Thursday, 9 December 2010

Did you miss me?

Following on from a tweet I broadcast a few days ago - I thought I would just explain myself a little and caveat it by saying that just because I am in fundraising myself - it doesn't make me any less forgiving.

I received a 'reactivation' letter or putting it in layman's terms a letter asking me to resume my support. No bad thing. Getting supporters back is part and parcel of a fundraiser's role - though I have to say personally, more effort should be invested in keeping supporters in the first place. But proceeding with the assumption that 100% retention is impossible, what we do to try and get people to support us again or indeed convince them not to stop, is a very important activity because:

(1) If it is successful then you have another supporter giving time, money and hopefully word of mouth endorsements
(2) If it isn't successful but done well, you will have left your supporter with a nice, non-guilt inducing feeling and thus if they are able to support again in the future they probably will remember the lovely experience and you will be top of their list
(3) If executed well, you will have the chance to learn a great deal about what is pleasing to your supporters and in this case what isn't, so you can potentially fix issues any problems that are undermining the supporter experience.

So, back to the letter. In my case, At the heart of the problem was that the organisation was generalising. Now if you have a database of supporters in the hundreds and thousands then obviously this is a danger but one that needs to be considered as it could be ultimately detrimental to what is trying to be achieved.

"Miss Santer, it's not the same without you" - was pretty much the first line welcoming me as I opened the envelope. A lovely sentiment and one that I would hope to be true - but the fact that I had only made one payment before cancelling and the letter took several months to arrive just made me wonder.

And I think that is so often the problem with some reactivation / recovery processes. They are implemented as an admin function with computer generated letters selected en mass - and while they remain as such rather than being an intrinsic part of the retention strategy, the process will probably never be as successful as we want it to be.

So some suggestions:
  • Dig a little more deeply into the data - it will tell you much of what you need to know. Who has supported for many years or just one month, the value, the frequency, what else they did during that time if at all... that way you can choose the appropriate messages and also the channel to contact them by.
  • Accept that some supporters may not resume regular payments - however, do monitor their other behaviour because they could be supporting in other ways - nothing more damaging than sending a we've missed you letter when they have been campaigning and giving to one-off cash appeals all the while.
  • Instead of assuming that someone cancelled by accident and didn't realise it (would account for a very small %) - start from the point of view that it was your organisation that somehow let them down. Which is more likely to be the case. And then try and establish dialogue to find out what the problems were and if at all possible try to address them.
  • If you just try to get supporters back without understanding why they left in the first place you are essentially just asking supporters to return to the same unfulfilling experience as before. Why would anyone return for that? Just more of the same! And even if they do resume, how long will they remain giving before they stop giving again?
  • Also look at extending reactivation process beyond direct debit non-payers - appeal givers not giving again is equally a big issue that should be better understood - yet reactivation processes in the main seem to focus on lapsing/lapsed regular givers rather than other types of supporters.

In short, use the data to send appropriate messages, if at all possible find out why they left and if it was a problem offer to resolve it, if the supporter doesn't resume regular support and that is their only support then send them a lovely thank you and 'au revoir' letter that way you leave them with a lovely sentiment. And if they have cancelled their support make sure you check their other history - communicate accordingly (mail, telephone etc) acknowledging that you know their support extends beyond a DD and how wonderful that is. That to me is a better use of personalisation.

Like any other communication - reactivation processes should be about segmentation. Who you choose to contact, by what method and with what message and caring why people are leaving you and taking the time to find out and address the causes.

Taking a little time upfront with the data will mean you can better focus your efforts and communications in the reactivation cycle and even if it doesn't result in better results immediately - the positive experience given to your departing supporters is more likely to secure their support in the future. You are just laying down the ground work now!

As an aside. The reasons for my cancelling in the first place will fill another post another time.

Thank you for stopping by and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Just some thoughts to improve on something that is already great (IMHO)

I love receiving emails from Lend with care letting me know that £x amount has been repaid. Not because I am getting my money back (would gladly donate it anyway) but because the repayments are symbolic of the achievements of the people I am supporting - ultimately it signifies success and that is a wonderful thing for Akoua and for me, the person investing in her dream. Powerful stuff.

So, how can one improve on near perfection - well I have a couple of tiny suggestions which will hopefully be taken as helpful supporter feedback:

  • As the money is credited back - it would be great to be able to re-invest the money to assist another entrepreneur - even if it isn't £15.00. Obviously £15 is the minimum at point of sign-up but does that have to be the case when you have already started to invest? I appreciate that the aim is to encourage further investment - but hot off the back of a lovely email informing me of a loan repayment I would like to be able to click and just re-donate the amount in my account to another person even if it isn't a full £15.00, after all that is what the email suggests I can do. Of course, there are probably wireframe restrictions that I am unaware of or of the policy behind the £15 minimum - but I can tell you, it would just aid the momentum of giving and re-giving and would generate more in the longer-term.
  • I have seen the tweets from @kindaAngels that updates followers on who needs funding - and how far they have been funded thus far. Now this leads me onto my other suggestion. On the site there is a funded page which shows the many projects 100% complete. Great. But although there are a list of entrepreneurs with the '£ amount remaining' listed - for those with little time - it would be brilliant to see a scroll of projects near completion on the website i.e. 75% plus - that way people can swoop in and choose to add the final instalment required. This in itself would appeal to certain people - either time poor or those that want to be the person who makes the final payment. It would provide another way to select who to support and would also be a very motivating one - particularly if twitter people like @kindaAngels tweet "Akoua is 99% funded and needs just £15 to make her dreams a reality".
Anyway, love the site and what it is helping people like Akoua achieve. And my suggestions are purely coming from a user point of view - things that I intuitively expected - and thus thought I would take the time to share.

