead to increased donations.

Tom Belford writing this morning in The Agitator isn’t so sure. As he sees it the HSUS campaign increases activism but not necessarily fundraising.

The empirical always has to come first. Is there any data that directly links increased online interaction and positive online presence to increased donations? Without those numbers, it could be hard to justify shifting resources to concentrate on the user as opposed to the donor.

Intuitively however, my sense is that Shapiro and Kanter are right. Clearly the way you choose to approach this issue has a lot to do with the size of your annual marketing budget (a point also made in The Agitator post). However, there is no reason not to take another look at your site and see if you can improve the visitor (who is not necessarily a donor) experience. And minimally, you may want to at least find out what is being said about your organization online.

I have some detailed ideas on what can be done – even on limited budgets – that I’ll share in my next post.

In the meantime, what do you think? Should we focus more on the user or the donor?


  1. Hi Chuck -

    You are asking so great questions here. Non profits have very similar challenges to small businesses in marketing. One challenge that I think will help you answer some of the questions is how do you define your target market.

    This is an important step in identifying what your online presence should be.

    Thanks for the mention!

    Jenna Jantsch
    Duct Tape Marketing

  2. Jenna, your point about target markets is well taken. Thanks for commenting.

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