Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The power of a donor promise

I was compelled to write this because in the current uncertain charity environment, I think anything that shows the positive impact that focusing on the donor and giving them a choice has, is worth sharing.

We recently sent out a mailing to people not currently donating to Sense - asking for £15 to support Sense's work with children who are deafblind.  On the back of the donation form was our supporter promise - headlined as  'Our Promise to you' - on which a kind donor had written the following: 

'I was going to give you £15 but when I saw this promise (I've never seen it before from anyone!), I decided to give you more!! But only write to me once a year.'

Donor promises are now ever present, and they have now become an integral part of many charity communications. For us it is now a standing element on all communications, whether to existing donors or to those we are looking to attract support from, so I think the fact that the donor hadn't seen it anywhere before is just our fortune. That being said the incredibly kind donor actually donated £100 in the end with the promise of the same each year. Amazing.

So if you think the Donor Promise is just words to our donors, it is clear they are not. I know we are taking them seriously as charities - and we need to ensure that we keep those promises - but there is something really heartening to see it having such a positive impact.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Monday, 9 November 2015

It would be nice not to be asked!

As fundraisers, we balance our communications with asks, stewardship and feedback.  Of course essentially all of these things are basically making a case for what our organisations do and why we do it and vitally why we need their support to help us make the difference. But some communications are more direct i.e. an appeal while others are more about demonstrating progress such as a feedback.  Nothing surprising here of course most fundraising programmes would have the mix.

What is increasing noticeable to me though is how these are deployed for people that are no longer apparently giving to you.  Now obviously there is no scientific methodology behind this, but I have been monitoring over the last 6 months what I have been receiving from organisations that I have given to in the past but to which I wouldn't class myself as a donor. Equally data wise based on a RFV criteria I would certainly not be deemed as an 'active' supporter. But interestingly, out of 7 communications I have received, only one of them hasn't been a direct appeal for money.

Now in thinking about this, it appears that there is a prevalent approach that assumes that lapsed or lapsing cash givers just need another opportunity to give again to change their status back to active again, and I am not going to lie and say that there isn't a lapsed segment in the recent appeal selection, it's Christmas after all.  

However personally, from my little audit, I really appreciated the feedback, but wasn't overly moved by the appeals. And as much as I am a professional fundraiser and proud to be so, I am also a charity donor.

So what would happen if we tested including apparently lapsed supporters in our feedback selections? And monitoring their onward behaviour? My answer is I don't know yet, but am going to see what happens, because as a charity giver I was happy to receive the feedback, and I read it. Would it have had the same impact had it been 1 of 7 feedback communications? I can't say, but that isn't what is happening currently in my experience so I believe there is a real opportunity to see what difference a change of approach could make or at least mix it up a bit.

If you think about the donations you receive from supporters in response to feedback mailings in general, in my experience it's worth a test.  Last year our legacy ask mailing generated several thousand pounds of donations with no direct financial ask made, and similarly I have had the same experience with other feedback communications, I'm sure we all have. Feedback generates response, financial and also people genuinely pleased to receive it and who will tell you so.

So as a charity giver, active or otherwise, sometimes it would be nice not to be asked or at least not in a heavy handed way...let your great work do the talking and maybe I'll be motivated to give again if I can - but will certainly remember you for it.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Let there be (relationship fundraising) light.

It wasn't so much a light bulb moment, rather illumination.  Bear with me, the puns have a reason.

This week I received a little leaflet from a well known shop - it wasn't a full catalogue, just a few pages promoting lights, with a little inducement to buy .. the usual sales promotion.

Now as I flicked through the mini brochure, my husband made a comment, 'you bought one light and now you are on a list'. 'Yep', I replied,' that's how it...works'.  Oh dear, I thought - this is all based on rather large assumption or presumption.  As a colleague noted, a bit like going on one date and changing your Facebook status to 'in a relationship'.

And aren't we often very guilty of that presumption ourselves in the charity sector? 

Someone who donates once, we label them a donor or supporter or even differentiate and put 'new' at the start, but they are not are they? We then work tirelessly to appeal to these new people to inspire them (hopefully) to support with another gift - without understanding why they gave in the first place, what their expectation is of that gift and what that gift means in terms of inviting on-going dialogue?  But we've all seen the stat, the one that shows just how few people do actually go on to give again....