Keep up the great work!

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

If a picture paints a thousand words...

As the song lyrics go 'if a picture paints a thousand words, then why can't I paint you..' Lovely as the sentiment is, have you ever tried to describe a picture or visual content in such a way? It poses an interesting and actually quite useful challenge.

The technique of Audio Description does just that. It is used as a way of capturing the visual elements of a production for blind or visually impaired people. It is quite a skill(as is it a valuable service) and the essence of which, I think as fundraisers we could all learn from.

So, why not challenge yourself? Have a look at some footage on your website or even take a look at a photograph that you may plan to include in a feedback piece and see whether you can describe the scene in a meaningful, motivating and descriptive way for your own audience. Verbally or even in writing.

It is not as easy as it sounds - but being able to do it could not only improve your own story telling and communications but also your understanding of what are the most meaningful elements of them for your supporters.

It is definitely worth a go!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

What Christmas shopping has to do with fundraising.

I was struck by a small article in the The Sunday Times Magazine this weekend which asked the question 'Is it okay to recycle presents?'

Now, I can honestly say I have never done it myself - but then I am sure I have received a recycled gift at some point - mainly because you tend to know i.e. that feeling of 'what the..., they don't know me at all..' All the more annoying for someone like me who loves to buy presents for people and actually goes to a lot of trouble in selecting gifts that I know my friends and family will love.

However, despite this being a cautionary warning ahead of your Christmas shopping it also has a very useful reminder for fundraising too.

Choosing a gift should be about empathy, about how much we understand the person we are buying for. We should first start with the person NOT with what to buy them and the same can be said about our communications to supporters. Starting with the supporter and not the communication.

Find out about them and what they want. Their interests, their likes, their dislikes. Take time to tailor messages. Produce materials that people want to receive and you will be giving the gift of information, inspiration, education, and a sense of making a difference. And as a result we may get a wonderful gift in return: happy, committed and loyal supporters.

Happy Giving!!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Ways to make your supporters 'Tingle'

'Inspiration' is increasingly becoming a key motivating factor for giving - but the key challenge is knowing whether what we send to our supporters is genuinely 'inspiring'. After all, inspiration is a very subjective thing.

Some things to think about:
  • Do you know enough about your supporters to know what would, could, should inspire them? If not, then find out - and at every opportunity. We can never know too much about our supporters.
  • Knowing the difference between magic dust and hygiene factors? What does inspiration look like to your supporters? "Inspiration: the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something" - based on this definition to me, it is essentially everything we do as an organisation. Therefore, the most inspiration can be given by living up to the expectations we have set for our supporters. Of course the 'tingle factor' (as I like to call it) will help hugely in any communication - but it is the overall perception of your organisation that will be affected if everything else doesn't deliver and that's no matter how inspiring one piece of communication is.
  • What keeps you inspired? It is difficult to inspire others if you are not yourself. Inspiration should be a key part of the culture of organisations as should donor-centricity - but whether or not that is the case - it still needs to come from within. So take the time to speak to as many supporters as you can. Regularly visit the work and/or speak to as many people involved in it as possible. Empathy is great but no substitute for real closeness.
  • Can you see beyond the obvious? I am sure we have all waited for that fantastic case study or story because we know that it will better move, and motivate people into the action we want. But the practicality is that waiting can some times jeopardise deadlines. Therefore, it is important to view all stories like that, or at least ensure you have the skills to ensure that the most is made of every story, photograph and quote that we have. Obviously certain stories will resonate better than others - but it is a good skill to see beyond the obvious to create something that is still rather good.
  • Are you using the right channels? We can't inspire supporters if our communications are never opened and seen . Providing communications that people are excited about is key - but increasingly it is also about the channels chosen and ensuring the mix is right. After all the execution and delivery of your messages can be just as inspiring as the communications themselves.
  • Do you have a 'Tingle-o-metre'? The next time you send out a survey or feedback form to supporters - why not send out a tingle-o-metre for them to complete. That way you can ask supporters to fill in the things about your work that inspires them and mark them on a scale of what makes them 'tingle' about your work or what leaves them cold. Creatively it could be more inspiring than just a survey and it may offer some really interesting insights into what inspiration means to your supporters - rather than what you think it is.
Inspire away!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Why family focused functionality could create more supporters

I’m a big fan of micro-finance sites and more recently Lendwithcare has captured my imagination.

However, while on my ‘family is important in fundraising' crusade - it made me think about the functionality on such sites and why currently they don’t allow for a family to sign up i.e. Family Fortunes style 'The Santer Family' with each individual member then having their own portfolio of lending.

I am not sure what technically would be required to see this (and it may be financially prohibitive) - but I think it would be a lovely thing to have a family record of the contribution, while offering a great way to promote individual giving to younger family members - even if it is them just being initially motivated to donate their pocket money to one of these wonderful entrepreneurs, and seeing the impact being made.

Obviously some causes and products offer more of an educational element than others in terms of a family context - Child Sponsorship is a great example - but then maybe that is another area of development for charities to build on so that their cause or products will appeal family wide and sites like lendwithcare and other such models could be a perfect mechanism and platform.

