Saturday, 31 August 2019

There's nothing average about it

I'm a big fan of Ted talks. The variety, the view points, the range of subjects, the expertise - all fascinating and thought provoking.

I stumbled across this one over the summer, The myth of average by Todd Rose.

If you have 18 minutes to spare, do give it a view - because it was fascinating both in relation to how the US Air Force approached fighter plane design in 1952 or how the structure of the education system  is often failing the brightest and most talented students in the US education system. But, at the heart of it, the point  was that thinking differently can nurture and harness potential - and that is by not designing for the average.

As I listened, it struck me that average is everywhere and decisions are made about it and because of it everyday, including in the not for profit sector.

So, the next time you use the term - the average supporter is...., have a think about what that means and also what it doesn't mean for the information you have and the judgement you make.

I am not saying on the basis of one very bright man talking about averages that it hasn't got value - but  it was a great  reminder that we can generalise because of it - and that could be to the detriment of what we do and what we decide to do next for the programmes we lead, the investment choices we make and for the experience of those that support and engage with our cause.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Not Goodbye, but when will we see you again?

Having recently come back from a lovely holiday, at a lovely resort where we received a lovely welcome and recognition that we had been before what on earth could my gripe be I hear you ask?!

Well  it is essentially this.  We often put so much more thought and effort into the welcome, that we forget about the goodbye. A goodbye which if you want people coming back to use your service or in our context make a gift, run an event etc. should in fact be a continuation of that wonderful welcome. Instead it has often become transactional and administrative with little thought to when we might see them again or expressing in no uncertain terms that we'd like to.

Now in the context of fundraising and supporter engagement, is there really an end point - not really, we want to build meaningful on-going relationships with people who want to have relationships but if you look at each engagement a supporter has with you, there is frequently a process that will operationally conclude a certain stage of that engagement i.e. a thank you letter thanking someone for their gift. Is this the fundraising equivalent of checking out of a hotel and paying the bill? Where you pay for the lovely experience and hand over the credit card and receive the reams of paper, and a thank you from the reception staff... and then leave. Mulling over the experience and them hoping you'll return at some point or not?

Of course, my experience isn't a terrible one  by any stretch. People were nice, appreciative, asked if we had had a lovely holiday and wished us a safe flight and all that. All fine and appreciated. But I guess my point is that I think it could be better and I think at those critical stages of engagement - whatever they might be, I think more thought is required to ensure that the supporter's experience is a positive one laying the foundations for the next step.

So, what I am suggesting is that we look at all of those points, whether it be a thank you letter or a communication to a regular giver that has stopped their gift and ensure that we aren't saying 'goodbye' or 'goodbye forever' but instead asking 'when will we see you again? or at least demonstrating at that point that we'd love to see them again soon.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.


Friday, 20 July 2018

Fundraisers - we are human after all

As I sat in the National Gallery looking at the fantastic art - impressed by the skill and trying to decide which Van Gogh I preferred, I then caught sight of a self portrait of a young artist.  He wasn't known to me (but I am in no way an art connoisseur), but as I looked at this young man who had been a pupil of a great master of the 18th century, I realised my mind was thinking about this person, their life, their motivation, how they may have felt being tutored by someone of brilliance and I realised that this was much more interesting and personal than me admiring the mere work on show.

As fundraisers, stories are our most valuable asset - we all know that. Obviously there is much more to fundraising than that but the stories we tell are what helps ensure what we do has a human face (or animal) and that in turns drives emotional connection and action.

Unfortunately, we are in a period where we are often judged on the techniques we employ to do our job - rather than the importance of what we do and the impact it makes. More so, when people have strong views on those techniques or indeed when they are wilfully misunderstood - but my point is that I think we need to tell our own stories a bit more.

There are clearly signatories on our communications and people at the heart of what we do, but the reality is we don't share our stories as fundraisers; of how we got here, why we are doing what we do, or why we are working for the charities we do. We don't necessarily put forward a human face of fundraising - that it is people ultimately working hard to build engagement with supporters and prospective supporters - not lots of machine's churning out letters.

