Saturday, 7 December 2013

Donor recovery - is there a way back?

A while ago a friend of mine briefly explained her thoughts in relation to cancelling her Direct Debits to charity - and at the end she made the point that she had yet to be contacted by any of the charities.

To be honest I am a little hung up about reactivation because I do believe it is a neglected element of many supporter care programmes - I say supporter care, because we should care who is ceasing their financial support to us and also why.

So, I thought I would try this for myself and cancel some of the DDs that I have had in place for several years.  To these charities I am not a recent recruit to a high attrition channel so my behaviour is not expected statistically, no, I am a long-standing supporter - who gave generously and also for many years.  So what happened.

Charity 1:

Within a week of cancelling, I received a telephone call.  Polite, upbeat and very much leading with the fact that they could see that my DD was cancelled and whether that was a mistake?  It was a nice call but I felt it was interesting that the starting point was that it had somehow been an error - when I had actively cancelled the DD with my bank.

BACS error codes are numerous and quite granular - and cancelled at bank is a clear  and probably a frequently seen code.  So would it be rude to actually say what is seen?  I see that you cancelled your support to us - would you mind telling me why or if there is anything we could do to help you continue your support? Or something to that effect.

I say this as for many recovery calls and approaches - there is an inherent problem that unless you find out why someone has cancelled to ascertain if your organisation has specifically failed the person you are purely offering the same again. Whether good, bad or indifferent.  Is that really an approach that would engender reactivation for longer than the length of the telephone call?  I am not sure it is to be fair.

Charity 2:

I received a letter - probably 10 days after the payment was due - it was a standard admin letter - providing me with tick boxes of my intention - either to resume payment or to indicate that I did
intend to leave.

It was an okay letter to be contained a warm thanks for my support until now - and then gave me some tick boxes to tick to indicate if the reason for my cancellation was due to 'too many mailings' or that charity x had upset me somehow.  Again, all very useful but there was something quite fait accompli about the whole thing.  Almost as though they knew it wouldn't work.

So the question is, is it worth trying to win people back and the bigger question is if you do for how long will they keep giving?

I can't answer that for sure, but what I do believe is that we have more chance of success if we find out what the problem is and if we are ultimately at fault rather than blaming the bank or assuming it is an error. We may as a result learn some invaluable insight, and be able to do something about it.  Better than not knowing and carrying on regardless.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Life's ups and downs and why it could change how you view lapsed supporters

There is a great song lyric by Barry White 'You always have my unspoken passion,
although I might not seem to care.'
Now in any relationship this is not much use really.  It's good to know of course (if people ever tell you that), but in terms of relationship building and understanding - well it's all a bit rubbish to be honest. 

When  you think about it though, it is probably more common than you think.

Life's events like birth, deaths, marriages they all have a profound affect on relationships - even the strongest ones. Just from my own experience of late - life changes. It throws you curve balls, it means time is something that doesn't exist in the same way as before and your priorities change. 

Therefore, how supporters engage with your cause may not be all that different.  After all, they are people with lives and life events change things and as a result they may not be able to engage with you in the same way as previously.  But I think the worst assumption that we can make therefore is that they all no longer care.

Looking at it from a basic RFV model, in relation to my own commitment to the causes I support and admire based on recent behaviour I would probably be a lapsed cash giver on a few files. The irony is that I like the causes just as much as before, admire the work and am probably still supporting them through Regular Giving - but believe it or not I just fail to get the donation form in the BRE and into the post.  I don't think I am alone.  

What that means in a lot of cases is that I stop receiving appeals, or I get letter variants referring to the 'past support' I have shown.  When if you looked at the data I may have given to every appeal I was sent three years previously.

Now, this is not an argument  for continuing to mail or communicate with 'lapsed' givers in exactly the same way as before, of course some people don't want to support you any more  - but I think there is an argument for looking at it from the supporter perspective and acting accordingly.  