Friday, 20 August 2010

For the record it's Mr and Mrs (or Ms)

Now for fear of sounding like a boring 'new parent'- the one thing that has become even more important to me is the idea of the family unit, what that means but also what that could achieve. And here, I am talking in fundraising terms.

From experience, I know that joint records of Mr & Mrs or even Mr and Ms often behave in a different way to Mr or Miss in the singular, possibly because of the joint nature of the relationship and dare I say the bank account.

In truth though, I don't think we pay enough attention to the joint units on our database - either in the way we identify and target messages or in a way that actually appeals to both parties.

For many charities the only acknowledgement of the two entities on a communication would be 'Dear Mr and Mrs Smith,....

As fundraisers, I think we are missing a great opportunity to engage both parties equally, or at least find out a little more about the dynamics of these joint records and what they would like both collectively and as individuals.

By being more proactive at looking at the life stages of those families on the database would allow better tailoring of the offers made. After all, as time passes and families become 'empty nests' or retire people's attitudes and indeed approach to giving changes as does the amounts of money that people have to donate to charities and good causes.

It may be a little direct, but I think there could be an argument for sending a well crafted letter to Mr and Mrs (Smith) and asking them if we could do more to appeal to both their needs and interests or even adding something on the welcome questionnaire that caters for joint records. I can't see it doing any harm and if done right could be really appreciated as good supporter care.

It is of course likely that Mr Smith has different interests to Mrs Smith based on their own life experiences - but they share a portfolio of giving so we do have the power in the ways and what we communicate, to influence where we are on their list of support by ensuring that we show impact and offer strong feedback.

If we can appeal to both parties individually and as a couple then we improve our chances of ensuring that we are number 1 on their charity list - obviously the aim for all of our supporters.

Monday, 2 August 2010

What would Goldilocks have done without 'just right' ?

While in godmother mode recently, I was strolling through the children's section of a book shop and there was Goldilocks and the three bears.

As my adult self flicked through the book I was reminded how much I loved that book as a child (probably because I love bears), but I remember thinking to myself what if there wasn't a 'just a right' for Goldilocks? That there was only two beds to choose from or two bowls of porridge for her to try? Would she have chosen any of them or just left - or is there always a 'just right' whatever the range of choice or is a decision made irrespective?

However, I was reminded of my Goldilocks thought recently while reading a really interesting book by
Dan Ariely called Predictably Irrational. Essentially, first part of the book explains the idea of relativity and how decisions are based on how the options we have are presented in relation to others.

Now many a marketing offer is based on this psychology - and if you look out for them they are quite obvious - like subscription offers, but how much of this psychology do we try and test in our fundraising?

Recently raised by Craig Linton on twitter asked the twitterverse for ideas around the revamp of his organisation's donation form. He received some suggestions and recommendations. Now I was one of the people that offered up my ten pence worth - on the basis of the importance of a strong case for support being linked to the ask prompts - but would 3 prompts result in a 'just right' scenario for supporters better than 5 prompts?

Equally - how we present a regular giving ask in a script or mailing i.e. 'for less than a cost of a news paper...' or 'for the cost of half a chocolate bar you could...' etc how effective are these comparisons in helping supporters see the relative worth of the ask in real-life context? After all they are still very well used but are they actually effective?

I would be really interested to know if anyone has actually done any real testing on this in their fundraising recently - if you are happy to share.

Thank you.

Monday, 19 July 2010

When is relevant irrelevant?

I was talking to a couple of friends recently who over a quiet dinner, both relayed their days from hell. Though the situations were quite different the problems in both cases related to a failure in a process and ultimately the choice of communication.

Essentially in both examples, email requests were sent by their staff members, high priority for an important matter and for whatever reason they weren't actioned. The results were disgruntled people, a delay to the service, complaints, and some repercussions at a higher level and a review of the current procedure.

What I thought was interesting was the steadfast reliance to just one mode of communication - and not necessarily the most appropriate or relevant.

This got me thinking about how we as charities communicate with our supporters and sometimes I think that too readily we choose one way, whether or not we are getting a response or not or because we always do it that way.

Equally sometimes we don't take into consideration as quickly as we might what is the most appropriate mode of communication for the message we are sending.

Thus we are probably not as strategic as we could be about trying to capture as many of the personal details as possible to give us more choice in how we can communicate.
And we certainly need to give more thought to the various channels open to us and how the use of these may change as the relationship develops. In the same way they do for us in our personal lives.

For example:

Q1. You want a friend to look after your beloved pet while you go away for the weekend - would you (a) text them to ask them to look after your treasured pet (b) write them an email (c) get on the phone?

Q2. You are at work and the light above your desk has gone and is flashing and making you feel a little queasy - would you (a) email facilities team letting them know about your strip lighting (b) give them a call to let them know (c) pop-down and just mention it?

Now there are no right or wrong answers to the questions above (though some would get you a quicker more effective response than others) - and equally I would say that the answers chosen would depend on a number of things: how good a friend is it, have you asked them to look after your pet before, do they live close by, do they need time check their diary several week's in advance, do they constantly text or are they always forgetting their phone? Or with facilities department - where are they in the building? Two floors away or 14 floors away, are they particularly busy at the moment due to staff holidays or sickness? You see what I mean?

The point is, there are variables that should probably be considered for all our requests to supporters too.

