Often times, consumers are drawn to a brand due to its charitable nature. When the brand itself is the Canadian Red Cross, the onus is on the organization to communicate effectively to instill customer loyalty.

“Donors strongly identify with the brand as a major motivating factor in supporting our work,” Andrew George, National Stewardship Specialist for the Canadian Red Cross, told Loyalty360. “It’s critical to our fundraising and retention success to communicate the specifics of how a donation supports the cause and meets the brand expectations of the donor. Identifying and segmenting the donor database allows us to create more customized content to share with donors. In addition to reporting specifically on a donor’s gift, we also leverage our programs and services to provide value including offering courses in first aid and water safety as well as tips on how donors can keep their families safe through disaster emergency planning. These are programs consistent with the Red Cross brand and have proven to be valuable communication pieces.” 

Customer-centricity, George explained, is defined as donor-centricity at Canadian Red Cross.

“Donors are central to the programs and services we provide on a daily basis and it is through their support that we are able to act,” he said. “The definition has not changed in recent years, but with evolving technology, we have been able to show donors that they are as valuable as our front line responders through more engaging and frequent communications.”

Keeping up with new products and services is a difficult task for any company, George noted.

“In the charitable sector, you always run the risk of giving donors the impression you are spending too much on overhead and not on your mission,” George said. “At the same time, innovating and improving our communications is vital. If the organization feels strongly that the innovation will increase revenue and allow us to expand the reach of our programs and services, then an investment strategy is created and submitted for approval.”

In terms of benchmarking donor loyalty, Canadian Red Cross compares itself to more corporate organizations, rather than nonprofits, as loyalty is a relatively new topic in this specific sector.

Simplifying customer relationships is an ongoing priority for Canadian Red Cross.

“The main segment donors are placed into is based on areas of interest,” George explained. “Many donors are particularly interested in the mission following major international disasters. Other donors take a more regular interest in the programs and services offered in Canada. Currently, we simplify our communications and loyalty strategies based on these segments. As we continue to innovate and increase the complexity of our donor segments, we will focus on behavioral activity, which will trigger subsequent communications that will be of interest to the donor.”

Making a donation is psychologically different from buying a product or service, George said.

“As such, the impact of a donor’s gift is what we provide as the experience,” he explained. “A major emotional driver in the charitable sector is trust. Whether it’s a large scale natural disaster or a report on a community program, we strive to show donors that we use their donations responsibly. In recent years, the Canadian Red Cross has received awards of merit in accountability and transparency, which we take every opportunity possible to show donors.”

Speaking of honors received, Canadian Red Cross won a Gold Award in the Best Brand Messaging and Communication in Customer Experience category of the Loyalty360 CX Awards held in November 2015 at the Engagement & Experience Expo.

George sees some trends in the nonprofit sector, impacting customer-centricity and customer experience.
“We are increasingly seeing other nonprofit organizations improve upon the complexity and user experience of their communications,” he explained. “The ones that are growing are demystifying the path a donation takes from the point it leaves a donor’s wallet and ends with helping a beneficiary. With increased pressure on charities to be transparent and accountable, it is more important than ever to remove jargon from donor communications and experiences.”

And that emotional connection between the donor and beneficiary is critical.

“Donors don’t collect points or redeem offers, which means a unique, emotional experience is a loyalty benefit we can provide,” George said. “We want donors telling their friends and family that the Red Cross is good place to invest your charitable dollars. To inspire this, we tell stories from beneficiaries, and front line staff and volunteers who tell their stories to engage on an emotional level with the donor.”

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