How to grab attention from supporters: Glaze your naked body in honey!

“Having a British accent in North America is like glazing your naked body in honey and running through a bears’ den. You’re going to get eaten by girls. If there’s one thing girls can’t get enough of, it’s the meat of an English boy. They’re like the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk.”

And that’s one of the reason we have so many Canadian clients – because their supporters love hearing from us with our sexy/cool/fascinating (delete as appropriate) British accent!

On average we see an uplift in response rates of 20-30% when we call from the UK when compared to the results our counter parts in Canada achieve. Partly because Pell & Bales fundraisers are some of if not the best telephone fundraisers in the world ;) but also because of the accent thing. We’ve found little better than an interesting accent to break the ice and build the oh so important rapport at the beginning of a call. And good rapport has always led to good results…..

It’s just a shame our accent isn’t so powerful in all the English speaking countries we call into. Interestingly for example, our accent has little to no impact in Australia, where they barely raise an eyebrow when we call (the fact that most Australian call centre staff are UK travellers on a working permit definitely plays a role here).  We need to fall back on all our other fundraising super powers to stay ahead of the game here ;)


Happy Birthday Mobile Phone


The mobile phone has evolved greatly since that magic moment on 3rd April 1973 when the first phone call was made…and so has the way mobile is used to fundraise.

Mobile milestones;


The first real volume SMS response to a charity appeal happened in 2009 when we saw an explosion of text messages overnight in response to Save the Children’s ‘Gaza Ceasefire’ appeal. It was exciting times, and we were proud to be part of the first large scale SMS conversion campaign that followed. This set the blueprint for the many 2 stage SMS acquisition campaigns that are still so successful today.


2012 saw the introduction of Monthly SMS giving.  Across amazing platforms like Connected and  Mobilise we are now signing-up thousands of supporters to give in this flexible, engaging and donor friendly way – finally a viable alternative regular giving product to Direct Debit!

Since 2012 we’ve been tactically integrating SMS into our phone campaigns and donor journeys. A pre- call engagement message here and a ‘sorry we missed you’ message there, or maybe a ‘good luck’ message to event participants.

Today, 2014

One of our latest ventures is working with Clever Voice. These guys have created a piece of technology that can record a voice message which you can then text to a supporter. The result? A clever mix of SMS, Voicemail and inbound call handling that delivers a personalised voice message from a celebrity thanking you for your gift or asking you to donate.

And finally, only this week we have started an exciting campaign that will gather learning on the most appropriate ways to follow-up on the phenomenon that was the Facebook #nomakeupselfie explosion. Let’s hope there are more spontaneous, public led campaigns in the future enabled by the wonderful mobile phone– and that we can help charities be ready for action in that event!


A rite of passage?

I was glad to see this week that Flow Claritas are conducting research aiming to understand the transition between Street Fundraising and an ‘office based’ fundraising career.

It is no surprise that spending hours a day speaking with donors is one of the best groundings a professional fundraiser can experience, and that some of our most treasured and respected  fundraisers started off on the street or phone

Paul explains brilliantly here, and also gives a very impressive roll call of frontline fundraisers who’ve gone onto great things…

Maybe everyone entering a career in fundraising  should do a week on the phones or out on the street?!  Anyone that wants to do that at P&B  is certainly free to get in touch ;)


Vote For Your Fundraising Superheroes!

Yay! We’ve been shortlisted twice in this year’s Partners in Fundraising Awards:  ‘Best Telephone Agency’ and to our delight ‘Most Committed Company to the Sector!’

We’re proud to have such a passionate, dedicated and hard working team here at Pell & Bales. Check out the Pell & Bales Fundraisers take on his Super Hero Colleagues…..

Remember to vote for your fundraising superheroes this year. Perhaps, if we’ve had the privilege of speaking directly with your supporters this year, or provided some valuable insight through our blogs and tweets, or even if you just love Jay Moon’s (aka London Pell & Bales Fundraiser) cartoon then maybe you’ll even vote for Pell & Bales – The Fundraising League!

vote here

PS. If you are not an IoF member you can always pass it on to someone who is ;)

#FundraisingHeroes #FundraisingLeague #PhonePower

How He Changed the World: Celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela

Today the world mourns  one of the greatest figures of recent world history.

Nelson Mandela was an inspiration to everyone standing up to injustice.   He personified integrity, giving hope to millions. We remember with pride campaigning with the ANC to ensure the end of the evil apartheid regime in South Africa.

Whether speaking about his time in prison, struggle against apartheid or his emergence as a global icon, his words have a resonance far beyond their original context.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela

What’s really offensive (a.k.a who would you rather offend)

Apparently some of the 1200 people surveyed by the Advertising Standards Authority think charity ads are “distressing”, “offensive” and make them feel “uncomfortable or guilty”.

No one outside the ASA knows how many ticked that box, how the question was framed, or whether anyone surveyed ever donated to charity. But it’s enough for the ASA to consider taking a ‘tougher’ approach.

Surely by now we know there’s an enormous gulf between what people say in a survey and what they do? As I write, the British public has donated over £40 million within a week to the people of the Philippines, in response to images they’re seeing on the news. Are these images ‘distressing’? Yes. Do they make us feel uncomfortable? Yes. Do they make us want to help? Yes.

What’s offensive is everyday silent emergencies, like a child dying of hunger, injustice, poverty, violence, disease, or abuse, never get coverage.  If we don’t keep these causes in the public consciousness who will?

Our job is to give a voice to the voiceless and ask for help. To tell the truth and give our audience the dignity of choice; to help in any way they can if they can. If the truth is uncomfortable it’s uncomfortable; what’s the alternative? Are we to tell our beneficiaries their life is too ‘distressing’ for us to relay to people who could help them if only they knew?! Who would we rather ‘offend’; the starving child or the person eating dinner in front of the TV?