I did buy a light from the shop, it was a great light... and should I want another light I would think of the company because of how good their light was - It's still working and looks great, and not because they want to sell me some lights today.  The question they have not asked me, but assumed is that I am in the market for another light.

Some could argue that data protection ascertains this... well it might if for the longest time it wasn't hidden in small print at the bottom of the page.  But even then not really.

In reality, there will always be a % of people who have given to you once, that have no intention of going on to do so again - irrespective of what the data protection opt-in and outs say.  Then there are those that I am sure haven't really thought that far ahead but what that means is the thank you is a critical stage - this is not the time for an admin letter style no, this is time for real demonstrable gratitude and inspiration.  Wow them! 

So as well as building great relationships with supporters we need to make sure that people want a relationship in the first place - and we need to be braver about asking that. If they do - give them the power to dictate what that relationship is.  We can then work our hardest to ensure that this is the most rewarding and enjoyable relationship in the world!

And for those that don't?  Well these kind people have given to your cause, received a wonderful thank you and importantly been given a choice which may one day convert into a relationship and one of great value, but even if not, at least they will have had a wonderful experience and will be likely tell others about it.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

What you get if you mix a Direct Debit error, an apology letter and a conversation with a donor?

I caught up with a friend the other day, who, knowing what I do always has an opinion.  In fact he has an opinion on what I do because he is a supporter of charity - so his opinion comes from his experience and attitude to what the sector does from his experience.  

So, this was interesting.  He had just received a letter from a charity to which several months earlier he had upgraded his Direct Debit.  The letter,  detailed the fact that though he kindly increased his gift from £10 to £20 per month, that the previous direct debit had not been cancelled and thus the charity had been taking both amounts for the last 7 months.  They owed him £70.00.

As he handed me the letter he said 'If I was them, I wouldn't have done it like that.'  

So, I read on. The charity explained the error and advised that £70 had been credited into his account. Nothing too contentious and unusual there I thought.

'What wouldn't you have done?' I quizzed, 'given back the money?'.  

'Of course I would have given back the money, but I would have used the letter to highlight the mistake, check the account details were still active as a tactic (though of course they are), and said if we don't here back in xx days, we will refund the money into your account.' Was his reply.

Interesting I said, how would you have felt on the receiving end of such a letter?

'Fine, I didn't notice the £70 had been taken - so I would have probably contacted them and told them to keep the money.  Like maybe 1-2% of other people may have done.'

Me: 'You can still make the donation.'

Friend: 'No, that would require me to write a cheque or give my credit card details - giving to charity is actually quite hard and time consuming - so no, now I have the money back it would be a hassle to give it again.'

Now, as you read this, it might have caused you to cast your mind back to when there have been such mistakes in your own programmes.  What did you do?  What would you do? 

Yes, a % of those people, like my friend, could have said don't worry just keep the money - would those that received that letter with an extra stage felt aggrieved that the money wasn't automatically credited?  We could assume yes, but would they?

I am sharing this because for me a few things stood out:

  • It would appear that in the face of errors and mistakes and to be honest quite a bad one in this instance, supporters can be quite relaxed and understanding about them. This is not to suggest that when mistakes happen we shouldn't treat them seriously, but there is a comfort to be had from the idea that people are quite understanding if the issue is communicated in the right way.
  • Though I was personally not at all surprised by the approach the charity took in dealing with the error in this case - my friend genuinely thought this was a lost opportunity for income generation and would have been perfectly happy with an opportunity to decide whether he wanted his money back.  Do we too frequently second guess our supporters? 
  • My friend may be unique in this but his point about giving to charity being difficult really stood out for me (another post for another time).  But are we doing enough to break down the barriers to giving - the emotional and the physical ones?  
As he put the letter away, I thanked him - I love the fact that someone wholly unrelated to the charity or not-for-profit sector has such a strong opinion - which is ultimately coming from a very committed charity giver perspective. Even more reason to harness that feedback and more importantly seek it out. 

Thanks as ever for stopping by.