Family Philanthropy Playbook for Community Foundations

Unit 3: Customer Experiences

Quality of customer experience—perception of interactions with your foundation—drives satisfaction and ultimately loyalty. How will you ensure a high-quality customer experience throughout the life-cycle of your relationship with donors and their families?

READ: 2014 Donor Experience Study

Embolden and other partners studied the philanthropic experience from a donor’s point of view and interviewed community foundations to learn about their common challenges and solutions. The study helps organizations “learn more about the characteristics of a positive online donor experience and the return on investment it can bring to a philanthropic institution’s mission.”

For further exploration:

The Agitator – this blog by the staff of DonorVoice returns regularly to the subject of improving donor experience and donor loyalty. Good places to start are Measuring Donor Experiences and Measuring Donor Loyalty.

Clairification – fundraising coach Claire Axelrod blogs about donor retention and donor-centered culture. Good places to start are How to Become a Donor Experience Transformist and 6 Ways to Create a Superior Nonprofit Donor Experience.

The Commission on the Donor Experience – a series of practical reports from the U.K. on placing the donor at the heart of fundraising communications and activities.

READ: Beyond Fundraising: What Does it Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy?

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund (an NCFP Friend of the Family) funded this report about the values and practices of organizations in which everyone has a part to play in attracting and maintaining relationships with donors and volunteers.

From her research, author Cynthia Gibson distilled four core components of a culture of philanthropy:


READ: 11 Action Steps to Design An Extraordinary Client Experience

Julie Littlechild, an expert on client and team engagement, wrote this blueprint for creating an extraordinary client experience that truly separates you from competitors. The article includes a link to a free “Client Experience Workbook.”

TUNE-IN (61 minutes) ): How Client Experience is Being Disrupted [first video, members only]

Julie Littlechild, Founder and CEO of Absolute Engagement, led a thought-provoking session at the 2020 workshop. She examined the drivers of client engagement, how they have evolved, and what community foundations need to do to stay ahead of the curve. You can download the slides here and breakout session workbook here. You can also hear how your peers were considering adapting the workshop ideas and improving their donor experiences in this January 2021 topical call recording (60 minutes).

TUNE-IN (60 minutes): Spark Session—Building Blocks for Community Foundations: Starting the Relationship with Family Donors  [members only]

In this 2016 webinar, staff from The Oregon Community Foundation and Greater Kansas City Foundation discuss techniques for starting and enhancing relationships with family members beyond the founding donors.

“Until several years ago, we were having welcome meetings one-on-one with each of the funds as they were set up…Over the last several years, we’ve seen fewer and fewer donors wanting to have those meetings. we just want to make sure that all donors know when they’re ready, we’re here and happy to help and have many resources available. [When they’re ready,] the Giving Guide is really a chance to help guide the discussion whether it’s just a family meeting by themselves or being facilitated by a staff member…”
– Whitney Hosty, Senior Philanthropic Advisor, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation
“One of the most key important things for us is face-to-face meetings with the fund establisher and really understanding what the establisher wants, the intention, a deeper understanding of how the family gives together, and to learn from them about issues they’re perceiving. Then we reach agreements that we will interview each family member individually and confidentially with the same questions for data collection, to learn more about them.” – Jennifer Curry, Senior Donor Relations Officer, The Oregon Community Foundation

TUNE-IN(51 minutes): Topical Call—Building Relationships with Families [members only]

In this follow-up to the webinar above, foundations shared additional approaches for building relationships with philanthropic families.

BORROW AND ADAPT: Donor Onboarding Materials [members only]

This online folder contains sample donor onboarding materials and fund advisor handbooks contributed by foundations serving Atlanta, Calgary, D.C., Kansas City, Minneapolis, Oregon, and Seattle.