Recently I had the pleasure of collecting the IOF award for best use of the telephone for an emergency campaign. Which asked ActionAid Child Sponsors linked to a region of Pakistan whether in the emergency they would allow us to derestrict their support to enable a quicker response on the ground. The response was overwhelming and I was thrilled that we won.

But when the situation was originally being discussed there was an assumption that it would be a mailing because that is one of the main channels we use to send out our emergency communications.

For me however, there were a number of factors that needed to be weighed up:
It was an emergency, people would be worried about their own sponsored children (a letter no matter how well crafted would possibly raise more questions than answer), the request was urgent and we wanted to get the attention of as many people as possible, it was a potentially sensitive subject and required time for explanation if people had questions about their support, their child even our emergency response.

Therefore, the campaign was much more suited to the telephone and it had the desired affect. Allowing us to speak to our supporters, reassure them where needed and ultimately get them to understand why we were asking for what we were and the difference it would make to the people of Pakistan.

I appreciate that we are often limited by only having certain supporter details and thus there is only one route open to us. However, if we ensure that data capture of key contact information is part of the wider strategy for our supporter communications and look at it as a way of enabling us to better communicate to our supporters - then it is a worthwhile effort.

Of course our supporters will soon let us know if they don't want to be communicated via this means or that..and of course we should give them a choice - but if we have the choice to start with and choose the appropriate channel with the right communication based on their support and the other information we know about them - then I think we may also find the number of 'don't mail me or email me or phone me' exclusions could go down.

Relevant communications are all very well and good but at the end of the day they are only relevant if they get seen, read and hopefully acted upon. Therefore, how we choose to communicate these messages can be just as vital as the messages themselves.

A big thank you to Ethicall in Bristol for doing such a great job on the campaign.

Monday, 12 July 2010

The power of a 60 second critique..

Over the weekend, an insert I have seen before several times dropped out of the Guardian. I always have a look - but today my boyfriend beat me to it.

A little later - checking that he hadn't put it in the recycling pile, he asked me what I thought.

Now, the conversations I usually have with him about such things are always interesting because other than his voluntary work, his work is a million miles from the not-for-profit sector
and he usually comes at things from a very different perspective (usually a legal one) to the point that we can disagree quite strongly.

The insert in question is the UNICEF 'Please Pick Up' which I think visually is really compelling. But I am always interested to see what non fundraising people think. So with some devil's advocacy thrown in...the conversation went something like this:

Me: "What do you think of it?"

Peter: "Powerful photo and message - but it was ruined by the amount of copy inside it - unnecessary. Too much and not saying anything."

Basically a page of copy giving context and making the ask for £2 per month - several times (as he pointed out).

Me: "Don't you want to read about the what UNICEF is doing and the case for support to make the decision to support or not?"

Peter: "No, you don't need it - no child should be in that position. That's enough of a story."

Me: "But doesn't it tell you how you can help children like him and what is needed?"

Peter: " No - just goes on about £2 a month, probably not helping the little boy at all.
It's all about the organisation and nothing about how I will be making a difference specifically AND the copy font is far too small for anyone to find it comfortable to read (considering the size of the insert actually quite true). The original impact of the photo is weakened by the text."

Me: "Are you going to sign-up?"

Peter: "If I do, would need to know a bit more about where my donation would actually be going and what impact it would make - it's pretty vague."

Now this conversation took probably about a minute and hardly a detailed critique - but it was clear that Peter was not convinced. Now this is just one person's perspective - but it is still valid because for him there is something in the way of his support - and it could be easily rectified.

Now I am guessing that this is a pretty successful insert for UNICEF because I have seen it before, and I wish them the best of luck in their recruitment. But it made me wonder whether, despite the relative success of our banker communications, we do enough to test them in order to make sure they are as strong as they can be and I don't just mean the sign-up rates but also on-going retention figures.

And just importantly, thinking that all charities should probably have a Peter or a group of them to call on - ideally before work goes out, just to check whether we are ticking the necessary boxes with our advertising - which would be no bad thing at all.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sorry...but thank you seems to be the hardest word

Now in my day to day job as the Head of Retention and Development as well as a supporter of many charity organisations, I am frequently stunned by the communications I receive and read - but quite often not in a good way.

There are many elements that could and should be included in a supporter communication to make them as effective and engaging as possible - but the one I lament the absence of more than any are the words or at least sentiment of Thank you.
Now to me it isn't rocket science - far from it - it is one of the simplest ways to show appreciation yet it is still the most underused.
Without our supporters we couldn't do what we do. Yet why do so many communications and additional requests for support not start by thanking supporters for what they already do. Even on a practical level, acknowledging their support up front and thanking them for it would make any additional request much easier to make after all.
So a plea, the next time you are sending an email or mailing etc asking for them to take part in an event you are running or asking for support for an appeal, please check to ensure you acknowledge them for what they already do - with a big Thank you!
For those to which I am already preaching to the converted - the next thing to do is to ensure that everyone that is involved in any production of supporter communications also understands this and has bought into it. It is an organisational wide buy-in you need - otherwise you and your team may be the only ones sending thank you infused communications - with other communications undermining all your hard work.

Of course there should be additional parts of your supporter programme that are just thank you. Not thank you and or thank you but... but a wonderfully celebratory, unmistakably clear thank you only. But for everything else you communicate there is no reason to ever not include it.