This is where working to know as much about your supporters, their life stages, their giving patterns and appreciating the changes in life stage will have an impact on their giving could provide us with a valuable opportunity.  One that allows us to better tailor what we do, how we communicate, how we ask and how we facilitate that support.

DD uplift for one month only as an alternative way of cash giving was something that worked amazingly well when we trialled it at ActionAid - just a tick box. It's still being used. Use of SMS could be so much more than PSMS or RGPSM - it could be a useful way for people to direct and instruct on their giving.  My thinking is as much about breaking down barriers to giving as to understanding what the barriers are in the first place.

It can be tempting to give up on friends if they never get in touch or can't ever make your requests to meet - but in understanding those demands and the pressures acting on your friends ultimately makes for a stronger relationships.  Of course the challenge is knowing who is worth the patience but it is worth weighing that up before you decide to stop communicating with whole groups of people entirely.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The devil is in the detail

saw this train ad the other day from First Direct - I can't quite recall the offer as I filtered it out as not being relevant.  But I actually quite liked this bit.

The reason? That it utilised the small print.  If you can't see it easily, it starts with 'Still with us? Good for you.'  Do I like the message not particularly.  The tone is not quite right.  But it did make me smile may be because I am the kind of person who does read the small print.

Now this may sound odd - as small print is perceived as hiding away the parts of the deal that you don't want people to see or use to influence their decision making.  But may be we should start to utilise it more in our creative. Openly.

Why do we need small print at all?  Well because we often need to put quite a lot in a small space - but creatively we could use it better and encourage people to read it. 

I said it may sound odd.  But really, do we want to get to a point where people feel misled or annoyed by what we are NOT clearly telling them?  I don't. I think we may get better support if we are clearer about what's next for our supporters and potential supporters and start to manage the expectations better.  Just a thought.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 26 July 2013

What would possess you to walk a 1000 miles?

"But I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more  just to be the man who walked 1,000 miles.." Now no offense to the Proclaimers, it really is a great song but other than the fact that a man struck with a  romantic notion is willing to walk 1,000 miles for love - what does it really mean?  I know 1,000 miles is a very long way - but it is difficult for me to put it into context and that is often the issue with using big numbers.

I like Sightsavers.  I like what they do and I never fail to be moved by a charity that helps overcome sight loss in some of the poorest communities in the world.

Anyway,  in the post this week I received a mailing and it was worthy of comment for a few reasons.
    I am a fan of 'thank yous' and as an industry (in my opinion) we do not do it well enough. Often 'thank you' letters are an after thought, churned out at the last minute and merely recap on the last appeal they read and responded to.  So a mailing dedicated to offering 'thanks' was very nice to receive.

    To be honest though when I saw it, I thought 'oh no'.  It introduced lots of statistics that I have little chance of fully appreciating the scope but more than that I struggled as to where my contribution totally fits in.  After all we are more likely to buy-in to supporting someone in need than we are to support a statistic?

    It also started down a route that frequently worries me, whereby the feedback tells you that you achieved huge change when you know you only give £5.00 per month for example.  Not to say that the £5 is not adding value - but 'huge change' although difficult to qualify is a stretch. Accumulated with other £5.00s then the potential is indeed huge!

    I am sure there is a mathematical equation illustrating the gap between 'suspended disbelief' and 'feedback satisfaction' directly relating to the value of gift given and the claims made of its impact. I am no mathematician but there must be a point whereby the over zealous personalisation claiming that my generosity has built x in deepest darkest y can feel like too much of a stretch of reality to become a negative experience. Anyway, another post for another time. 

    Okay, so back to the mailing, I read it.  Now obviously this is not what all supporters will do but I read the bits I was meant to, the underlined copy, the PS, skimmer style and I found some wonderful sentiments that mitigated my negative feelings and some elements that packed a punch in delivering understanding of the issues faced by the visually impaired in the developing world and actually made me want to give.

