What nonprofits can learn from Volkswagen

This blog entry was first posted on the #fundchat guest blog.



I have been loving Volkswagen cars since I was young. Simply put, they are stylish, good cars that are a pleasure to drive but this blog post is not about cars. It’s about loyalty: Volkswagen style. You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this but bear with me. It’ll all come together soon!

After many years of living without a car in downtown Montreal, I decided in June of 2010 to buy a car. There was no doubt in my mind that it would be another Volkswagen. After all, my last car 15 years ago had been a Jetta and I had some great adventures with it! As a new client, I automatically became a Volkswagen Plus Member. Admittedly, I had no clue what that meant. Little did I know that I was embarking on a journey.

Within a couple of weeks, I received a welcome package – I mean fancy, Apple-style packaging and all – with a letter addressed to me, a catalogue of VW accessories and a shammy to clean my new (gee, thanks VW, throw in the guy who’ll clean the car and we’re in business!). At Christmas, I received a greetings card and on my birthday, a friendly birthday card from the dealership.

I have subsequently received free movie passes, invitations to special events and just today, I was invited to the “ultimate freedriving tour”. As VW put it: “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to discover Autobahn-ready performance in conditions you’ll never get on the road”. Wow! Being adventurous as I am, how can I say no to that?

After I registered to the event (after all, I don’t want to miss this opportunity!), I realized VW has been thanking me for being a customer and making sure I remain loyal to their brand. By using these events, reminders, perks and activities, VW was treating me to a complete customer experience that put my needs and interests at the forefront.

The birthday and Christmas cards, the free movie tickets, the Autobahn-like driving experience are all part of the VW loyalty program they carefully designed to ensure that customers like me feel special, valued, cared for and respected. Intrinsically this ensures customer loyalty and, naturally, return business.

As it has become apparent, what I have talking about is the company’s approach to long-term relationship building. Much like you and I do every day with our donors. In the past, I dismissed their cards and letters as just another marketing piece. It took the “ultimate freedriving tour” to hook me and make me realize that I am loyal to the brand because I like and believe in the product.

So whether you are creating a new stewardship program or freshening your current program, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I do or what can I do to make my donors feel special, valued and respected?
  • How am I doing to ensure my donors’ loyalty to my organization?
  • How am I creating a unique experience for my donors?
  • What journey do I want to take my donors on?

Take the time to think how you would want to be treated as a donor and the answers will come to you. We all want to be part of something bigger than we are – as fundraisers it is our job to facilitate that process for our donors. Good luck and enjoy the ride!

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