Monday, 7 June 2010

All is fair in love and supporter relationships

I was reminded of a presentation I gave to my international colleagues last year in order to share with them key learning about our UK supporters and why we all have a role in keeping our supporters engaged and supporting us.

One of the most successful and indeed entertaining parts of the session was when I asked the audience what they thought were the main reasons for relationships failing.

- Infidelity
- leading separate lives
- nothing in common any more
- lies
- love letters found for another person..

There was much laughter and comic answers during this session - but my point was that like personal relationships - it is similar things that cause our supporter relationships to falter and end.

So though this isn't new, I think it is a useful reminder.

7 tips to help keep a supporter relationship alive:

1. Make time for your supporters
This is an obvious one - but if you don't then you don't get to know your supporters and what they like, don't like and of course what they are interested in. This is even more important in today's multi-media connected world - where people are exposed to tens of thousands of messages a day - so it is even more important to ensure what you are offering is what your supporters are interested in.

2. Keep listening and talking Without communication most relationships are pretty much dead. Two ships that pass in the night is all you will end up being. Actively encouraging your supporters to feedback and tell you what they think is vital. Charities also need to respond actively to this feedback and use it as an opportunity to build dialogue.

3. Show your love and appreciation regularly
I cannot stress the importance of thanking your supporters enough - and that is just the start. The other key element is ensuring you are not making excessive demands on your supporters. Quite often we can be so busy targeting certain supporter groups because they have done x,y and z for us in the past.. that we just reward their generosity with just more and more requests.
4. Show you know them Data, data, data - for this one it is crucial that your data is up-to-date and accurate - in the same way that appropriate personalisation and little touches can enhance any relationship - the wrong name, date, personal detail could tear apart any sense that you know or care anything about your supporters.
5. Don't take the relationship for granted This is about keeping the relationship fresh and alive. Not just what you are saying and doing but how this is being conveyed. If everything starts to feel like a conveyor belt of churned communications - with no link or narrative - then you might find yourself with a note stating they are leaving you.

6. Surprise them We all like nice surprises - and supporter relationships should not be any different. In the same way people learn and respond to information in different ways: visually, auditory and kinesthetic - creatively we can ensure that we mix up the communications our supporters receive - offering a multi sensual experience or even better, finding out what a supporter's preferred mode of communication is and appealing to that. Essentially if you tell someone who is kinesthetically motivated that you love them - then it won't mean as much as if you actually show them!

7. Have an open mind to a fling Now, before you think I have lost my mind - let me qualify this by saying that what I mean is even the most impromptu and unlikely relationship could turn out to be the love of your life - and the same can be said for supporters. The important thing is that no matter how a supporter arrives at your door you need to ensure that there are systems in place to ensure that the quality follow-up is there in the same way it would be for a planned recruitment campaign. A lovely thank you and a warm personal follow-up could easily transform a fling into a long-term relationship.

Finally - though I am not going to make this tip 8, the recovery / win back stage is also critical but may I say from my own experience very much neglected.

The truth is if done well, the recovery process will provide useful information that could help restore and revive some of the failing relationships and just as importantly help to ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated in the future.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

It's what you leave behind that counts..

Now, I know the title of this post could sound a bit like a (poor) legacy campaign message - but actually it's not. It is essentially the key message of an organisation that I stumbled across this morning called stuff your rucksack. And I have to say I was really taken with it.

Basically it is a small charity offering a meaningful role for people who love to travel and who care about the countries, communities and people they meet.

As someone who works for ActionAid who often has the privilege to visit communities in the countries where we work overseas - I have frequently known that feeling of wanting to make a tangible difference there and then - and often, as the work of ActionAid demonstrates, it can be the simplest thing that can make the most difference.

What really stands out for me though is the fact that stuff your rucksack is giving people an opportunity to support projects and work as part of their own life plans, not an add-on or an interruption. It is offering something that can be integrated as part of the planning and thus someone's actual travel journey. With the benefits for everyone involved being profound and lasting far beyond the duration of the trip.

Obviously this is the raison d'etre for this organisation - but I think it is what every charity should be striving for. As the site states, 'One day I want people to say: ‘Have I got my visa? Have I got my passport? Have I checked the Stuff Your Rucksack site?'

Now, that is a supporter journey I do like the sound of.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Can I have a bath of beans with that welcome pack..?

I have recently been reading about the new breed of extreme adventurers for whom the traditional is not just too easy but apparently not exciting enough.

You just have to read about Dan Martin and his 18 month round the world triathalon plan that will see him swimming the Atlantic just as a starter. What used to be a challenge for many is now seen as old hat. An ascent of Everest or a trek to the South Pole? Nah! Been there done that or rather too many have been there and done that! And I guess the point is that we need to make fundraising more exciting and relevant too.

In Jeff Brooks - The curse of unremarkable fundraising post he quite rightly laments at the lack of imagination in some fundraising and indeed the apparent desire of many organisations to remain attached to fundraising models that in some cases aren't even yielding growth.

For me, though a great start, it isn't good enough to just give people a choice in what they support but we should also be looking at giving supporters a choice in how they choose to support that work, cause or project.

So why for example can't someone sit in a bath of beans if they want to and raise money for their monthly committed giving? I am sure if asked, many organisations would accept the income but is it actively promoted and encouraged and more importantly supported?

Now that isn't to say that our supporters aren't doing this kind of thing all the time but such fundraising is usually confined to incremental support of events that require thousands of pounds of sponsorship such as a marathon place or an overseas trek.

