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