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Using Behavior Management Techniques to Strengthen Donor Relationship Management

If you are like me, you are often looking for ways to improve your work or grow in competencies. This growth mindset approach is effective for many people. While most of us want to improve our abilities, the “how to” of the puzzle is often the confusing part. However, we can take some lessons from the field of behavior management in order to strengthen how we approach donor relationship management. 

What is Behavior Management?

Behavior management is a field of research that looks into the reasons people behave the way they do. Specifically, it seeks to determine what things reinforce behavior. A particularly important aspect of behavior management is understanding how people change behaviors. 

Perhaps the leading expert in the area of behavior management is Dr. B.J. Fogg, who I’ve written about before. He is the founder of Stanford University’s Behavior Design Lab and created a model that describes how behavior change works. 

Specifically, Fogg illustrated how behavior is the result of a combination of motivation, skill, and prompts. If people lack one of these three, a behavior will not occur. Behavior change may fail due to low motivation, lack of ability, or a missing prompt. In a recent conversation with my good friend Stephanie Weldy, we discussed how techniques of behavior management can be employed to help build real relationships. 

To listen to the whole conversation with Stephanie on What the Fundraising, click here.

Learn how to enhance donor relationships through behavior management techniques

They Key to Behavior Change is Starting Small

Have you ever had an important goal and failed to achieve it? I think we’ve all been there. Often, the problem is motivation. This can definitely be the case in fundraising. Motivation often falls victim to competing forces. One of the biggest forces that can work against motivation is fear. For example, you may fear asking for money, something I was often uncomfortable with in my own career. 

Thus, the key to being able to generate new behaviors is to start small. Looking at Fogg’s Behavior Change Model, you will note that there are two areas where action is highly probable. These are when motivation is high and when something is easy to do. Starting small allows us to make behavior change easy to do. Small, simple goals can be incorporated into our daily routines. A great way to start small with behavior change is to focus on Tiny Habits. 

What Are Tiny Habits?

Tiny Habits are a mechanism for behavior change promoted by Dr. Fogg. With these, he recommends that we cease our preconceived notions about habits being good or bad. Instead, he argues that people need to view habits through the scientific lens of behavior change. The goal is to use intentional decisions to design and reinforce behavior. In many ways, you are working to rewire the connections in your brain to increase a desired action. 

This is particularly important when it comes to increasing motivation for managing donor relationships. With these Tiny Habits, the goal is to increase motivation through intentional design. A great example of this lies in filling out donor records. We often don’t feel like updating a donor record because we lack motivation, sometimes due to subconscious or unconscious fears such as having not done a good job of wrapping up next steps. 

In fact, for our examples of intentionally engineering behavior, we can use the ultimate goal of updating a donor record. 

The Importance of Prompts

The key to engineering behavior lies in prompts. Prompts are things that signal to us to begin a certain behavior. There are three different types of prompts:

  • Person Prompt. This is simply you remembering to engage in a particular behavior. Here, you just count on yourself to remember something, which is not always the most effective way. 
  • Context Prompt. This is the most common type of prompt and typically involves things like notes, reminders, or organization skills. These sound good in nature but are often difficult since we use them so often. 
  • Action Prompt. The most effective type of prompt, this involves building a behavior into an existing set of actions in order to reinforce it. 

Let’s look at some examples of these. For example, if you feel you don’t have motivation to update a donor record because you aren’t fully discussing next steps at the end of a meeting, you can set yourself the goal of discussing next steps. You ideally want to tie this to some sort of an anchor, which is something that almost always happens near the end of a meeting. For example, a way to do this with a context prompt would be to list “Discuss Next Steps” at the end of a meeting agenda. 

When the anchor causes you to remember to discuss next steps, this should create a genuine feeling of success that helps reinforce the action. In fact, it is this feeling of success and celebration that is most powerful in reinforcing your new behavior. It helps to rewire your brain to expect that happy reward feeling. 

Strengthen your donor relationship management skills with behavior management techniques

Let’s consider how an action prompt might work with updating a donor record. Let’s say that you conclude a meeting with a donor. Next, you take a few minutes to send a quick e-mail to yourself where you type up brief notes and reflections from the meeting. When you arrive back at the office, reading this e-mail can serve as an action prompt to open the donor record and update it. In fact, you can even use content from the e-mail to do so. The feeling of beginning to work on a donor record will make you feel successful, helping provide the critical reward to repeat the behavior. 

Need a Tool to Help Improve Donor Relationship Management?

Using the science of behavior management and Tiny Habits can be very effective in helping to change your behavior. You can use these techniques in your professional and personal life. They are particularly useful in building confidence when it comes to donor management. 

If you are looking for a tool to further enhance donor relationship management, Instil is a people-centered fundraising tool developed for nonprofit professionals in the age of smartphones. That means it’s easy to actually record your interactions with donors while on the go.The aim is to help empower you to give everyone – donors, board members, and community members – the relationship care they deserve. 

For more of my favorite fundraising tips and tricks, check out my Resource page! Here, you can find relevant articles, webinars, quizzes, etc. about fundraising in the nonprofit sector. In addition, you can subscribe to What the Fundraising for ongoing conversations about how you can fundamentally change the way you lead and fundraise. And to learn how to raise more from the right funders using the Power Partners Formula, you are always welcome to join one of my free Masterclasses at malloryerickson.com/free.

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