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Think Like A Showrunner: Week 5

Last week, we discussed social media tips to help grow your presence. This week, let’s talk about retention—keeping your supporters engaged with your organization.

You probably already know a great example of a recurring revenue program with excellent supporter retention—Netflix! Their estimated retention rate is 91%! Compare that to 64%, the average multi-year online retention rate for U.S. nonprofits in 2018. How does Netflix retain so many supporters, and what can we in the social good space take away from their success?

Mistakes are inevitable, and Netflix has made a few blunders in the past, leading to fan petitions and even boycotts. Yet their brand presence and viewership have remained just as strong. How do they do it? They focus on the viewer’s journey, from the first sign-up to a cancellation request. Let’s explore each stage, starting with the sign-up page.

Simple Sign-Up
Netflix made their system foolproof with a platform that is simple to use. Within minutes, you can sign up and never worry about making late payments. Because the service is not tied to a contract, it is easy to cancel. (Tip: in the social good space, a contract would be a pledge.) The sign-up page is available on every device, from touch screens to flat screens. By making their service easy to access and use without the pressure of a long-term commitment, Netflix successfully captures the viewer.

Let’s compare Netflix sign-up to your online donation page. When was the last time you viewed your online donation page? How many clicks does it take to make a gift? Most importantly, is it mobile‑friendly? According to the 2019 M+R Benchmarks report, the average homepage takes 0.31 seconds longer to load on a mobile device than on a desktop. While this may not seem like a long time, it’s enough to affect a supporter’s enthusiasm. Is monthly giving an option on your donation page? Consider making the option the default selection, which can increase your donations by 300%.

The Power of the Algorithm
For Netflix, it’s all about the algorithm. The team turns their tracked data into a personalized algorithm for every user. This is the reason we continuously discover new content and end up sucked into the Netflix rabbit hole.

But what about new users who have no data? How does Netflix create a personalized algorithm for a user who just signed up? Surveys! When a new user registers for an account, they submit their interests, genre preferences, and viewing history. Nonprofits should follow the same protocol for our donors and capture their interests, hobbies, and giving history. Just as Netflix constantly reminds users of their preferences and viewing history, we need to remind our supporters of their impact. Do you use surveys to learn more about new or potential supporters? A welcome series is a great way to learn more about your new supporters.

Welcome Series
There are as many shows to watch on Netflix as there are social good organizations to support. In a saturated market, supporters are understandably skeptical of the commitment and impact of a social good organization. Likewise, the first episode of a show may get someone interested, but it rarely makes them commit. Fun fact: Netflix actually tracks which exact episode guarantees regular viewership. This is why Netflix releases an entire season of episodes at once instead of weekly episodes. It’s their version of a welcome series, and it’s a large part of their success.

Nonprofit organizations need to launch their own welcome series. Based on Netflix’s findings, one message is not enough. An acknowledgement letter is simply not enough. Did you know that 92% of nonprofit organizations do not have a welcome series for new donors? Let’s follow Netflix’s example by welcoming in new donors and creating lifelong supporters who are sucked into our mission.

Focus on Lapsed Supporters
Have you ever tried to cancel your Netflix membership? I canceled mine once with the intention of never coming back, but I rejoined after a few months. Why? It may be easy to cancel, but Netflix designed the service so you won’t want to cancel. When you first try to cancel, you receive an exclusive promotional price to stay. I didn’t take the bait, but I could see how others might. I was determined to cancel. The following month, I received an email about all the new content I was missing. Viewers with FOMO might have jumped back in, but not me—I was still determined to cancel. On the third month, I was offered a 30-day “trial” promotion, and I was back on the hook.

Focus on your lapsed supporters. What exclusive promotions can you offer to regain support? Introduce yourself again with a “re-welcome” series for your previous (LYBUNT/SYBUNT) supporters.  Appeal to their FOMO by highlighting how they can be a hero and save the day by renewing their support.  

Ready to create an effective retention plan? Join the Organizational Best Practices: Fundraising—Donor Retention workshop.
Posted by Jenny Toledo on Jun 13, 2019 12:57 PM America/New_York

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