Now whether or not an approach like this is or isn't suitable for smaller products and offers would need to be tested - but broadening the horizon to how we enable supporters to give to your cause could and should be explored.

The benefits for example of an approach like this could include:

  • Inherent multiplier effects - friends of friends of friends all getting exposure to your cause
  • Positive ways to engage supporters in an active way
  • Different and varied ways to acknowledge what the supporter has done and to share this with other supporters (I can imagine the great content being generated)
  • To offer an opportunity to engage supporters who may feel they can't afford a regular gift the standard way - but could be inspired to be creative to fundraise in other ways and have some fun in doing so

This is just one example of what I am talking about i.e. giving people choices and support to raise and give money their way - and of course there are downsides. My point is we need to just be a little more adventurous about what we offer that will appeal to the fundraising adventurers out there - and possibly attract a new breed of supporters entirely.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

When ten minus three equals thirteen!

Just caught up on a fascinating article in the Times Eureka Supplement last week - the cultural context of maths and the different ways the world counts. Despite a sense that counting is a universally agreed method - tell that to the Suyá people of the Amazon.

If you had ten fish and gave three away - how many would you have left? Most people in the western world would say 7. To the Suyá tribesman asked that question the answer is in fact 13. To him if he gave 3 fish away to his brother, his brother would have to pay double back in return - so to him it isn`t a loss but actually a gain.

“Why is it that ‘giving’ is always seen as ‘minus’ for white people?” another Suyá asked the researcher in the article.

A good question. And In relation to charitable giving probably one of the biggest in terms of how our supporters see their support and indeed what we as fundraisers are doing day-to-day to ensure they feel they are getting more in return than they are giving.

One day it would be great to see a charitable donation actually appear as a credit on the bank statement...instigated by our own supporters perhaps? But until that point it certainly made me think that if giving was seen in the same way as the people of the Amazon saw it - even more of the world would be happy to 'give' to charity. The fact that as fundraisers we have some control of this is a very positive thought indeed.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

From Threepenny opera to £5 per month direct debit..

I like opera..though I don't go nearly as often as I'd like. But as I was looking at the English National Opera website this weekend, I was struck by something.

No, it wasn't a great piece of functionality or something whizzy (though I am sure there are examples of both) - it was something much more simple and dare I say obvious than that - a chance to listen to some of the music in the featured opera.

Now what's the big deal? Well actually I've not seen Tosca yet and for me there was a chance to
listen to three little snippets.. an opportunity to get a sense of the experience I was thinking of buying into. For others who have seen Tosca many times before it's an opportunity to remind them of why they should see this particular production and pay £80+ for a ticket.

Either way, music and performance is what they are selling, so it makes sense to showcase it and use it as a way to persuade or remind an opera goer of what they would be hearing on the night.

Just out of curiosity I then randomly visited several charity websites - the reason really was to see whether any of them had something similar that was essentially offering a 'preview' of what supporters could get /achieve from supporting the cause in an immediate and easily digestible format i.e. without reading the entire website.

Though there was some great content on display: video, photos, stories, games and campaigns very few focused on giving the supporter a feeling of what they personally could be making possible, achieving, receiving and feeling from supporting charity x - all in a bite size chunk.

Of course summing up a cause and giving a prospective supporter a role in that support in a clear and immediate way (whatever the medium) is probably more challenging than selling an opera. But my point is that when we are producing content for anything, that we do so with the supporter in mind rather than merely relying on it being a moving story, or photo.

Without contextualising the content into something relevant to the people reading your communication or visiting your site - it will just remain a great story or great example of your work - it won't bring the supporter any closer to that work or set the scene for the great experience you offer (hopefully) and that you want supporters to buy into for £xx per month.

That's the challenge - a supporter focused elevator pitch - though one I think is well worth the time and thought to crack.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

A fundraising tale of two cities...

Whilst on the metro during a recent trip to paris, a couple got on. Nothing odd in that. At first they looked like any other 60 year old couple that you might see across the world and all seemed to be just so. Then the tambourine and the violin started up.

The reaction that followed was no different to what you would see on the London underground. So as the first rendition started - something from Carmen - I noticed a lot of people shift uncomfortably, avert their eyes and just looked desperately for an escape route. For me, my first reaction was to actually check to see whether I had any spare Euros.

Now, of course a huge assumption was being made by the whole carriage. The assumption being that this couple were playing music for money and it was a fair assumption. For me, what was quite interesting was that despite how lovely the music was, I couldn't enjoy it or engage with it until I knew I could afford the experience.

By the time the couple performed 'La Vie en Rose' the people on the metro were much more receptive and as the hat went around our Euros went in.

Back in London and on the 'misery' line just yesterday, I had a similar experience. This time it was a man in his mid twenties, a little scruffy and dirty in appearance got on. This time no music was played, just a heartfelt plea for some 'change' to help him with a hostel for the night. For many the reaction was the same as in Paris; no eye contact, uncomfortable glances and ipod volume up.

