The Challenge Facing Fundraising

What are we going to do?




Much has been written about the challenge facing fundraising: about regulation, permission, respect, putting the supporter at the heart of fundraising strategies, building a new kind of supporter relationship.

As if it was not already hard enough to raise funds to support charities’ programmes, fundraisers can expect a new regulator, new regulations, increased scrutiny, more empowered supporters. But the question that remains unanswered, despite all the words that have been written on the subject, is: how can charities respond to the challenge of the new fundraising world? In real, practical terms, what are we going to do?

Chasing numbers

The problem is that we’ve grown accustomed to chasing numbers. We’re driven by volumes, ROI, retention rates and average value. The vision of a better world, and the mantra that our causes are best served by putting the supporter at the heart of our strategies, can become obscured by the stark figures on the monthly report. We have to chase the numbers, don’t we?

“Visionary companies pursue a cluster of objectives, of which money is only one – and not necessarily the primary one. Yes, they seek profits, but they’re equally guided by a core ideology – core values and sense of purpose beyond just making money. Yet paradoxically, the visionary companies make more money than the purely profit driven companies”

Built to last: successful habits of visionary companies: Collins & Porras

In his book: ‘Obliquity: why our goals are best achieved indirectly’, economist John Kay quotes many examples of companies that succeeded because they focused on their core purpose – making the best aeroplanes, medicines, computers – and of companies that failed because they chased the numbers: profit, shareholder value.

Of course, our ‘making money’ is ‘raising money’. So does this suggest that we should no longer focus on raising money? And if that were to be the case, what should we focus on?

The vision and the mechanics

Of course no-one would deny that fundraisers’ ultimate purpose is to raise money. But perhaps raising money – sustainably increasing supporter value in the long term – is best achieved indirectly.

Ask anyone who works for a charity to describe the organisation’s purpose, its values and why it is important, and there’s a good chance they would give a compelling, passionate and authentic account. But put them in front of the tools of their trade and the transaction takes over: processing a donation, writing a campaign brief, signing off a script.

As fundraisers, our equivalent of ‘the best aeroplanes and medicines’ is ‘the best supporter relationships’. To define that in a way that differentiates one charity from another, we have to look behind the mechanics of targeting, contact strategy and supporter care, important though they are, and explore how each organisation’s values are reflected in the supporter experiences that it creates.

What’s the point of values?

At the recent Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs parliamentary select committee hearing, fundraising chief executives acknowledged that their organisations’ values had not always been reflected in their fundraising practices.

The question that all fundraising leaders must answer is: how can we address this challenge in a way that will be meaningful for supporters?

You can take tactical steps such as reviewing communications and equipping people to tell stories in supporter care encounters, but you need to go further, creating a strategy and structure that drives behaviours that reflect your values.

So what can we do?

There are two priorities:

Authenticity: find ways of expressing your charity’s values through every contact with your supporters, in a way that feels natural to the organisation and the supporter. And ensure that you do this consistently, through every proactive communication and every responsive encounter.

The best supporter relationships:make a long term commitment to creating the best supporter relationships as the first priority, above every other demand that the organisation makes of its fundraisers.

How can you achieve this? There are a number of things you can do. You can define how your charity’s brand values should be reflected in fundraising communications and contacts.You can review all of your communications and touchpoints, to question how well they tell your compelling story.You can redefine supporter journeys in the context of the ‘best supporter relationship’ priority. You can revise your KPIs, so that you measure authenticity, brand consistency and relationship quality, and not just financial targets.

There is no single solution to the challenge: there are many steps you must take. It is a major commitment: to change the way you define success; to believe that this will lead to better outcomes for the supporter, the organisation and its beneficiaries; to devise and implement practical changes.

But today the need for action, not just words, has never been greater.

Gary Hancock


Response to review of fundraising regulation

Pell & Bales warmly welcome the report published by Sir Stuart Etherington’s review today. Following the recent issuing of our own code of conduct we are pleased to see further standards introduced to ensure best practice and exemplary conduct become the norm within the rest of our industry.

Increased engagement between charities and their fundraisers alongside a donor-centric approach to the industry as a whole can only be positive for all those involved in the fundraising process.

The last few months have been transformative for the charitable sector and it is an exciting time to be working within it, Pell & Bales look forward to continuing to deliver for its clients and raise funds for some of the world’s most worthy causes.


Part 2: Donor Loyalty.. How to reduce donor attrition by a third in 3 minutes

As we discussed in last week’s blog a 10% increase in donor loyalty today would enhance the lifetime value of your fundraising database by up to 200%!

At Pell & Bales we’re doing exactly that – helping our charity clients increase loyalty by at least 10% in one 3 minute conversation.

