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What Nonprofits Can Learn From For-Profit Customer Satisfaction Surveys

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As a project sponsor and advisory group member of the Rogare Fundraising Think Tank, I frequently travel to the UK to meet with the board and discuss its on-going research.

As you can imagine, this involves interactions with many airlines, hotels, rental car companies, travel agencies, restaurants and other businesses that make such travel possible.

Since I have been thinking about donor surveys recently, I was much more aware of just how many surveys I receive from the various businesses I interact with. Travel, in particular, seems to lead to an inundation of surveys.

Whether you are targeting the retention of a customer – as is the case for the commercial sector – or the retention of a donor for the charitable sector, surveys are monumentally powerful.


Because you are still appealing to the emotions of the individual.

Here are a few of my favorites from my most recent trip overseas:

The survey from Mercure Hotels allowed me to share my thoughts on my stay. Notice of refreshingly easy they make it to share feedback.

The commercial world has figured out that even the opportunity to give one’s opinion, even if the ensuing survey is not completed, results in higher customer retention.

Application for nonprofits: Are you asking your donors how they feel about your organization?

This survey from Orbitz is commonly referred to as a “net promoter survey” – a simple 0-10 ranking of how likely I am to recommend Orbitz to someone else:

According to the Net Promoter Network, respondents are grouped as follows:

  • Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.
  • Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth.

The goal of a net promoter survey is to isolate your biggest fans, attempt to move passives into promoters, and find out what went wrong with the detractors.

A company’s Net Promoter Score can range from a low of -100 (if every customer is a Detractor) to a high of 100 (if every customer is a Promoter). The goal of most businesses is to simply have a positive Net Promoter Score.

Application for nonprofits: Are you asking donors how likely they would be to suggest that a friend also donates to you?

This survey from a London sightseeing bus tours (yes, I did some touristy things on a work trip) combines a Net Promoter Survey with questions that attempt to ascertain why I chose to take the tour:

The second question allows the tour to audit their marketing efforts, while the third allows them to build ideal customer profiles based on a list of attributes.

Application for nonprofits: Are you asking donors why they give?

Such a simple concept, which is easy to put into practice, is seldom utilized by most nonprofits working with donors.

My own personal experience is that less than 5% of the time does any charity make an attempt to ask me my opinion on anything. This is a far cry from being a new customer to almost any business via electronic communications, where the offer to share one’s opinion happens from 24 hours to 30 days from the first transaction.

One last example: while it doesn’t pertain to travel, it did come across my inbox while I was checking email on the plane.

Who could not read a bit further with such a great picture and title catching your eye and emotions? Every organization engaged in email marketing is always fighting the battle of reducing unsubscribes from their list.

Why not test various images to see what brings in the highest response rate?

In addition, notice they let the customer know they are fully aware of how long you have been a subscriber and even how many times you have or have not clicked on content links being provided.

My favorite final two areas our the bright orange button simply stating “STAY FRIENDS” and the offer to provide something of value. Just think how easy it might be for a religious organization to offer the sharing of a prayer request or an arts organization offering a ticket to a non-sold out event.

I am betting Marketo reverses a significant percentage of disengaged subscribers. Imagine how much this could help lower donor attrition?

Application for nonprofits: Are you asking lapsed donors why they stopped giving?

One need only to peruse the samples presented here to cause numerous questions to be raised about which sector is doing proper testing and research into what works best.

The examples above illustrate just a few common communication concepts that most nonprofits can easily improve upon.

Please let us know if you can think of others or if your organization has already taken steps to improve on these two!

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