Faith Chrisp

Nov 16, 2023, 8:00 AM

Unlocking the power of customer experience (CX) for non-profit leadership

By Faith Chrisp

 How seriously do you consider your customers’ perception of your organisation? While customer experience (CX) is typically associated with the business world, its principles apply just as much to charities and non-profits, whose ‘customers’ are the supporters, donors, members or visitors who keep your organisation afloat.

In this article I will aim to show why CX matters, what CS strategy is and how to use CX to understand your customers.

Why CX matters
We all know from our own experience that we are more likely to buy again from businesses that make us feel valued. In fact, businesses that lead in CX outperform laggards by nearly 80% (Forbes). Non-profits and charities are no different. Customer loyalty is an asset that demands attention.

Let’s look at the figures:

  • A mere one-point increase in supporter loyalty can result in a 15% growth in retained donors and a 20% increase in income over three years (About Loyalty)
  • Loyal customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer a friend to the company. (Forbes)
  • A 2% increase in customer retention is the same to profits as cutting costs by 10% (Forbes)

On the flip side, 80% of customers will not buy from your brand again if they experience more than one bad touchpoint; not to mention that it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for just one negative one!

It’s important for charities to remember that, however compelling the cause, your services alone don't guarantee loyalty. Although donors primarily give because they care and are connected to the cause, they still may choose to give elsewhere unless you meet their expectations and consistently deliver emotionally compelling, feel-good experiences, alongside transformative services.

As Mark Phillips of Bluefrog Fundraising notes, “They are not one of your donors; you are one of their charities.” This is why prioritising CX principles as a differentiating factor is key. It can significantly boost your organisation’s health, success and relevance, as well as driving organisational resilience and growth – essential in the current economic climate.

So what do I mean by ‘CX principles’?

What is CX as a strategy?
CX is a holistic, proactive approach to creating positive, meaningful and memorable interactions between customers and your brand. It's about listening to your audience’s perceptions rather than just looking at internal processes for insights.

The ultimate goal is to foster trust, loyalty and engagement at every touchpoint: ie before, during and after a purchase. This includes face-to-face, phone calls, emails, social media and your website. Identifying these touchpoints, especially the ones causing challenges or pain points, provides the basis for valuable insights into the customer journey.

  • CX strategy brings focus to what customers perceive and feel whenever they encounter your brand and helps to keep these insights at the heart of your decision-making processes.

A well-crafted CX strategy aligns with your overall business strategy. It factors in the operational capability and culture of the organisation and utilises USPs in overcoming specific challenges.

CX is about more than just business growth; it's about getting there through improving experiences for customers and employees, fostering a positive workplace culture and benefiting communities. Striving for growth without prioritising experiences and building loyalty will limit your charity's potential.

Leaders, your influence is vital in instilling the importance of CX within your charity's culture.

How to use CX to understand your customers
One of the best tools to identify, understand and deliver better customer experiences is Journey Mapping. In this process we map different customer personas and journeys specific to your organisation and, using an 'outside-in' perspective, detail what your supporters do, think and feel at each touchpoint.

Customer Journey Map - Action Planning

Obstacles, delays and perceived reduced value are brought to light and issues that are the biggest pain points that hinder continued loyalty are addressed. As a result, we can identify solutions and prioritise changes, strengthening the journey and enhancing the overall experience.

During a recent supporter journey mapping session with a client, we recognised a significant pain point around giving donations via a third-party portal rather than on the charity’s website. This was increasing the potential for new donors to not give, or give less. Consequently, the charity made the necessary adjustments to the giving process, their website and the thanking process, and received positive feedback on the changes.

A secondary result of journey mapping is proven employee engagement, leadership buy-in and cross team collaboration; uniting stakeholders and supporters to create 'moments of truth,' sparking vital conversations and gaining real insights.

Delivering the experience
Human decisions are often emotion-driven, emphasising the importance of creating positive interactions. Civil rights activist Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

In organisations I've worked with, when leadership, including CEOs, called supporters during appeals to express gratitude and ask for donations, it created an experience where the supporter felt valued, and this directly fostered future loyalty and engagement.

How are you listening to your supporters and using these insights to create valuable experiences? 

Plot your path to customer-centricity
Research repeatedly shows the benefits of CX across all sectors:

  • Boosts Income, engagement and organisational growth
  • Increases customer loyalty and employee retention rates
  • Amplifies word-of-mouth, improves recruitment, partnerships and sponsorship opportunities
  • Fosters a collaborative and innovative workforce and helps cultivate a healthy culture

The importance of treating your customers well is not news to any organisation leader, but ensuring that it actually happens – and happens every time – takes more than good intentions. To quote CX expert Clare Muscutt, “Building a good customer experience does not happen by accident. It happens by design.”

Why not begin to explore its value during your next campaign and see what a difference it makes? If you would like to know more or seek my advice on your CX strategy, contact office@actionplanning.co.uk.


Faith Chrisp

Faith Chrisp is a customer experience consultant, specialising in driving organisational growth, audience engagement and sales. Faith has over two decades of proven expertise in the charitable and retail sectors, including leadership experience spanning more than 15 years. She is passionate about teaching and equipping organisations to craft feel-good supporter journeys in order to grow their income and build supporter loyalty. 

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