As part of building an effective brand experience, organisations often have to balance investment in enhancing brand engagement against the pressure to ruthlessly prioritise initiatives and reduce costs. The same applies to not-for-profits and charities, that are increasingly under pressure to build their donor base and deliver on funding raising efforts while trying to do more with less resources.

This tension is often about finding a way to focus on what matters – recognising how giving to causes can be simplified and streamlined to emphasise speed, convenience and ease of use, while still finding ways to build meaningful engagement between causes and donors.

With this in mind, how can fundraising organisations make it easier for donors to give and how can they build brand engagement in ways that differentiate the organisation in the hearts and minds of donors?

We can decode donor behaviour through Affordances and Rituals, this applies to how the public give to causes as much as it does to regular customer-brand relationships.

 

Affordances make it easy to give

 
Affordances are a concept that comes from the design world, they are cues that help us to know what to do next, they make objects and technology in our environment intuitive, easy to understand and easy to use. For instance, affordances are design cues that help us to know how to use the handle on a door to open it and find an exit, they use familiar icons and functions to help us to navigate digital devices. Apple is famous for building great affordances into all their products and services.

Good design of fundraising activities means that they are highly intuitive to donors, effective and efficient in offering channels and options for making a contribution. Touchpoints for interactions are simplified, making it straightforward to donate funds as well as to understand how giving will make a difference. Any weak or broken affordances can cause donors to become frustrated, to change their minds about giving or to switch to other charities that are easier to support.

The end-to-end experience donors have with a charity or not-for-profit can be designed in ways that make it easy to give or participate, either once or on a regular basis. This includes regular and digital infrastructure, clear signage and information, well designed choices to maximise contributions, technology options such as text-to-give mobile payments, feedback on fundraising performance, ongoing communication and support of relationships with donors. Repeat donations can be automated on a monthly basis, streamlining the need to actively recruit through outreach activities. Problem detection and reducing points of friction across these areas can produce marginal gains that reduce effort, save time and resources as part of ongoing improvements to the experience.

User experience experts apply these principles to new products and services for brands but applying Affordances to not-for-profits and charities is now more important than ever to reduce the effort it takes to give and stay connected to a cause.

 

Rituals make it meaningful to give

 
Affordances can make it easy to give but don’t necessarily build relationships with donors beyond fundraising campaigns. Brand rituals, on the other hand, can potentially deliver more impact than Affordances. Rituals are a set of routines or habits that are meaningful to us, they are elements of an experience that are valued, often a behavioural routine that is not necessary to fulfil the task, but they create emotional engagement. Some rituals are more habitual, like bouncing a ball before serving to improve concentration, others tap more deeply into our identity such as praying or going to the gym. Rituals can be “borrowed” or created from scratch by fundraising brands to create engagement and long term commitment to their cause.

 

“Brand rituals used by charities tap into social identity, solidarity, personal tragedy, achievement, morality, culture and tradition to bring their cause into lives of donors in memorable and emotional ways that build engagement and personal involvement in the cause.”

 

Here are some examples of brand rituals used to differentiate charities:

  • Poppy Day Wearing a poppy during the Remembrance period is a symbolic gesture showing support for The Royal British Legion. This annual ritual ensures ongoing support and advice for service personnel and their families. The ritual includes protocols, such as tilting the poppy leaf towards 11 ‘o clock. This ritual is so strongly observed in Britain that most individuals working in the public eye are expected to wear a poppy during Remembrance.
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  • The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is a ritual at the centre of Macmillan Cancer Support’s fundraising efforts where people sign up to host an event and receive a coffee morning kit to make their event a success. It started in 1990 and by 2013, 153,000 people signed up to host an event baking and sharing cakes and coffee, together they raised over £20 million.
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  • The Big Knit raises money for Age UK and is sponsored by Innocent Smoothies. By knitting a woolly hat for smoothie bottles, money is donated to Age UK for every bottle sold, providing blankets, hot water bottles and social gatherings to keep the elderly warm and well.

These brand rituals are more than traditional fundraising campaigns, they tap into engagement and participation in meaningful ways. They differentiate the cause, bring its sense of purpose to life, encouraging annual or even ongoing commitment. Rituals embed the cause in the minds of donors, employees, beneficiaries and society without the need to use advertising to appeal for funds.

The use of affordances and rituals are two valuable approaches to improve the experience delivered to donors by not-for-profits and charities. Technology can make it easier to give but rituals can make the difference in connecting donors to a cause in meaningful ways.
 

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