Just the right touch: Brand touch-points and donor engagement

Much like for-profits, non-profit organisations have a sales journey, or more appropriately, a donor journey that needs to be effectively managed in order to ensure ‘repeat business’ – whether it is becoming a monthly donor, regular volunteer or regular supporter at events or through its petitions, etc. In this week’s post I will be looking at brand touch-points, how they influence a customer’s perception of a brand and look at the five steps of a basic brand contact and planning process by evaluating some of the donor engagement touch-points of the World Wildlife Foundation of South Africa (WWF-SA).

Engaging with potential and current donors and supporters (especially those heavily reliant on individual donors) through effective brand touch points is vital to its financial survival. Research suggests that it takes on average between seven and 12 “touches” before a new donor will donate to a non-profit organisation (Angel Oak Creative, 2017).

Diagram of the various stages of the donor engagement lifecycle

A typical donor engagement life-cycle (source)

Due to the nature of the sector, internal marketing and the role of employee involvement in shaping the perception of the brand is vital. Most non-profit organisations have very benevolent, emotive, philanthropic and aspirational ideals and therefore most donors and other stakeholders expect the same level of benevolence from each employee or volunteer.  If it appears otherwise, donors and supporters can easily be alienated from the brand.

Listed below, Klopper and North (2011:161) suggest that there are five steps of a basic brand contact and planning process. These will be discussed in relation to WWF-SA‘s donor engagement life-cycle .

Step 1: All points of contact

Most non-profits will have a unique set of donor contact points. But there are a few that are common amongst most companies within the non-profit sector:

NewsletterDirect mail
Social media postsVideos
EventsMarketing collateral
Media coveragePhone calls

(Angel Oak Creative, 2017)

Step 2: Primary brand contact patterns

These include the most common contact points for a new donor. For WWF-SA, it is most likely to include the following:


WWF-SA’s website has a very modern, F-style layout, with clear call to actions, engaging content and a highlighted donate button indicating the various ways in which you can support the organisation.

Screenshot of WWF website

WWF-SA’s website wwf.org.za

Social media posts

WWF-SA’s Facebook page has 60, 876 page likes (4 July 2017) and typically replies within a few hours – a dedicated social media officer can help to improve the response rate and therefore this touch point. The content it posts is relevant, professional and makes use of visual media. However it does not receive high levels of interaction (on face value) from its followers other than likes; i.e. posts don’t receive a lot of comments or shares. More open-ended and emotive content could help to improve response rates.

Facebook page screenshot of WWF page

WWF-SA Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/WWFSA/


I’ve attended a few events where WWF-SA was present and it is very clear that a lot of thought and planning goes into their exhibitions and events, and carefully select the staff representing the organisation at these events. I recall a Rocking the Daisies event where they had a enormous Panda-shaped dome in which there were about a dozen WWF-SA volunteers assisting with newsletter sign-ups, selling merchandise, branding customers with stickers, taking pictures with their panda mascot, etc. The volunteers were all similarly branded in WWF clothing and were passionately enthused about the work that WWF-SA does. Similarly, WWF’s annual Earth Hour events and face-to-face fundraising stalls are also well executed and staffed with good brand ambassadors.

WWF Earth hour lighting candles panda shape
WWF Earth Hour event (source)
WWF fundraising donor stand mall face to face fundraising
WWF Face-to-face fundraising stand (source)

Newsletter communication

As a subscriber of WWF-SA’s mailing list, I receive WWF-SA’s newsletters which are sent roughly once a month. The newsletter follows a similar format to the organisation’s website and are well-written, visually appealing, engaging and offers various calls-to-action. However, the newsletters do not personally address each subscriber (i.e. Dear John) and it’s not addressed from a specific person (e.g. from the Executive Director) and therefore seems less personal.

Screenshot of WWF-SA newsletter whats your junk status

WWF-SA’s latest newsletter available online here.

Step 3: Most important brand contact points

The third step in evaluating a brand’s contact and planning cycle, is establishing which points of contact holds the most value for the customer and best serve the purpose of the organisation’s brand. These can be broken down into:

First contact point: E.g. visiting a stall or exhibition, seeing a WWF advertisement, etc.

Last contact point: E.g. receiving an e-newsletter.

Frequent contact points: E.g. social media posts, other above and below the line marketing like the recent #journeyofwater campaign.

Impact contact points: E.g. when making a donation (online or at a stall), inquiring about volunteering at the organisation, purchasing an item from the online store, requesting an 18A tax certificate, attending a special event (like Earth Hour), etc.

Resonant contact points: E.g. taking part in the Panda Peleton events where supporters can ‘swim, run or cycle for nature’. Donor stewardship by staff are key to keeping participants inspired and reminding them of the good cause they’re supporting through their efforts.

As a test of one of the impact contact points, I made a donation via the website. The process was very user-friendly and without hassle. However, there was no option of selecting where my donation can go (e.g. saving rhinos or water conservation projects). I only received a generic thank you screen thanking me for my donation. A personally-addressed auto email to my inbox on behalf of the CEO or Fundraising Manager thanking me for the donation would have held more meaning.

In addition, I also haven’t received any follow-up communication (telephone call or email) since my donation; which isn’t a major critique but would add significant value to its donor retention activities.

WWF thank you for your donation screenshot

Automated online thank you response for a donation

Step 4: Brand contact cohesion strategy

As an organisation that’s nearly 50-years old, WWF-SA has a good cohesive brand that’s clearly defined and cohesive in its approach to its various brand touchpoints. The use of its widely recognized logo of the panda, its primary colours and strong messaging has been evident to me whether its receiving their communication in my inbox, seeing exhibitors at a sustainability festival or engaging with their staff.

Step 5: Managing the brand contact cohesion strategy

As part of a larger group, it has a well-structured brand guideline to ensure brand cohesion throughout the various regional organisations. WWF’s brand book is available here and sets our clear organizational values and guiding principles and how these are internalized within the organisation and communicated to stakeholders.

In conclusion, brand touch-points and how customers engage with them continue to evolve most notably in the digital space (through apps, mobile marketing, etc.). Ensuring that these touch-points – whether it be through a newsletter or at an exhibit – exude the same compassion as the organisation’s ideals and brand will ultimately ensure its long-term sustainability and the ability to fulfill its mandate.

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