    I was particularly struck by:

    It was wonderful to be able to do so much, and we're all so grateful to you for your support.  But while those figures are exciting to us, you might be wondering how much your contribution could really have done to help.

    This was actually what I was wondering - and I do constantly - so I thought this addressed the issues very well and how nicely written.  Lovely. Of course you could argue that if that was the question left hanging then why execute the piece in this way - but that would be churlish as I thought how they addressed it was really nice.
     And then the underlined text that followed.

    So let me assure you that you've helped boys and girls, mums and dads, grandparents, aunties and cousins in some of the poorest countries in the world.  And their stories aren't about big numbers - they're about the small miracles that your support is making possible every day.

    Lovely sentiment once again and the power was in the juxtaposition created and reminding me that they are all those things to their families.

    So I am feeling a little bit more reassured that my small gift has made a genuine difference - but will that be enough to make me give?  This is, as I read on a thank you with an ask.

    The answer is YES! And the main reason was this one sentence:

    '....Among them are mothers who have never seen their children's faces.  Fathers who can no longer work to support their families.  Boys and girls who are shouted at for being 'stupid' and 'lazy' and who struggle to get the education they deserve.'

    It is amazing what grabs us as individuals, what presses a button that generates a visceral reaction and this was it, partly because I think such sentiment and honesty in presenting the situation for some 'beneficiaries' is seldom seen and because it takes some bravery from the organisation to be that honest. The words 'stupid' and 'lazy' rang out in my ears - the injustice and the cruelty stirred me.

    I am obviously commenting based on my experience of portrayal of service users / beneficiaries - where the focus is more on not portraying the problem.  This not only successfully portrays the issues but with very few words encapsulates the prejudice, the tone and attitudes that many blind or visually impaired people can face.  Simple as that for me really.  In that moment they had my gift. And with pleasure.

    So all in all well done Sightsavers - I am still not convinced by leading with numbers but the right balance was struck for me - and I will happily accept your 'thank you' and you can do even more good with my donation.

    Thanks as ever for stopping by.

    Friday, 28 June 2013

    Are you adding to your supporter's 'experience CV'

    There's a saying that money can't buy happiness - but a recent article in BBC Focus magazine suggests it isn't so much the value of money but how you choose to spend it that gets you to the happy place.

    The magazine is by subscription but the article came out of the findings from this book written by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, two Associate Professors from British Columbia and Harvard Business School respectively - which is well worth a read.  

    There is of course an obvious connection to philanthropy and the article again highlights that there is a clear link between supporter happiness and being shown where their money is spent comparing Spread the Net  and UNICEF as an example. No surprise there.

    But within the article there were other interesting morsels that probably could also be better leveraged within the fundraising arena. An opportunity if you will. 

    The experience CV - the context of this is that day to day we make choices about the mundane versus the exciting. The commitment to get your dowdy bathroom refurbished versus visiting the Galapagos Islands for example. The point about this is that research from Cornell university indicated that people are less likely to regret buying experience than buying material things. In fact in research 80% of the people regretted not buying an experience when it was there because experience seems unique.  

    Here's the time to be looking at what experience you are actually offering to your supporters.  For child sponsorship organisations for example offering the sponsors a chance to meet their sponsored child is an obvious one, for overseas development it could be getting people out to build a well, but this could be a little less obvious for other causes - though I am sure there are things that can be offered to make the difference between the transactional versus the experiential.  

    As an extension of this - then the question may be - how can you if not in reality but virtually offer the opportunity for supporters to share time, any time with the people who benefit from their support?  Another suggestion that came out of the research was that people feel better about spending money on others when we are part of the experience and spending time with them.

    All this is food for thought really - sometimes it isn't possible, practical, cost effective to directly link your supporters with your service users or beneficiaries - but who else could you link supporters with?  Front line staff, programme workers? I know that all communications should be doing this any way - but in the same way we know tangibility beats the more general we are still not great at making that connection for supporters.  

    So this is merely a timely reminder that we should probably do more to explore these options and implement them as much as possible within our own context. 

