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).

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