Friday, 13 April 2012

No apology necessary..really.

To some extent I may be a little old fashioned - but I believe a thank you like an apology should never be caveatted with but....and should also be genuine.

Now it is sometimes difficult to say whether an apology is genuine but then you have to look at what the apology is for. However, as a fundraiser I don't personally think you should ever apologise for asking for money. Mainly because, the need for the support should be genuine, and in most cases is constant. That is why I was intrigued to see this land on my door mat.

Now when I first saw it, I must confess I thought it was an apology for some banking or admin error so I opened the envelope. However, it was essentially an ask for me to upgrade my support or rather a letter apologising for asking me to upgrade.

Please don't get me wrong, This is not a criticism of the teaser outer that actually got me to open the letter, neither is it a criticism for asking me to increase my support. My discomfort is actually with the tone of the letter itself because it was so apologetic that it detracted from the reason for asking for an increase and thus the letter was not more effective for it. In fact probably the opposite.

It was a very nice letter. It was warm, said thank you several times for my support and seemed to be genuinely appreciative of what I already do. But I am struggling to get over the apologising because I can't actually recall why they wanted more funding.

I have not ruled out increasing my support because I like Sightsavers and their work, but in my opinion there is a balance between acknowledging the current climate and its potential impact on your supporters i.e. 'I know these are difficult times and you are already doing so much, so thank you' versus a rather explicit apology for 1. possibly causing offence (should I be offended?) and 2. for asking for more to do more.

I appreciate this is a personal view point and would be interested in what you think. I also appreciate that I may not be their key audience and you can't please or appeal to everyone. But coming back to me with my fundraising hat on I just don't think there is any room for a sorry in an ask for support or even an additional ask for support.

If the case for support and/or the imperative to support is clear, focused and relevant then it should not be necessary. After all an apology would not be a reason for me to give, it would be the the WHY and the WHAT FOR that would.

As for the letter - if they removed the lines about causing offence and the explicit I'm sorry - the letter would have been no less polite or understanding of the possible situation I may be in because of the economy or the additional asks from other causes. In fact it would have been fine - and I may have been able to recall why they needed more support. As it is, I can't. I am sorry to say.

So when thinking about copy and messaging for supporters - though it is a challenging time and good to acknowledge that fact, my recommendation would be to not go over board with the apologies and focus more on the case for support, the timing and the relevance for the people you are writing to because from my experience you could go an apology too far and it can hijack the overall message of your communication. Save the apologies for when you mess up.

Many thanks as ever for stopping by.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

When fundraising is child's play

Since giving birth to my son, children's media is a whole new world. A world of odd characters, gentle moralising, Yogo and Mr Tumble! Oh and Charlie and Lola of course.

Recently I was given a book for Noah - a lovely introduction to animal protection and sponsorship fundraising (yep, I am starting him young) and as I read through it I thought there is some useful reminders for fundraisers here.

1. We need to be clear on our message. Charlie (Lola's saintly older brother), does a fantastic job in explaining what extinct means - when Lola asks 'What's a stinkt?' Charlie replies 'It means no more of that animal in the entire world.' A very straight forward definition but one that has a sense of emotion. That is in contrast to the dictionary definition 'of a species, family or large group having no living member.' Or this . So, it may be worth asking yourself whether you could summarise your key messages or explain what you do as well as a nine year-old? Instead of looking at it as an elevator pitch may be look at it as a 'Charlie and Lola test'. Would a five year-old understand it and could a nine year-old explain it?

2. Sponsorship is a growing way to support. In the book. Charlie explains to Lola how sponsorship works. '...They'll give us money for doing difficult things like swimming five laps..' All very straight forward. But I think Sponsoring is increasingly becoming a mainstream way of supporting causes and I wouldn't be surprised if this is now almost as defining for some supporters as giving a regular gift via direct debit for example. Just to be clear, I am not talking about the people doing the run or the trek I am actually talking about the people offering their support for the person doing it.

Next time you do your supporter research it could be worth including a question on 'how have you supported charity over the last year?' Among the list there is usually via a regular gift (dd), appeals, taking part in running events etc - but it may be worth adding to the list explicitly 'Sponsoring friends and colleagues' or even celebrities.

With the increase of media, showcasing the wonderful achievements of people like David Walliams and John Bishop for Sport Relief - even the people texting their £5 could think they are doing it as sponsorship. As more people want to become part of a cause and the experiential side of fundraising - it is clear that they will be seeking more sponsors and in all likelihood will start with their family and friends first.

So your supporters and potential supporters will already be being asked for money but from people they already know. I think that is a useful piece of information and it may well go towards explaining changing trends in your responses, product take up, and also provide some useful insight in developing new ways for your supporters to support. I certainly think it is worth thinking about.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

PS. I am not sure of Charlie and Lola's actual ages - I am guessing based on extensive study of the materials available.