On the odd occasion that we do, we tell those stories in the bubble of the charity world, not to our donors and supporter, the people who to my mind would benefit from knowing a bit more about the people working behind the scenes. My reason for this is because ultimately if our supporters understand why we do what we do and believe in it and see the impact of that, they may well start seeing us as people wanting to make a better world for people and animals, rather than sales people or amoral people that would do anything to get some money out of them.

So the next time you send a newsletter or letter for example, maybe test including a picture of a fundraiser involved in creating it, with a little blurb about why they do what they do, why they care.. why they are at the organisation. Allow your organisation to tell its fundraisers' stories or at least try it.

My short story ... and it doesn't have to be long

I grew up with a mum who was passionate about animal rights, and I remember the charity letters she received and the petitions she signed all through my childhood. My mum was a proud charity supporter. Later, I remember being moved to tears and anger by Ceausescu's orphans and still, to this day I can recall the horror and despair in the news footage.  Those are the things I remember most that motivated me to want to make a difference in some small way.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

We have to do better

Over the last while I have been sharing my experience of 'reactivating' my support to one of my favourite charities after a hiatus.  At the time I explained that although my financial support had stopped for a while, my belief and commitment to the cause itself had not waned.

My frustration for much of this process was in fact the lack of recognition for my past support, the missed opportunity to acknowledge what they already knew about me, to make my support feel valued. After all, I resumed my support spontaneously I wasn't called or mailed, I just took the opportunity to start my financial support again. A perfect example of volunteering versus conscription.

So my story continues. Three months ago I received a telephone call to increase my support. It was actually well scripted and they had obviously done some work to make it dynamic and relevant based on the answers I gave in the conversation. I was convinced and agreed to increase my support, which was about 9 months after I signed up.  I was happy to do it.

Over the last three months since the call I have been waiting for my increase to be actioned,  but this morning I received a letter. It was signed from the supporter care manager and though pretty innocuous and straight forward in its content it kind of annoyed me.
  • The letter itself, though factual and apologetic lacked warmth and detail - the delay was caused by an 'external processing error' apparently. We've all been there when we have external suppliers handling fulfilment for our charities' processing - but it's taken three months to notice..
  • A call would have been better than a letter .. or even an attempt to call.
  • The apology was for inconvenience caused, which if I am being facetious I could argue that I am £15 better off as three months of additional payments have not been taken. That being said the main issue for me is that feeling that this additional support that was so vital and imperative in the call is no longer that important.  It certainly didn't factor in the letter message at all which I feel is a mistake particularly after this amount of time lag.
  • The letter format itself - and yes, I am being picky now but the name and address is a different print density from the main letter, so it feels knocked up rather than specially drafted to apologise to me personally as a supporter. 
  • Not even a 'Merry Christmas' or something suitably non denominational included (it's two weeks away from December 25th!).
This tale, though a bit of a saga is essentially meant to highlight something that we all should know as fundraisers and communicators. Which is that the stages after the fundraising is just as vital as the work that goes into the main campaign or activity.  All that work that went into a rather good fundraising call has been undermined by processes and now a lacklustre supporter care letter.

With even greater scrutiny on how we fundraise and communicate with our supporters and potential supporters which is making things much more challenging - supporter care should no longer be the after thought. It should be planned in upfront with the campaign itself, and done so with fundraiser input to ensure that the experience of elevating the thank you and supporter care around the campaigns is tight and of the highest quality as possible.

It's the time of year, and I could be being a little Grinch like about this - but it's a hard environment and in the coming year, support will be won and lost by the service that supporters and donors receive during sign-up, after sign-up and every stage after that.  So we should stop making our letters look admin like (even if they are), we need to ensure that systems are in place to limit mistakes (more so than ever) but if mistakes do happen that we ensure there is warmth and authenticity in the explanation and the apology.  I don't think that is too much to ask.

Thank you kind reader as ever for stopping by and wishing you a very merry Christmas!

Monday, 4 July 2016

What do you want, blood?

Currently there's lots of discussion about what makes a great donor experience, and equally greater discussion about how that is delivered.  So I thought I would share this, because I think it speaks for itself.

