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.

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