Saturday, 30 May 2015

How do we prevent supporters from stopping their gifts?

The very sad saga around Olive Cooke continues. You and Yours ran a piece on Friday about "hard sell" charity fundraising. Dominic Nutt, a public affairs consultant, suggested that gifts to syndicated events can lead to multiple asks and, in effect, a huge increase in the numbers of asks by the charities involved. Similarly single or occasional donations to a number of charities, as a response to their direct marketing asks, can lead each to an increasingly urgent, even desperate, cycle of fundraising letters, emails, SMS messages and phone calls. I talked to one of their researchers yesterday and "You and Yours" are also planning a follow-up next week, so do watch this space.

Incidentally talking about desperate comms, Peter White once interviewed me at Leonard Cheshire. I vainly tried to list all the sponsors in the middle of a question and got it wrong three times. He patiently repeated the question until the lights went on and I said, "you're not going to use this are you?" Peter simply smiled and asked the question again!

Alistair McLean chief executive of the FSB, reported that complaints have increased and that an investigation is to be conducted. The issue of "vulnerable older people" was aired and it was suggested that more must be done in clarifying and simplifying the communications from charities.

I believe one of the biggest issues is for fundraisers to come clean about "lapsed" supporters. A one-off donation to a charity does not make you a supporter. I have, over the years, tested the responses of a large number of charities and find many continue to mail me despite no response from me for years. Now I know we're terrified of stopping communications with people who might leave us a legacy but these missives are not "communications" or "legacy development" but increasingly urgent and varied attempts to "reactivate" me.

It's simply not good enough.

We have to get cleverer and sorting out who is willing to hear from us and who isn't.
Going right back to Botton Village and Laurence Stroud's revolutionary (at that time) letters, asking supporters how often they would like to hear about the work. It worked then and if, appropriately modified, used today could dramatically improve the relationships with remaining supporters. It would also give improved opportunities to talk about legacies - a vital long term objective.

Who's going to be brave enough to try it?

Friday, 15 May 2015

Why do people stop giving?

So do you really know why people who have been giving you money stop?

Just done four television and radio interviews about whether high pressure telephone, direct mail, digital and canvassing fundraisers are leading more people to say no. The back story is the so very sad story of the suicide of Olive Cooke who's family say she was "bombarded" by charities to give money and felt pressured into giving. In reality she was profoundly upset about £250 going missing in the post but the "incessant" pressure by charities can't have helped.

Whilst I'm the first to defend the right (or even duty) of charities and their fundraisers to ask (appropriately) for money; I equally defend the right (sounding like Voltaire?) of individuals to say no and say it clearly so that we really hear what they are saying. I do think we are, at times, in serious danger of using too much persuasion to put over our case for support. Of particular concern are the older supporters, like Olive, who do have standing orders, direct debits and who do respond to our regular appeals for cash. Some people find it very hard to say no and so find themselves getting asks from dozens of charities. I also suspect that if we sat down with people like Olive we'd find that they have a desire to help everyone but a real interest in, perhaps, half a dozen or so, actual causes.

So is there a case for going beyond TPS and MPS (and email opt-out lists) and creating a shared database that charities have to dedupe against before mailing? That database could include all those giving to charities but opting to receive no further unsolicited communications. And I do mean unsolicited. Just because someone gave to us three years ago is not a good reason to treat them as a long lost friend. I think we have to get far more proactive about this especially as so many charities are going back to transactional fundraising with text and dm calls with concerted follow-ups to convert to regular giving.

One of the callers talked about her dad who gives a one-off donation of £200 to nearly every charity who calls him. Of course they all do! However his intent is that the donation is a one-off, go away, gift and we don't like that do we?

Is there a place for the PFRA or the Institute of Fundraising to start a campaign for a proactive opt-out database?

I think there is but I'd love to hear what you think.