Friday, 5 December 2014

A cash to committed campaign - and I don't mean Direct Debit.....

As a fundraiser one of my preoccupations is how we can engender the same 'commitment' from cash givers that we get with the regularity of the mechanism of Direct Debit giving.  

Now before any one comments on the over simplification of the concept of commitment or indeed possibly unfair comparison, the point is, we have all seen the slide that shows the second gift rates of cash givers.  They have pretty much lapsed before they have posted their gift or pressed the donate button on your website.

So a while ago I won an opportunity to 'test' an idea I had with Ethicall telephone agency

So, this is an update.

So, 1000 supporters were called, all of which would be in the 25+ recency bracket since their last gift.

The approach was to call them, and essentially ask them without any legally binding wording, whether they would be willing to commit or pledge to support  1,2 or 3 of the appeals Sense mails throughout the year. At best it would provide us with a baseline to monitor and at worst a great opportunity to offer a supporter care call.

So the findings:
  • 291 people agreed to pledge - 255 to all three appeals 
  • On being asked, supporters genuinely pondered the question and it was either all in most cases or not at all. Whereas I thought we'd get a lot of people saying they would support the Christmas appeal only, this was not the case at all. The call, offering a robust case for support, seemed to resonate with the supporters called. For those that refused they seemed happy with the call and could understand 'why' they were called but didn't feel they could commit. For those supporters it was a good opportunity to have a chat, offer thanks and reiterate the importance of their commitment.

For each appeal following the calling campaign, we included as a segment those that 'pledged' to give, as well as those that were contacted but refused and a segment of those that were non contacts to the calling.

Results from last appeal

  • 12% of people who did pledge to the call responded to the  appeal - that was twice the rate of those that were not contacted during the calling campaign
  • Those that were contacted during the call but didn't pledge were also 50% more responsive than those not contacted

Now, it is early days and some big caveats. This was based on a very small number of calls and beyond the recency - there was little further criteria applied in the segmentation.  However, the interesting things to me are:
  • How seriously and considered people's approach was to the pledge - all or nothing and very little in between. People took the ask seriously.  Even when it was easy for them to say yes, I'll just give at Christmas, for example.
  • The response rate of people to an appeal who received the call but didn't feel they could pledge at the time really reminded me yet again of the power of the telephone and the importance of just having a chance to have a positive dialogue with your supporters. 
We are of course continuing to monitor this group, and also looking to find ways to ensure that as many conversations with our supporters take place as possible.  Obviously to our finance team there was questions over the immediate return in that there wasn't one if we had to pay for all of the calls - that being said even if you don't have a huge supporter care team, making sure you try to prioritise supporter care calls is sure to have a positive impact. None of this is rocket science of course, but timely reminders always help to focus the mind I think.

Thanks as ever for stopping by and thanks again to Ethicall for the chance to try out the idea.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Are your Data Protection statements improving supporter relationships or hindering them?

Oh no, I hear you cry - a post about data protection.  Well, it is and it isn't. We have all heard about the EU plans to reform the current legislation, the outcome of which could be with us as early as 2017 and much of which could have a serious impact should it go ahead as is.

However, this post is more about how we can better frame data protection and what it means in order to strengthen relationships with potential and existing supporters rather than jeopardising them through a lack of understanding.

So, a short tale - with an happy ending.

Very recently one of Sense's supporters emailed to cancel his Direct Debit. He didn’t like being telephoned and had received a call recently. We let him know how much we really valued his support and of course that we would do what he asked but also let him know that we can communicate with him in the way he prefers. If that means no future telephone calls then of course. The supporter as a result decided not to cancel his direct debit. 

A big high five for good supporter care! 

However, what was interesting, was the supporter's understanding before we explained we would ensure that he wouldn't receive further calls:
"I didn't realise at the time I sent the e-mail that it was possible not to be 
contacted in this way."

Interesting really - the thought that some of our supporters who opt-in or don't opt-out of receiving various communications from us feel it is for life rather than that there is a control that is in their hands.

In this instance we were able to explain this to our kind donor who continued his support.  But how many are silently leaving without that dialogue?

So though the legal guidelines are set in terms of gaining consent to communicate, a simple line stating that you can let us know at any time should your wishes change should be a clear message alongside any data protection statements.

This simple message may very well help ensure that instead of a supporter leaving entirely because they decide they don't like a channel of communication after all, that they just let us know and allow us to adhere to their wishes and provide great supporter care at the same time.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Friday, 7 November 2014

What we can learn from Where's Wally?

Creating something people will actively look at and respond to is what drives the communications we produce as fundraisers, and that is why 'Where's Wally' can offer such inspiration.  Mainly because that is the main point.  Visually arresting scenes, where readers scour the pages in pursuit of an array of characters as well as Wally (a traveller with a penchant for red and white stripes and bobble hats), while taking in the visual puns and humour that entertains us.

So relevance to us as fundraisers?  One is around the truth that very few supporters will be compelled to read our communications and if they do, not in same detail and possibly with the same level of interest or purpose.

