Despite best intentions and mountains of data, many charities continue to offer lackluster experiences for their donors.

Customer journey mapping can provide insight into the donor experience and offer solutions that ultimately provide better experiences that lead to greater support.

What is a Customer journey mapping?

Customer journey mapping, at its core, is a visual narrative of the donor journey. A customer journey map is a way to describe all the experiences a customer has with your organisation and the emotional responses they provoke – from their first impression of your website, to speaking to staff on the phone, taking part in a fundraising event or even making a donation.

An customer journey map is a strategic tool for capturing and presenting key insights into the complex customer interactions that occur across experiences with a product, service, or ecosystem. At the heart of customer journey mapping lies the customer journey model, an archetypal journey created from an aggregate of all customers going from point A to point B as they attempt to achieve a goal or satisfy a need.

The activity of customer journey mapping builds knowledge and consensus across teams and stakeholders, and the map as artifact allows you to create and support better customer experiences. In short, experience mapping is a journey that can involve and impact your entire organization.

Why should you use customer journey mapping?

Donors choose causes and organisations based on the quality of the experiences they have with them. These experiences often break down when they span multiple channels. As a result, organizations need a holistic, human centered view of the experiences they create. Customer journey maps enable charities to understand the donor experience, their needs and frustrations so that they can make positive changes that improve donor retention and acquisition.

The value of customer journey mapping

When done well, customer journey mapping illuminates the  experience donors have with your organisation and how they think and feel at each stage of the relationship. They can demonstrate the highs and lows people feel while interacting with your organisation, campaign or service. The process of customer journey mapping uncovers the key donor moments that, once improved, will unlock a more compelling and more valuable overall experience that will ultimately help your charity increase support for their cause and help them to reach their objectives.

How customer journey mapping can help nonprofits

Customer journey mapping is a particularly useful tool to help identify the donors’ interactions with your organisation, their thought processes and reactions to you. Understanding their experiences can reveal opportunities for improvement and innovation in the donor experience.

Customer journey mapping can help to identify how the potential donor is treated during each contact and how the donor feels towards your organisation at the end of the experience. This information can then be used to make positive changes to your services, communications or even the way you structure and manage website content.

In summary, customer journey mapping is a strategic tool to ensure every interaction a supporter has with your organisation is positive and illuminating.

Key elements of using customer journey mapping to help you nonprofit

Customer journey mapping helps you to:

  • communicate with your donors more effectively
  • improve donor retention
  • increase donations through improved processes
  • increase efficiency
  • minimise negative donor experiences
  • deliver a consistently good service to your donors, in all circumstances

Creating a customer journey map from scratch

Piecing together the big picture of how and why donors are interacting with different channels, touch points, products and services is where your journey begins. There are six main steps:

1. Scoping

Define your objectives and why you want to undertake journey mapping. For example:

    • Do you want to improve donor experience, plan a new communication programme?
    • How will the outputs be applied and by whom?
    • Is this for all people or a specific segment of your audience?
    • What is the start and end point of the experience we will focus on?
    • Are you mapping interactions or transactions?
    • Are you focusing on the physical or the emotional factors driving people’s behaviour?
    • Do you want to map in broad terms or in detail? e.g. you might want to review a specific program or understand the entire donor process

2. The building blocks of customer journey maps

Having set out the scope and objectives of the mapping exercise you will then need to identify key needs, likes and dislikes of current experience.

Once you have achieved this customer journey maps can help you to plan the best ‘experience’ and where communication would be most appropriate for the future.

Customer journey mapping may be approached in a number of different ways, but communicators usually focus on the following key areas:

a) Doing

What actions are customers taking to meet their needs? What are their key behaviors? This should focus on interactions they have with your organisation. These touch points could be:

  • any communication – such as an advert, website or literature
  • any human contact – from your reception staff to your frontline team or call centre operator
  • any physical interaction – for example at a fundraising event or a street appeal

b) Feeling

What emotions do people have along their journey? What are the highs? The lows? How do donors and potential supporters respond to your current programs, the work you do or  the way you communicate. This can be mapped against how you want your customers to feel and respond and is the main aim of the customer journey map.