As a sector we have access to the world’s most dramatic, heart wrenching, inspirational stories. But we seldom tell them. The ever widening gulf between fundraising, brand, communications and front line services means we’ve become masters of obfuscation, understatement and jargon.

You’d be hard pressed looking at the average appeal to know exactly what the problem was, and what, if anything you could do about it. Too many appeals are emasculated with words and phrases like ‘could’, “…your gift could help…” (What else could it do?!) Or we use watered down language like ‘malnourished’ instead of starving (how many desperately hungry children would tell you they were feeling ‘malnourished’?!)

We’re so terrified of surveys, like the latest from the ASA, that we’ve silenced the voice of the beneficiary and replaced it with an empty, rhetorical mission statement. (Is it any wonder the number of donors and value of donations is dropping, and retention is at an all time low?) If we can’t stand up internally and say what needs to be said, then we can’t stand up as a sector and demand the ASA doesn’t silence the voice of the beneficiary. Now that’s really offensive!


How to redefine loyalty to yield meaningful and sustainable growth

Todays guest blog comes from Kevin Schulman, our U.S based friend and the founding partner of Donor Voice.

Kevin is already leading the global sector in strengthening donor relationships,  increasing retention rates and driving truly donor-centric fundraising approaches.  Kevin shares with us a belief in the fundamental truth that retention is ‘the problem and solution to your fundraising challenge.’

The good news is he shares the solution as well …..

 “Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if the non-profit sector is to thrive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships…” (FDR, May 27th 1933)

Truer (modified) words were never spoken.

Relationship is the key to retention and by extension, sustainable growth.  The math is clear – it can cost up to 10 times as much to bring in a new donor as keep an existing one.

So what to do about it?  The ‘relationship’ word is thrown around at non-profit conferences and by consultants by the truckload.  It has been a “soft”, just-believe concept.  And yet, as FDR noted, there is a science to it, which can be summed up as follows:

1)     The underlying elements constituting a healthy relationship between non-profit and supporter are known

2)     These elements can be measured using a proven model and formula

3)     This same proven model and formula are used to determine the organizational touchpoints (e.g. message, communications, events, donor service) that actually matter and by extension, those that don’t

This last point bears further discussion.  This is a model and framework to identify the touchpoints across functional areas that cause loyalty and in turn, the decision to stay or go.

This gets charities into the cause and effect business. No statistical model using transactional or engagement data is doing this.  Those models and purveyors are focused on efficiency of selection.  They want great predictions of certain, often singular, behavior (e.g. reactivate, upgrade, etc.) This is all well and good BUT greater efficiency, while worthwhile, is not going to yield meaningful growth.

Meaningful growth requires real, empirical relationship building that focuses on identifying what you do that truly matters to your donors, then optimizing the hell out of it (to the exclusion of everything else).

This is about building a 6 to 12 month test that is different from the “control” not by virtue of who is in or out (i.e. selection) and not simply by virtue of marketing message, but by a radically different set of touchpoints and experiences over a period of time.

Defining this different set of touchpoints is not guesswork, nor concocted from thin air. By applying the right model…one that adheres to basic laws of cause and effect AND combines attitudinal data (by measuring commitment and  performance of your touchpoints ) with transactional data…well then the blueprint becomes very specific and empirical, as illustrated below;

kevin schulman loyalty graph

And perhaps the greatest kept secret to better retention is revealed!

It is not about spending more money, nor about “creating” new experiences (at least initially). The answer to greatly improved retention is about getting a handle on the current world of communications, messages, publications and human interactions. Doing so means we can empirically identify those that cause loyalty, those that matter but are currently hurting loyalty and those experiences with organizational time, effort and spend against them that don’t cause loyalty.

With this framework the implementation plan is quite simple (albeit not easy since change is never easy).  If you send this communication, loyalty goes up.  If you send another it goes down.  If you don’t fix this in-person experience by delivering a different message and training staff to be more knowledgeable about issue X and Y (but not Z because now you know it doesn’t matter), you will lose 5% of the expected lifetime value.

This is radically different from the world today that is hyper obsessed with segmenting and slicing like crazy to identify who to target.  What gets served up to these people is an afterthought.  Perhaps there is some attempt to differentiate marketing message by segment. Perhaps.  But then what?

Too often this is the end of the segmentation mindset and these donors get put into the general flow of appeals, communications etc.

If you’re coming to IoF London next month you’ll hear me and Charlie talking in more depth about this, but in the meantime here are your top 10 things to remember:

  1. You need a retention plan.
  2. It has nothing to do with segmentation or targeting.
  3. It has nothing to do with frequency of contact or ask amount.
  4. A retention plan is not a marketing message test.
  5. This is far more than saying “thank you” differently (though that typically is required).
  6. A retention plan comes from getting a handle on the CURRENT world you serve and modifying it in significant ways based on empirical guidance.  Fix key experiences/touchpoints that matter but are broken, scale up key touchpoints/experiences that matter. Get good performance scores and reallocate time, effort and spend away from those touchpoints that don’t matter.
  7. If you build a new donor journey that is not significantly different from your “current” one then don’t expect a different outcome.
  8. If you build a new donor journey that is significantly different that you concocted internally then you should expect a different outcome – a worse one.
  9. You cannot A/B test your way to this answer
  10. You cannot build a predictive/selection model.  You must get into CAUSE and EFFECT mode.
  11. Bonus:  Don’t look at innovation as “risk” unless you are willing to assign a risk level to the status quo.  Too often the status quo is seen as 0% risk and innovation is seen as 100% risk.    ’Failure’ is acceptable if you do it quickly and cheaply – but there is far too much slow, expensive failure with status quo that gets overlooked.