As with everything we do in fundraising, it isn't rocket science.  At its heart it is about being authentic, genuine and sincere and the fact that this was delivered by mobile also goes to show that all channels are a potentially great vehicle for delivery of feedback if the organisation genuinely has something to say to the donor. In fact for this, text was the perfect choice.

Clearly for the person who received this message, this text has made their blood donation and the impact of that donation meaningful and real.  What more could you ask for.

Hat tip to my colleague Carol who spotted this on Facebook.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.


Saturday, 27 February 2016

Show me you know me...

Okay, so I was lamenting a little following my recent engagement with an organisation's supporter care team of which I decided to resume my support.

As I said at the time it wasn't a bad experience at all, but my disappointment related to the fact that as a previous, and dare I say generous supporter of more than a decade - I thought it would have been 'nice' to be recognised in that way.

You can read what I had to say about it all here

Practically I thought to myself afterwards, maybe the person just didn't do the research ahead of calling me or didn't have time - all very possible in a busy supporter care team. But, now that they are aware, I thought to myself I might receive the confirmation letter that does acknowledge that I returned to the fold and resumed my monthly commitment.

Okay, so I am here to tell you that no - that was not the case either.  There was nothing beyond the usual generated letter thanking me, confirming the details of my regular monthly gift and briefly explaining the difference it will make. Which I knew anyway as I had supported before!

So why am I so disappointed.  Am I disappointed as a supporter or a fundraiser - probably both.

I don't expect the CEO to knock on my door with balloons that say thank you - honestly I don't - but I think what this experience clearly demonstrates is just how much of what we do is automated and homogenous and that this is at the expense of genuine, tailored supporter care and relationship building.

I would have hoped that the person I spoke to would have taken note that I had resumed my support and that there would be a way to personalise the letter I received - or even if that wasn't possible (and I am giving some benefit of the doubt on that one), a post it note, a compliments slip or a even a PS. just acknowledging that fact and saying thank you for coming back.

Though my interaction with this organisation was paused transactionally, it doesn't mean that I wasn't watching in the wings, watching the progress. As much as some people question what they are lapsing from in the 'I didn't have a relationship with you in the first place' way, I can tell you from experience that just because I stopped my support for a while, I still felt like a supporter. I still certainly cared. And I don't think that is unique to me.

As a fundraiser I know how rare it is relatively speaking for supporters to resume their support, so as a supporter who has done just that I wanted to feel valued, special and have that fact acknowledged. It's there in my data, it was there in the conversation I had it was just no where to be seen when it came to the confirmation and to me that is another missed opportunity to make me, the donor feel special. 

Thanks as ever for stopping by.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Don't neglect the people who want a relationship with you

Just the other day, I decided to resume support of one of my favourite causes. I had stopped giving a while ago and wanted to start giving again. It was the right time for me to do so.

I completed the form on-line, and in haste transposed some of my account details. As a result, I received a call from the organisation's supporter care team. 

I confirmed my details - now accurately.  I confirmed the amount. And I was even asked whether I had seen anything to prompt my giving.  All good. 

Now this is where it wasn't so good, I had supported previously for a long time, and made additional gifts on top of my Direct Debit, but there was no mention of that fact in the call - a lost opportunity to demonstrate they knew me - to welcome me back.

When I confirmed my details - I was not asked about Gift Aid. I mentioned it. The women on the phone said we probably have it from the last time - which she checked and that was the case. But it might not have been.

Finally, I am a previous supporter, who has just proactively signed up to resume my support and in the current environment I would have certainly asked about contact preferences.  Would I have opted-in to telephone - yes of course!  I would have opted-in to all of them - explicit agreement to receive communications from them, but I was not asked and the subject was not even raised. 

Yes, of course my previous preferences could still stand. But coming back to the point that I proactively resumed my support - there was an opportunity missed to market consent to me and to check that I was happy with what had gone before. Another opportunity to engage me in a positive way and elevate the call beyond one of mere transaction.

And there it is. It seems that as a sector we are so obsessed with the 'new' that we are not very good at dealing with and maximising on, the opportunities that come to us.  In this case in the form of an engaged, proactive supporter who likes the cause so much that they will probably do what is asked and so much more. But being mindful of these rare folk just seems to be an after thought - and that mind set really does need to change.

Thanks as ever for stopping by.