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

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