How effective is your welcome program?

By Erik van Dorp
On May 22, 2014 At 2:00 pm

Category : Best posts Q2 2014, individuals, Latest posts, loyalty, research

Responses : 2 Comments

Welcome phrase in different languages. Word clouds concept.Many charities have a welcome program in place to keep more donors in, to make them feel welcome or to ask for more money. Whatever the reason you have your welcome flow, there is always room for improvement. So, here’s a simple 10 point checklist that will help you estimate how much room for improvement there actually is.

1) How fast is your follow up after registration?
Of course, your donors already get an automated e-mail reply when they sign up online (right?), but how long does it take after that e-mail before you actually really communicate with your donor? Our research showed that taking more than 8 days between registration and follow up, increases the chance of attrition significantly (up to 12% lower retention in the first year). Make sure you send a personal and relevant (for the donor) e-mail an/or letter (see point 2 and 3) as soon as possible after registration. A pretty effective way is to create a welcome flow with a number of e-mails with a one or two weeks interval that cover specific (single) topics you want your donor to know. And please make sure it contains element of interaction (see point 2).

2) How interactive is your welcome program?
Communication is supposed to be a two-way street. Make sure your welcome program is too. For instance, send out a short survey where you ask the donor why they want to give to you. Or give them the chance to say what topic they would like to know more about (For WWF this could be something like: animal welfare, climate change, corporate partnerships, innovation). Interaction leads to more knowledge for you and higher loyalty from the donor.

3) How relevant is your message? (for the donor, not just for you).
Research shows that donors (as wit hall customers) seek justification fort heir transaction. So give them feedback on the goals you have achieved, your plans for the future and where the money is being spent.. Show (and tell) them why they made the right choice.

4) How well do you monitor your program (in terms of KPI’s)
When you start a welcome program you always try to make it perfect. But of course that’s impossible. Make sure you keep improving your program by trying to add (or better: take out) certain steps i fit doesn’t perform well enough. How much time do you reserve to look at the numbers in total? Ok, and how much time do you take to evaluate each part of the program, in terms of cost and effect?, It really helps to define a short list of Key Performance Indicators, and continuously monitor each of them. Make sure you choose one KPI per element in your program, and a few for the program as a whole.. Measuring how well your welcome program works on a detailed level can be pretty scary (because you may have to admit that your idea wasn’t as good as you thought), but it offers you valuable time to change it for the better.

5) How good is the ROI of your program
All welcome programs have costs, and if you do it well a positive effect (donors stay longer and/or start giving more). Make sure the costs do not overshoot the positive effect. Our method is always to start (extremely) simple and build on your success. Some charities build a big welcome program and take out stuff that doesn’t work. We think it’s better to invest in some green shoots in stead of cutting costs.

6) Do you have a control and a test group?
Always define a control group that does not go into your new welcome program. If you do not do this, you will never know if changes in the retention rate are caused by your new welcome flow or not. It’s ok if your retention rate goes up, but you will run into trouble if the retention rate goes down.

wordcloud-welcome-heart-17) How well do you mix your channels?
Rubbish in is Rubbish out. That’s always the case, even in fundraising. Make sure you have a mix of different media with different characteristics when it comes to retention. Basic law of fundraising is: the harder you push to get donors in, the easier they will walk out. Online donors that come in spontaneously are more likely to stay longer then donors from Face to Face.

8) Are you comparing your suppliers?
Even if you are satisfied with you existing supplier (who deliver donors or leads) be sure to compare it with their direct competitors. This will make your existing supplier perform better (he doesn’t want to lose his business) and you will actually know how good your supplier really is..

9) Is your welcome program trigger-based or calendar based?
If you are still sending out a newsletter because it’s March or December, you’d better scratch your head. Donors do not adjust their behaviour to fit your marketing calendar. Our tip: make a welcome flow based on the time a new donor is a donor and match your communication with the emotional calendar of the donor.

10) Do your departments work together (comms., projects, marketing, it)?
Involve all relevant departments when creating a welcome program. Comms people are skilled to tell what you want to communicate, while the project people sit on the valuable information you want to share with your new donors. And good content is key for a good welcome flow. Make sure your welcome program team consists of different departments, but you must stay in the lead! See other blogs on 101fundraising why that is important.

Nothing’s perfect
Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect welcome program, but I hope this checklist helps you improve yours a bit.

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Erik van Dorp (6 blogs on 101fundraising)

Over ten years experience in marketing management, marketing strategy and direct marketing, with a special interest in fundraising in the Netherlands and abroad. First as a fundraiser for WWF Netherlands and international, now as a Strategy Consultant building business plans and campaigns for numerous clients. Check out or

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