Now just a few observations from my Paris and London tales in relation to fundraising:
  • With so many communications coming at supporters these days - there is probably an assumption that everything is an 'ask' of some kind. Now this is all very well if it is, but if the communication you're sending is a feedback or just a plain old 'Thank you, you are fantastic!' Then unless we do more to make that clear at the outset - the likelihood of these vital communications being seen is very small.
  • Likewise. If we are asking for money, we need to be more upfront about it and not cloak it as something else. People who support you know you will ask them for money at some point and if done correctly and well it isn't a problem.
  • Be relevant - now this is an obvious point - but it was made even clearer to me when discussing the French buskers with my sister, who said that she was moved to donate just as much about the music choice as the quality of the music being played. Not to say she wouldn't have given if they were playing Pachebel's Canon or whatever, but actually the music was a motivating factor. So we can't underestimate the worth of finding out as much as we can about our supporters and going to them with information and areas of work in which we already know they are interested.

  • The London experience showed a bit more of the 'we've seen and heard it before' cynicism so whether this man was genuinely in need or not, for many it was nothing new and many remained unconvinced. I think often we are guilty of doing this with appeals. For our supporters it is probably all too frequently what has been seen before. The challenge therefore for us is about making these 'asks' more innovative and dare I say genuinely urgent - after all putting urgent on something doesn't make it so.

  • The other difference between Paris and London was also around the concept of knowing what your money was for. In Paris people were paying for the entertainment, the music and even if the couple were as in need of the money as the man in London, that's not really why they were giving. For the man in London faced with the cynicism around homelessness etc his case for support was not enough to reassure the many that the money was going to where he said it was needed. Donor fatigue? Just not an original case for support? all these things need to be considered in relation to your communications plan.

  • Finally the biggest observation from these underground travels is that people really don't seem to like being put on the spot to make such decisions as to whether something justifies a donation or not...of course people still do - as I did, but it is about control and choosing when and how. People are much happier with that.

And just because it is such a great song and it reminds me of Paris - enjoy!

Happy Easter!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Do you know what your supporters are doing?

Oscar Wilde once said that a cynic is a man that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing... now I am not saying that all of us in the fundraising world are cynics and in fact a healthy dose of cynicism helps us keep our wits about us.

However, in some cases I do think we as fundraisers can be a little prone to put price before value i.e. we can judge an activity on its cost and income rather than the true value an activitiy can yield both from the supporter and the value to the supporter.

Take appeals for example - they will have a clear spend attached and a corresponding income target based on xx number of supporters being mailed and xx% response rate and of course in simple terms these are the main measures of success.

However, one dimension of such activities that we don't seem to be so focused on is how we measure the bi-product or rather bi-behaviour of such activities. Instead we focus on the behaviour we have planned for and are expecting. And really - since when do people behave completely as we would expect?

We know that measuring any response to recruitment requires a recognition that people today engage multi modally across channels - so having seen a DRTV ad they are as likely (if not more so) to follow-up on-line as they are of phoning or texting.

The point is the same can probably be said for how people choose to 'respond' to your communications. As we acknowledge the value of integrated channels in recruitment for example - we probably need to apply the same logic in measuring response to supporter activities.

So, next time you run an appeal or any activity for that matter, do some digging in the data to see how many people who didn't formally respond to your appeal chose to do something else in the same time period while bypassing your donation form or response device. Who:

  • Increased their dd payment permanently instead of making a credit card payment

  • Chose to take up another offer or product instead of sending in a cheque

  • Decided to leave a legacy in their will to you instead of uplifting their DD for one month only....

  • Sent in a donation using an old donation form ie not the one for your most recent appeal?

Now part of the solution is of course ensuring that your donation form / response device is more than just a mechanism for a one of gift - but facilitates any number of ways people may want to respond to one of your requests for money or time. By doing so and ensuring upfront that all parts or methods of response are part of the data capture and thus part of the on-going reporting, means you would be capturing all of this information automatically.

That said though there are certain behaviours that it is more difficult to monitor like the example earlier of someone choosing to use an old donation form to respond to your latest request. It is probably more common than we realise and yet often the only way you may find out about these responses is when you see money showing against an old activity in the monthly accounts.

Meanwhile without a proactive eye out for such eventualities the likelihood could be that the thank you letter relating to that old appeal has gone out with little relevance to the reason why the supporter gave this time.

I won't labour the point to heavily about the importance of the donation form and making it work better, because everything from fonts, ask levels and cancel your dd asks have been shared already at queerideas at askdirect or at Sofii - and much can be learned from all of them in helping to perfect your form or at least to test.

However, what I am ultimately suggesting is that in order to truly measure the value of an activity we need to look beyond the ROI . We should look at all the ways your supporters are behaving in response to any given activity - even if indirectly and ensuring that processes and triggers are in place to monitor them. That way we will see the wider value of an activity and will be better informed to make decisions about their future direction and strategy.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Like a back of a bus

The other day I found myself running for a bus - which typically started to leave as I just got there. A back of a bus moment..

I decided to wait for the next one - it was cold, it was dark and I was a little early for where I needed to be. Time passed and several glances at the bus timetable later - 45 minutes had passed - I was now cold, a little peeved, now late and no closer to where I needed to be.
  • Why did I decide to wait ?
    Why didn't I just start walking after fictional bus 1 and 2 failed to materialise?

As I pondered these questions, I was reminded of an article I had read some year's ago about the cognitive tricks our mind plays - how we reason and take decisions. Take bus stop lingering - the decision to stay rather than walk is often not just down to shoes or weather - but what you have already invested, in my case 45 mins of time.

So as I waited.. I realised that waiting for a bus rather than walking - was quite a good analogy for fundraising communications and the supporter experience.