Engagement with communications is easier if the format suits the audience and not the designer - finding Wally is much easier when you have the bigger books for example.

There's nothing wrong with repetitiveness of either the story or the ask within it. Where's Wally has been around since 1987, it's ultimately the same thing but in different contexts, yet it still doesn't get old.  The important things is relevance to the person reading.

On the other side of this though, is some of the things that are inherent in the success of Where's Wally, which we should try to avoid.

The characters are intentionally hidden and obscured, the challenge is to find them.  This is the opposite of what your copy and design needs to. Too clever, and you lose people. Too complicated people will not persevere to understand what you are saying. So be clear on the following:

Why are you writing now?
What are you asking them to do - exactly?
If it's money you are asking for it, then ask!

On this point Where's Wally is clear, you need to find him and his friends. Simple. And there is a lot to be said for it.  Now back to Wally, I am sure I saw woof's tail somewhere...

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

What Donors can learn from surveys

I am very much in favour of supporter surveys - ultimately if executed properly it can genuinely result in improving what we do as fundraisers and more widely as organisations.  That is of course the point - hopefully.  We learn new things about our supporters that can help us find other supporters, and it is a useful communication to provide supporters with other ways to engage with us.

On the other side of it though is the benefit that is passed on to the supporters themselves.  The opportunity to have an opinion, should they want to take it. An opportunity to feel that they are being listened to (as long as they are), and that in turn has a benefit for fundraisers because such opportunities provide great supporter care and often result in additional support.  All very positive.

But one of the less overt benefits for a supporter, which also has a positive benefit to the organisation is that of re-engagement or reconnection with the cause.  I say this from a recent experience.

I support Soi Dog Foundation - a great animal welfare organisation in Thailand concerned with the welfare of cats and dogs.  Very recently I was asked to complete a survey - which I did for two reasons. One because they asked and two, because they asked so nicely in a way that made me feel they valued my views.  A snippet of the email below:

Please, Let Us Know What You Think...
Dear Amanda,

I would like to personally thank you for your support of the dogs and cats who you help. It is you who are helping the animals. Your donations are what allows for this important life saving work to continue.
Soi Dog would like to know your thoughts about how your donations are used and how you feel we can best help dogs and cats working together.

Soi Dog runs a number of animal welfare programs and I'd like to get your feedback on how important you feel the various programs are.
Can I ask you a favour? Can you take a few moments and complete Soi Dog's Supporter Survey? Please take a moment and fill out the survey by clicking here or on the button below:

Much of the questions and the navigation were as you would expect - and it took the opportunity to find out what other ways I would be willing to support and also whether I was interested in Gifts In Wills (I am expecting a legacy follow up at some point), but what was more thought provoking was two questions asked towards the end.

1. What is it uniquely about Soi Dog that led to you becoming a supporter?
2. If you could summarise Soi Dog in three words, what would those words be?

I really needed think in order to answer them honestly and fairly.  Amazing really how difficult a question 'What led to your support of xx' is to answer instantly beyond 'I care about animals' for example.  Yet, we often start telephone scripts with such questions in the hope to build a dialogue.  

So, what was it about the charity that specifically made me want to support?  What three words would I use?  The process of recalling the when and they why brought back the feelings attached to my initial decision thus reinvigorating my support.  

Don't get me wrong, they were not deeply suppressed feelings, and I am not in the inertia marketing phase by any means but it was a genuinely re-affirming experience.

So much so, that when I saw a recent campaign and donation ask around the Soi Dog's work around the Dog Meat trade I signed the petition and donated to fund a billboard! (great campaign by the way).

Today, I also received a very lovely email, thanking me for taking the survey and how important my opinions are but also playing back my key support - which I thought was a nice touch. 

This is of course not rocket science, but I wanted to share it, because it is easy to focus on what we can learn through such communications, but may be forget the value they have for the person completing them and actually with a bit of thought could actually proactively remind supporters of why they support you in the first place.

Thank you as ever for stopping by.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

When things get personal

Personalisation can and should by a key element of supporter communications - I say can be, as sometimes in an attempt to let supporters know that we know them, its use can sometimes be likened to a hammer cracking a nut. Heavy handed.

That is why I wanted to share this example. Because personally, and that is what it is about ultimately, I like how I CAN, the charity that help children communicate, have done it.

Simply. It fits with the actual creative of the pack - which opens with

"Can't was never a word I was prepared to accept when I was fighting for my son to get the support he needed to learn to speak."  A honest, heartfelt account of a mother's fight for her son.  And goes on to explain how I CAN has transformed their lives.

It is putting me at the heart of the solution for other families who may need I CAN in the future both in terms of the design and the narrative.

My name was used only once - not a hundred times unnecessarily. Back to my hammer and nut point above.

The negative is that the variable text was in a different colour to the letter - which is a shame but I assume a production or budget limitation and not one that I will hold against them.

So, can I support their work with another gift? Yes, I CAN.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

How are you making your supporters feel?

