Monday, 9 March 2009

Romance them

"So Posh, happy David is in Milan?"

"They died as heroes"

"Cheryl flies in, Ashley jets out"

As fundraisers, how can we interrupt our audiences, when we compete with such sugar-rush media?

(The three lines above are on the same front page of just one of today’s free evening papers in London.)

Well in fact, Bluefrog seems to be interrupting rather well – despite the economic gloom. Recent recruitment of cash donors runs at 6% and £11 average gift for one client. And two-stage recruitment of committed givers runs at 12% initial gift and 9% conversion for another. And it is hard to keep up with our adwords and Facebook campaigns.

But our isolated success acts as counterpoint to the fact that Direct Debit cancellations are soaring, as Third Sector reports today.

Why is it that even stewardship-toting NSPCC is watching donors herd onto their online banks and cancel at such intensity?


There’s no romance left. One fundraiser recently said that signing up to a direct debit with his charity was like inviting a pack of vampires (if ‘pack’ is the right word) into your home.

But why have charities like the NSPCC allowed themselves to give in to the temptation to put their donors under such pressure? Like bankers peddling sub-prime debt, it seems that the quick wins of cash asks and upgrades has blinded many fundraisers into near oblivion.

The machine-gun staccato of appeal > upgrade > appeal > faux-feedback > appeal > upgrade > appeal has eroded any goodwill that may have been there at the start.

What appears to have been lost is the focus on the donor.

What do donors need?

Our research has revealed that a typical donor has various needs – sometimes as simple as an impulse to help, sometimes as complex as needing to grow or to define themselves. If, through the course of a communication cycle, you can show that by giving to your organisation, their varying needs can be met, you are far more likely to develop a lasting relationship.

Sounds a lot like romance doesn’t it?

I will never forget the moment, many years ago, when I was sat in a launderette, waiting for my washing to dry. Mercedes, the chain-smoking manager, in the middle of doing a service wash for a customer, screeched in delight, “Elaine, ooh, Elaine! Look at this! ‘Ere, can you imagine picking a bloke up in a pub ‘cos you fancied him ‘cos of the bulge in his jeans, only to get him home and find he’s got a pair of these on?!” (Holding up a ‘loin king’ padded thong.)

Looking back, I can see there is a salutary – if a little obscure – lesson for fundraisers in that.

As stewardship guru Karen Osborne puts it, standard donor communications are just, ‘this is what we promise to do with your money’. “Stewardship,” she asserts, is, “‘this is in fact what we did with your money.’ It’s the delivery on the promise.”

Just as employing loin kings is generally an unromantic tactic, so too is the harassment of donors for short-term gain.

If you want to foster long-term relationships with donors, build a mutual exchange with them: one that is fulfilling and stimulating for them.

– and other development agencies that offer child-sponsorship – boast industry-beating retention levels. They understand that for their richly rewarded donors, cancelling a direct debit would be like cancelling a part of themselves.

Take a moment today to look at what they do well, and think how to apply it.

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