Bringing in the emotional dimension to the mapping process is vital where the objective of your campaign is to change behaviour, as it is often emotional requirements which drive behaviour – as is the case with the customer who seeks reassurance by telephoning to make sure their form has arrived.

c) Thinking

How do people frame and evaluate their experience? What do they expect? At each stage your supporter to be is likely to pause to evaluate if they are delighted, satisfied or dissatisfied with their experience. It is at this point that the potential donor might decide whether to stay or leave your website, if they make a donation or if they continue to support you.

The main reason to identify these points is to avoid them. They are potential obstacles that may prevent you from achieving your objective.

Plot out the steps in the customer interaction and agree the ‘moments of truth’, where you can either win over or greatly disappoint people.

3. Uncovering customer insights for customer journey mapping

Customer journey maps are a key tool to help understand public perceptions of your organisation and project delivery and impact. They can help to identifying ‘moments of truth’, critical points when activities or initiatives are most likely to succeed or fail.

The challenge of customer journey mapping however, is to uncover, little by little, this critical information about your donors’ experiences.

This is where research is an essential component to understanding the donor experience. You can either mentally ‘walk through’ a process or experience; get frontline staff to do so; accompany and observe real people doing it; or use research or satisfaction tracking.

Start with the obvious, don’t reinvent the wheel, talk to your donors, never rely on just one data source, and be iterative!

As a best practice, we recommend you scour your organisation for existing data and insights relevant to the experiences you are attempting to map. It will help you get started, while bringing focus to your research around remaining, unanswered questions.

While doing new research takes more investment of time and money, it’s a critical step in the experience mapping process, to ensure you end up with an artifact you can confidently use to support strategic thinking.

The research and discovery process is an essential investment to ensure that your experience map captures the full customer story. Not everything you find will end up in your experience map, but the value at this stage is developing a firmer understanding of both the customer experience and the context around it.

As you work toward this understanding, look to a variety of information sources. For early stage discovery, call center logs, customer satisfaction surveys, or existing personas could be excellent resources. Your research should collect insights that add breadth and depth to the existing knowledge you uncover, and for this, talking to donors is indispensable.

Leverage your existing research and internal  experts, but never rely on just one data source. Identify gaps in knowledge and use research to gain further insight.

4. Identify problems and create solutions with customer journey mapping

Having gathered information from the mapping exercise, you can now identify solutions to improve donor experience.

Map out the donor’s experience at each step: their thoughts, feelings and reactions. Identify critical issues and challenges for donor and make changes that improve the donor experience.

These are likely to fall into four areas:

  1. people and service issues
  2. environment
  3. products e.g. regular giving programs, fundraising events
  4. communications

Agree what must be tackled as a priority. Solutions will need to be prioritised by your research findings and cost.

5. Putting your customer journey map together

As you collect your data, don’t expect it to be organized. Research and discovery is all about assembling the parts that will help you to build a strong foundation for your experience map. Your goal is to bring this data to life through a visually engaging infographic that is easy to comprehend.

This is particularly important in large organisations where your learnings will likely require changes across a range of departments

6. Applying  customer journey maps within your organisation

In order for others to buy into the story your map will tell, they need to know it’s an authentic story built from strong insights based on real data. This is where your research and working with internal teams can help. Insights gained from the mapping exercise can then be applied to all relevant elements of the customer experience, including:

  • staff training
  • communications planning, e.g. media choices
  • improved processes or service design
  • Content development
  • Alter information architecture

Or you may decide to set a new vision for customer experience, setting out how you would like all future interactions to be managed, setting new standards and aligning your organisation accordingly.

When should you use customer journey mapping?

It can be used at different stages in the strategic communications and marketing process, and it is important to decide in advance how you want to use the information generated, as this will help you to decide the scope of the mapping. For example, you can use a journey map to scope the broad behaviours of an audience and make a business case for the role of communications. Or you can focus in on a specific audience segment and look at a specific interaction, such as navigating a few pages on a website, in much more detail.