In the last 18 months we have developed a solid approach to loyalty calls that’s reducing attrition savings by a 3rd in the immediate few months after the call, delivering a year 1 ROI of 3:1 and breaking even by month 3.

In fact, for every £100 spent c. £1,000 is generated in year one income!

And that’s just measuring the savings in attrition. Beyond that there are other rewards to reap from enhanced loyalty & engagement. One client has reported a 50% increase in response to a subsequent event ask and another reports a 30% increase in response to an upgrade ask.

How it works

  • Design a call that is about the donor – not about the charity and definitely not about fundraising or the charity needs. The aim is to make giving feel good, rewarding, involving and impactful
  • Allow yourself a budget, time and resource to have a real conversation with supporters
  • It’s not so much about what you say, more about how you make donors feel: listen to what they have to say, let them visualize and contextualize the impact of their gift, inspire them. Make them feel part of the bigger picture, the solution, and reinforce that their vision is your vision; that you will deliver on your promises, on your joint mission
  • Create a check list of known drivers in loyalty and commitment and address them through conversation (we use Sargeant and Woodliffe research, gathered supporter insight and our own research here)
  • Weave anti-attrition messaging into the conversation: be flexible and accommodating – offer payment holidays or even downgrades where appropriate
  • Encourage multiple relationships and a greater involvement and increased interaction in the cause (but don’t ask them for more support)

Why it works

No other channel offers the personal human interaction of the telephone. Loyalty is about relationship building, but how are you going to do that if you can’t hear what the other person’s saying? The phone allows a supporter to tell you what’s important to them, to ask you questions and to build rapport in the way they just can’t do with a piece of paper or video.

Third Sector’s latest ‘Giving Trends’ research says that the telephone is the most effective way to solicit donations. Now we know it’s also the best way to retain and nurture donors.

A conversation like this sets the tone for the relationship between you and your supporter.  Calls work particularly well when placed early on in the donor relationship. With the most significant attrition happening within months 0-4 it is advisable to place a loyalty call before their first Direct Debit payment has been made.

Results by recruit source

Across multiple clients and various data sources we consistently see a reduction in attrition, post call of c.1/3rd

And while the effects of the call do start to taper off a little over time, there is still a lasting impact 16 months after the phone conversation!

Look out for further blogs where I will explore Sargeant and Woodliffe’s  ‘key drivers of commitment’ (Service Quality; Risk; Shared Beliefs; Learning; Personal Link; Multiple Engagements and Trust) and how they can be translated into your donor communications.

In the meantime if you’d like any more information about how to drive donor loyalty email us via 


Part 1: Donor Loyalty… The answer to our problems????

Now more than ever, spurred by the negative scrutiny of fundraising in the UK at the minute, many are hailing the need for proper relationship fundraising, the need for listening to and nurturing our supporters and to focus on retention and a two -way conversation – rather than pushing out one -way messages that alienate our supporters.  

At P&B we’re firmly in the Pro-‘Donor Relationships’, Pro-‘Donor Loyalty’ camp . Below I repost a blog from 3 years ago which I feel is timely to republish; when the public complain about the frequency of charity communications could it be because all our communications are the same, that we are always asking for money and that communications are always about us???  Well, as we said a while back,  there is a different approach.

Sorry if you’ve already read this – it is our most read and shared blog of all time after-all. Which begs the question: why aren’t we all doing more of this type of fundraising?!

Donor Loyalty: Raising Money without Even Asking for It 

Few can argue with the fact that loyalty is important. In the UK, depending on how they are recruited, up to 40% of new monthly givers will lapse within months of signing up. Attrition rates have never been so high

Couple this with the fact that donor recruitment is ever more challenging and expensive and many charities simply can’t recruit donors as quickly as they are falling off the file. We are facing the very real threat that donor bases and income will start to shrink.

The sector really must move on from talking about ‘driving loyalty’ and start doing it. We must hang on to the donors we work so hard to recruit.

The concept of actively driving loyalty is nothing new, the likes of Sargeant and Burnett have been producing brilliant research and theory on this for years. And you only need to look at the commercial world and witness that they shifted from a focus on single transactions to relationship and loyalty marketing as far back as the 80’s

Increased loyalty will not only reduce attrition but drive commitment, increased response rates, average values, multiple engagements, and legacies. Sargeant calculates that

A 10% increase in donor loyalty today would enhance the lifetime value of your fundraising database by up to 200%!

But how many of us are doing much more than a bit of stewardship: sending the odd thank you letter and an annual newsletter?

Studies show it costs ten times as much to recruit a new donor today as it does to retain an existing one. So why isn’t this reflected in the way we spend our resources and allocate budgets? It would seem the sector is failing to really focus on retention and instead we are just increasing how much we spend on recruiting each new donor. But what else can you do?