    It would be great to get to a point that giving to your cause could be worthy of being added to a supporter's experience CV in the same way that visiting the Serengeti would.

    Thank you as ever for stopping by.


    Thursday, 7 March 2013

    In pursuit of happiness

    I was recently reading some information about Sense's supporter base in the context of attrition and was struck by the the length of support of some of the supporters.  Not because it was unexpected. I am sure many charities have cohorts of people who have been giving 5, 10, 20 plus years in the same way that we have people, (not using the word supporter here), who have not given at all or those that have lasted less than a year.

    What it did make me realise though, is that as an industry we tend to focus on why people stop giving - not a bad thing - as we now have great insights as to what we can do to meet people's needs to keep them supporting for longer.  But still, I feel less focus has been on exploring why people are actually still giving. After all very few people start giving without reason there are various reasons and influences, conscious and subconscious. We measure net promoters scores and have satisfaction surveys but we don't proactively ask what has kept someone giving these past 5 years, the last decade, the last two decades and use this knowledge to inform the next twenty years.

    Even from a supporter care perspective, acknowledging and recognising this amazing commitment is a good thing to do but phoning and having a chat and asking some of these kind people what has kept them giving to you despite recessions, changes in there life stages and possibly as a result, their financial circumstances, as well as changes in your organisation's brand for example would be brilliant to know.  After all, they are doing what you have asked of them - they have made the choice to act and are continuing to do so - even if this is through inertia. Though interesting article here on why inertia is no bad thing.

    Of course some of this will be covered off in your own research - whether it be focus groups or in-depth interviews.  But I am not sure the starting point will be framed so positively i.e. 'what keeps you happily supporting xxx?'

    So along with lapsed donor research, I will look forward to 'Retained donor research' as well and will start by doing some of my own.  After all we all are in pursuit of the state of the happy donor - and though we may be being a little presumptuous that they are - we should at least ask on that basis.

    And of course I would love to hear if anyone has been exploring the happiness of their donors and what they found out.

    Thanks as ever for stopping by.

    Wednesday, 13 February 2013

    Explain it to me...

    As Robert Matthews says in this month's Science Focus Magazine:

    "...even the most rock-solid phenomena can turn to mush when you try to explain them."

    Now, I am sure Professor Brian Cox would have a great go at explaining the concept of magnetism or what time is and I would have a possible chance of understanding it... to a point. But if I didn't understand what he was saying whose fault would it be?

    What the article went on to explain though and what really did resonate with me as someone who for a living has sent out communications to people about international development; disability, and war & conflict - possibly subjects that they have never had personal or direct experience of, is the point that it isn't necessarily the fault of the person explaining it - not entirely - it could be that the person / people you are explaining it to just doesn't have the knowledge to relate to what is being said to them.

    This is borne out quite well by the fact that children will constantly ask' Why?' when you have answered their question or rather think you have!

    Why am I banging on about the effectiveness of explanation is that it's our role often to relay complex information to people in a way that they will relate to - so we have to be even more aware of this point. Obviously.  Thus a timely reminder.

    As fundraisers and marketeers - we should know the importance of understanding our audience.  The old adage of 'keep it simple stupid' is actually not patronising but actually helpful.  As Jeff Brooks points out, his approach is to write in a reading level of 4th to 6th Grade, he has this useful tool to help you - but essentially it is about helping your supporters to understand rather than building in barriers.

    The other side of it is about us understanding our own causes in a way that it can be conveyed in a meaningful way to the people we are communicating to.  As fundraisers we need to ensure we spend time with our programme staff to gain an understanding of the work and then work to translate that in a way the person reading or hearing it will understand it enough to make the decision to do what you have asked.  

