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.


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'.  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.