In an industry that should be about building relationships with the people who support our vital work, it strikes me that we do not leverage those relationships to their best effect.  In fact in some cases we seem to be oblivious to the opportunities or choosing to ignore the chance to turn every transaction into a positive interaction with our supporters.

A small thing, but a friend of mine recently increased their support to the charity they have supported for a while.  He increased his Direct Debit after a conversation with a telephone fundraiser who called.  He remembered the conversation and thought it was a good call.  He was happy to increase his support.

The next time I saw him, knowing what I do, he made a point of showing me the confirmation letter.  It was pretty standard to be honest but he seemed a bit disappointed.  I asked him what would improve it from his perspective and his response was quite interesting - "I didn't speak to the person who signed the letter, I spoke to someone else entirely.  If anything my relationship was with the person I spoke to - it didn't even reference the person I spoke with".

It made me smile. A simple observation, but would it be the hardest thing in the world to at least reference the person who makes the calls on our behalf or the street or door to door fundraisers that sign up the supporters for example?

I know some organisations do and it is something I have done in the past but why stop there, why not have the street or telephone fundraiser themselves or whoever made the contact as the signatory? We capture the information, or if not it is certainly available, so why not make use of it.  In fact there is so much more we could be doing to link up our supporter interactions.

Don't get me wrong, my friend isn't going to end his support or decide against the increase just because of the signatory of his letter, but after a positive experience - it all ended up a little flat.

This is not new and as I note, I am certain there are organisations that are already doing this.

My point is that despite the constraints on day to day operations, we need to do more to ensure that the overall supporter experience is as solid as possible.  Taking the opportunity to turn transactions into interactions.  So, it doesn't end with the thank you or confirmation letter being mailed - it's also about what the person who receives the letter/email thinks and feels about it and is it consistent with their earlier experience.  I certainly think that is worth thinking about.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Monday, 20 January 2014

More on mobile - one charity's experience to date.

Following on from the absolutely refreshing post last week from Paul de Gregorio from Open Fundraising about mobile - I wanted to add my two pence worth.  We've been offering Regular Giving via mobile for just over a year now at Sense via Cymba, so still early days, but I wanted to echo and add a couple of other points from my experience to date. I stress this is just one experience of one charity.
  • Yes, Mobile Regular Givers will give more if asked by way of another one off gift - and that response varies quite considerably depending on how they joined your organisation
  • Previous Mobile Regular Givers who have 'lapsed' are also quite generous if asked for a one-off gift via their phone - again this varies depending on how they were recruited to your cause in the first place
  • Retention rates on mobile recruitment are not a million miles away from what you would expect for direct debit recruitment. So attrition for RG by mobile recruited on the street is much higher than those converted from PSMS via the telephone for example.  No surprise really. 
  • One of the barriers to click through on content is people feeling they are going to see more information that could upset or make them feel guilty - so being clear, and upbeat on what people will see when they click through has helped increase engagement or so it would appear.
  • As does not holding the link to content to ransom.  When we first started we would send the link to a new update to those that successfully made a payment that month - now we send it anyway, and people can choose to make the payment or not after they have had the chance to view.  We are still reviewing the figures but that to me is the better thing to do.
  • Regular Gift via your mobile is a great drop ask, there are genuinely people who don't want another direct debit and this does appeal to people who would not have other wise converted. I personally would not advocate a direct to Regular Giving via mobile campaign again for now for Sense - though many charities are having success I am sure. It's just not right for us for now.
This is just a year's worth of experience, and one charity example - so please take from it what you will and however many pinches of salt as well.  With anything, the best thing to do is test for yourself obviously - but I thought I would share one experience, albeit a limited one of mobile giving.  There's much more to test and much more to learn but so far it is has been a positive experience.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Monday, 13 January 2014

How not to do Thank You letters, unless you are Steve Martin

I, like many I am sure, read this wonderful book over Christmas, and I did laugh at this letter from Steve Martin.

Steve Martin wrote this 'highly personalised' letter in response to the fan mail he received. Simple, entertaining, personal... well kind of, just what you would expect from Steve Martin.  But he could get away with it, as I dare say he was being 'funny' and the overt token and random personalisation probably made the letter for the people receiving them.  Many of the them were probably framed!

However, beware of a generic thank you letter. Those that are punctuated with a few merged fields - it is something we, as an industry do quite badly in my opinion.

The worst letters are the ones crafted to be in response to 'ad hoc' gifts where they are not identified as being in response to a particular appeal or campaign but just seen as a general unprompted gift.

These are the letters that are a 'catch all'.  The ones quite often written as an after thought, rarely updated with new and exciting information and frequently full of rhetoric about reaching xxx people and helping charity do x,y,z vaguely.  And when you read them, they look and feel as though little effort went into them.

As much as thanking and asking are about good manners and politeness - the 'thank you' as much as the 'please' needs to be heartfelt and genuine.  I am not saying we can physically write each and every letter on our PCs for our kind and lovely donors, but we can work much, much harder in making it look and feel as though we do and that starts from valuing every donation, whatever the channel and motivation and ensuring we are set up to do so with warmth and gratitude.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.