    Obvious tips include:

    1. Avoid jargon and acronyms
    2. Don't worry too much about explaining the process - people tend to care about outcomes not necessarily how you got there
    3. Read or share copy with family or friends to see if they understand it.  As much as we try to remain neutral and focused on our role as fundraisers, after a while you are commenting on copy or creative from a position of knowing.  Someone completely outside of your organisation will help be the objective voice
    4. Get to know your donors and supporters - even if that is looking at the complaints, the white mail that comes back or call listening opportunities or taking supporter care calls - all are useful ways to get insight and certainly have value if you don't have budget for full research.
    5. Try to build in something that could be familiar to the reader...even if it is the way you start the letter or leaflet or how you relay the story you are telling.

    None of this is rocket science or quantum theory in this case - but the importance of communication and effective explanation and understanding relies on both parties. It would just be wise to not make too many assumptions. 

    Thanks as ever for stopping by.

    Monday, 11 February 2013

    A quick lesson in how to get someone's attention - in the right way

    I long bemoan the boring emails and communications I get from digital and creative agencies trying to sell their creative services and skills in what, to be honest is in the most dull and boring manner.  Emails of ridiculous proportions explaining their USP and attaching a 'creds' documents.  Not very creative.

    I have already received several this morning - two to note but for very different reasons.

    1 A mailing from a digital agency - quite lively creatively. A see through outer, interesting format, an offer of a free hour session - all good. But the the one thing that may make me more likely to actually get in touch at some point was the letter.  At the bottom handwritten in nice black pen were the words 'Hope all well post ActionAid.'

    Now I have never worked with them before - I don't I know the Managing Partner signing the letter as far as I can recall - but I can honestly say that I appreciate the fact that they took the time to find out about me, the person they are writing to.  Simple as that.  Obviously it is a sales communication and I don't have the same expectations for personalisation as I would from a charity I support for example - so what I said here - still stands.  However, this actually set them apart.  And that is a good thing.

    2 By stark contrast I received an email from an agency - telling me that they were not going to do the usual stuff (in an attempt to be different) and be 'to the point'. Great - love directness.  They then eventually go on to list some of their clients.  One of which was ActionAid. And I do recall them, though I never worked with them directly. 

    There in lies the difference.  It is the small things that can get your attention. For good and not so good reasons.  Even more noticeable when your competitors are doing it better.

    Thanks as ever for stopping by.

    Friday, 1 February 2013

    How did you decide who to cancel?

    Just the other day I was talking to a friend who had just reviewed her DD commitments to charities and had decided to stop quite a few.  The main reason was financial.  And she was quite honest about that.  So having the chance to quiz a professional woman in her early forties about that decision making process, I took the opportunity.  Not least because as my friend and in an unofficial non survey way, she'd be honest.

    Q. How did you make the decision?

    "Recency of sign-up i.e. last in first to go...."   Really - why?  "Well I know I haven't made any difference as yet so the loss to the charity is less."

    Q. Is that the only criteria? "No - I like to see I am supporting a range of sectors. Animal, health, children etc. So if there are two that are similar then I will decide on how recently I signed up."

    Q. What about what you have received from the charity?  "Some of the information and communication I have received more recently have been lovely.  More to try to engage me I guess - I just don't have time to be engaged."  

    "Thinking about it I have  probably received very little from the charities I have been supporting since university days - I can't recall any off the top of my head. But my heart is with them I guess."

    Q. Why? Now this answer was very  interesting to me. "When I decided to sign-up to charity x I suppose it felt more considered, I didn't have a huge amount of money but I believed in what the charity was trying to achieve.  Over the years it probably works out at several hundreds of pounds of giving but by leaving now I would be giving up on something that I believe and have invested in."

    Q. But how do you feel about the relationship you have with these charities?

    Q. Yes, you know, on-going communication, how they make you feel, what they are doing and how they are letting you know?
     " I don't know.  I don't really want a relationship - a relationship suggests obligation on both sides.  I am giving my money because I want to and because I can and because of what they are doing with it not because of what I am getting back. I prefer it that way. My reason for supporting is my reason and and because of that I would feel less guilty if I stopped."