My bus stop ponderings:

  1. Bus timetables are both a wonderful and a terrible thing - on one hand you know there is a level of service in place (in theory) and that it provides a guide or estimate of the type of service you are likely to get. On the other hand - the sight of one, establishes expectations of the service being offered, which if not met will lead very quickly to dissatisfaction and frustration. So when people sign up to support your cause you had better be aware of what you are offering and what expectations are being raised - and be sure that you are delivering on them.

  2. The journey for me started even before I arrived at the bus stop - and therefore judgement started before I even got on the bus - doubly compounded by the fact the bus was late. With any supporter relationship the same can be said of everything about your offer - therefore it is important to consider the quality of every aspect of your programme. Not just one part. Questions to ask include whether the rest of the communications a supporter receives are as good and relevant as the ones specially engineered for the welcome process? Or that the excitment and messages and content that recruited someone to your cause initially, are carried on throughout the relationship?

  3. And then consider if you will finally getting on the bus only for you to be stuck in dreaded traffic because gas and water companies have dug up the same road again within days of each other. Another analogy this time for poorly coordinated communications internally from departments all wanting their share of the supporters in-box or door mat without any sense of what this may feel like to the supporters receiving them and just as damaging potentially conveying the lack of priorities in your organisation.

  4. As a Londoner - gripes about fares and increasing travel costs are pretty standard - but this is more about value for money. Fundraisers frequently use Return on Investment as a measure of activities or campaigns - yet rather interestingly we rarely look at this in relation to returns of our supporters' investment into us - whether it be financial, time, emotion, commitment, reputation or all of them. We don't acknowledge their contributions as an investment - they have just 'given a donation' or 'taken an action' - yet investment is a word that really conveys a vested interest and any communication to them should clearly convey what their support has made or is making possible. Whether this could be approached creatively in 'investment' language could be interesting to test - particularly if someone is considering leaving you - but that is another post for another time.

  5. My bus eventually arrived and the bus driver mitigated any grumpiness I had by being happy and cheery but apologetic. This leads rather nicely onto the importance of supporter care in all of this and more importantly, proactive supporter care. So, for example if a supporter is expecting a report or feedback that is going to be late - then tell them, and tell them before they phone you asking where it is. Simple philosophy again - but can make such a difference to a supporter's expectations but also how they view your organisation.

It's amazing what occurs to you while waiting for a bus - but some small things to think about that will go a long way to ensure much happier passengers in the longer term.

By the way, some clever people have actually worked out the maths of waiting for a bus (if you are interested).

Friday, 5 February 2010

Back to the Future..and back again.

I have always loved the film ‘Back to the Future’ – the one about 80s teenager Marty McFly being transported back to 1955 in a plutonium-powered DeLorean time machine.

Having watched the film again recently - this time travelling business got me wondering and I think we probably could do a bit more of it in the fundraising world – and a perfect use for it – is in the development of the Supporter Journey.

Now ‘supporter journey’ is a much (over) used phrase – and though the detail will vary across each organisation depending on products, audiences, segmentation and communication permutations and possibilities, ultimately it is about clearly mapping out a meaningful journey for your supporters in order to maximise engagement and value.

However, from experience it seems there is tendency to see communications planning in a very linear fashion, getting from point A to point B.

A pretty typical example could be:

• There needs to be x number of feedbacks – because that is what we tell people they will receive as part of their support

• x number of retention / stewardship communications – because of course we want to thank them and feedback on what their support is achieving

• x number of supporter magazines – we all have them – though some purposes are clearer than others..

• x number of satisfaction surveys and opportunities for people to tell us what they want in terms of frequency and type of communications - (within the parameters of the data systems we operate in)

• x number of asks – response to which will take them off on to different pathways etc

The results when mapped can look like an ordinance survey map – and though at the end we may have a map of what people could receive depending on their preferences I am not sure that we will really get supporters to where we want them to be and more importantly get them to where they want to be with their relationship with us?

At ActionAid we have many thousand child sponsors – but can I say that they each have had the same experience? Feel the same about us? Or are at the same stage in their relationship with us just by virtue of the fact that they receive the same communications. Yet this seems to be the assumption to many a journey or communications plan. We try to plan what we think is best without really looking at what we want to achieve.

We need to take our imagination and our vision at least 5 years into the future and decide what it is we want our supporters to be doing, feeling and saying about our cause, and then work back from that point.

By doing this it will help ensure that:

• A network of communications are developed and introduced to better ensure that this vision is achieved.

• Key communications are developed with a very specific function and need from the start – because in knowing what we want to achieve or engender 2, 3, 5 years down the line will mean that we can ensure everything from subject matter, tone, look and feel of  the communications will ensure that each communication is working towards that.

• Sharing this back to the future strategy in all creative briefs to agencies will ensure the wider strategic imperative for each appeal or feedback is clear and understood – not just the isolated targets for each activity.

• In the event we offer complete choice, we will be able ensure that all communications a supporter has opted in to receiving, again achieve what they must to meet the needs of the supporters. The fundraising equivalent of a balanced diet no matter how few the ingredients.

• It will give us a reason to time travel regularly in order to ensure that what we are trying to achieve is also taking on the intelligence and learnings of the markets and audiences that we are working with.

What I am sharing here is quite obvious - in fact it is pretty standard strategic planning - I am just often surprised by what is often a tactical approach taken to the planning of supporter communications - when it is one of the most important elements of ensuring that supporters are happy, stay with us and tell their friends about us.

But if you needed more proof that time travel is possible then take a look at this