    Q. Has any of them written or tried to call to win you back? 
     "No - not as yet. Should they have done? Have not heard a thing - but I guess that would be wasting their money to do that."

    Now there is a huge caveat with this of course - it is one person, a busy person with a busy life.  I am not going to say that this is representative in any way.

    But some key things I have taken away from this are:
    • Not everyone wants to be engaged.  They don't have time.  Now I could take my friend at her word here - but I won't because in reality the level of engagement we need to offer supporters has to suit people's lives.  Engagement is a positive thing - not something that should feel like it is competing with the other demands on someone's life.  More needs to be done to understand and meet this need before we run off and develop complex welcome processes and communications plans. Find out what people want from you.
    • What constitutes a relationship is interesting - not everyone wants to have one with you or rather not in the conventional way.  And I think we have to accept that this is okay. Just be clear on what relationship works for both the supporter and for the organisation.
    • Control over the decision-making process to support in the first place is pretty vital and thus the level of 'investment' people feel they have in your cause.  How do we instill as much control as possible in the process for people? or at least that it feels that the decision is theirs rather than a default reaction to someone not being able to say 'no'.
    • Who is leaving you? When looking at your attrition report - ensure it is broken down by years of support.  We can all get carried away with year one retention rates - but as I have always said I'd be more concerned with the fact that 2% of people that had been supporting my cause for 5 year plus, for example all of a sudden decided to walk out the door. So find out what your monthly attrition is made up of at the supporter level.
    • This should inform what you do about recovery and reactivation.  At the very least with the supporters of the type mentioned above - it would be wise to have a system to identify them and indeed speak with them to find out what made them decide to leave after all this time and if possible to find out what kind of 'relationship' they may want with your organisation going forward.
    • As regards recovery and reactivation more generally - the expectation of supporters could be quite low or may be that as organisations we are not very good at it.  On this basis though there is an argument and an opportunity attached with communicating to someone who has left you - just to have the opportunity say thanks and goodbye for now at the very least.  That way they are more likely to remember you well and positively if they ever want to give to your cause again.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Thanks as ever for stopping by.

    Monday, 21 January 2013

    Positive comments please..

    I have just received the FRSB December e-newsletter reminding me that it is the time of the year for the 2012 annual complaints return.  I don't have any issue with this monitoring per se but the one thing it made me think was may be as an industry there should be a similar co-ordination of the positive feedback and comments that we as organisations receive from our supporters.  

    In the same way that someone complaining can give a good indication of their commitment to you - particularly if they are an existing supporter, the same can be true of the nice comments. The congratulations for the lovely feedback or well done on doing something to raise x issue, or that is the best thing I have ever read - I am leaving you my house.  Okay - you get the idea.  But acknowledging that complaining takes effort, the same can be said of someone telling you that you are doing a good job - and I don't think that should be under estimated.

    For me the obvious benefits of such an approach means:

    • Automatically much focus on what you are doing well.  Which can be as useful in revising tactics or in informing a strategy as the less positive comments.
    • Review of data capture. A possible revamp as to how such comments are recorded on your systems and databases.  From experience I know, unless you set it up, such positive comments may be not be selectable against individuals or even captured at all.  Where it seems that complaints always are.  This would change that.
    • Organisational understanding. The organisation focuses on the good as well as the negative and if as fundraisers you have departments or other teams highlighting the negatives - then as an antidote you have some positives to share.  A way to possibly change how fundraising is viewed within.
    • Opportunity to build relationships. In the same way that complaints should be seen as an opportunity - and indeed if handled well potentially a way to increase supporter loyalty.  The same can be said of positive comments. It is a perfect opportunity to build a dialogue with the person and share more or get them more involved.
    So I think we should all focus on the positive as well as handling the complaints.  Even if this is out of the FRSB remit, it is useful to establish this yourselves with your supporter care teams. The process could completely change everyone's outlook.

    Thanks as ever for stopping by.