We could take some lessons from the commercial world.

Let’s look at the phone for example;

A whopping 38% of all outbound calls made by commercials are either loyalty or customer satisfaction calls. In the NFP sector such calls account for less than 1% of outbound activity!

In the commercial world products are consumer led, driven through customer insight, surveys and research. I’m pretty sure the brainwave that was Direct Debit giving wasn’t born from a huge rush of supporters demonstrating a real desire ’to give regular reliable donations’ or a need to show how ‘committed’ they were. In fact, when we talk to donors about giving in this way many still fall into the trap of talking about why direct debits are so good for the charity.

Another thing the commercial world does very well is the use of Risk and Reward. If I don’t use my Air Miles Sept 2013 I lose them. If I shop with Sainsbury’s again before next Monday I will get £10 off my weekly shop. Where’s the hook to get people donating again? Who really cares and will anyone really notice if I cancel my gift?

Finally, while the rest of the world is already embracing multi-channel integrated communications and interacting with their consumers our fundraising teams are still working in silos, and our donor communications and ‘journeys’ are pre-determined even before they sign the dotted line, regardless of their preferences and interests.

I could go on and on. In summary there is so much more we could do. We need to measure how donors feel about their support; we need to make it easy for them to give (and no that doesn’t just mean Direct Debit); giving needs to be rewarding and fun; we should acknowledge and reward loyalty; we should offer supporters more control and choice in their giving; we need to listen to our supporters, interact with them; we need to build trust and prove impact; and service should be impeccable.

Later in the month I will explore this further and share with you our approach to ‘Loyalty Calls’ – something which we are finally starting to see charities invest in.  These calls produce a year 1 ROI of 3:1 and you don’t even have to ask your donors for a thing! One client is generating £1,000 net income per 100 contacts without asking for a single penny!

If you want to know more about donor loyalty email with a short message and ‘ donor loyalty’ in the subject header and we’ll get back to you!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!


Pell & Bales leads sector by launching code of conduct to raise standards in the industry

Our code of conduct, written in compliance with existing IOF and interim FRSB recommendations sets out clearly the ways in which we meet and exceed all current industry regulation. We are committed to improving the integrity of the fundraising industry by investing further in rigorous processes and internal controls and urge others to do the same.

At Pell & Bales we take precautions that many in the industry do not to ensure that existing donors and potential donors are treated with the utmost respect and most importantly that vulnerable people are protected.

Our code of conduct is divided into clear areas of focus which ensure that we continue to lead the industry in fundraising conduct:

  • Regulation, Compliance and Best Practice – adhering to all standards and guidelines, exceeding requirements to set industry best practice
  • People – we will always employ the best people who are passionate about fundraising, acting with humility, respect and empathy. We also pay the most in the sector to ensure we attract the best people and reward call quality as a metric
  • Training and Standards – we will always provide the best quality of training and development to ensure our staff meet and exceed industry standards
  • Supporters and Donors – treated with respect and safeguards in place to ensure vulnerable people are protected
  • Strategic Partnership Approach – working with our clients: helping them to deliver the highest quality sustainable fundraising in the sector

In addition to holding ourselves to the highest standards of ethical behaviour we also believe that our clients will want to sign up to our new code of conduct.  The industry and wider fundraising sector must improve its regulation and this cannot be done without the help and input of charities themselves.

We’d love to hear your feedback, if you’d like to discuss our code of conduct please email with ‘code of conduct’ in the subject header.

To download our full code of conduct click the link here : P&B Code of Conduct Issued 16th July 2015

We’re recruiting…

We’re looking for a passionate, world class Account Manager to join the growing team at our London HQ.

You will manage a portfolio of charity clients large and small, including many of the UK’s favourite charities, supporting them across a diverse range of programs from Acquisition, Loyalty and Legacy fundraising and anything in between.

With over 20 years experience and our first £BILLION for charity under our belt, new team members can expect to experience unrivalled development and career progression working within a forward-thinking, innovative environment.

The lucky candidate will find themselves working in a true fundraising environment full of passionate people dedicated to innovation and excellence. This makes working at P&B a fun, buzzing, dynamic, sometimes crazy but ultimately rewarding place to work.

If you have fundraising and client servicing super powers to share, are passionate about changing the world, thrive when working in a fast-paced environment and are a strong team player then drop me a line at with ‘Account Manager London’ in the subject line and we’ll send you more details about the role and how to apply.

We’re on a mission to save the world here at Pell & Bales and now you could be part of it too.

Closing Date: Midnight 1st October  2015 




We’re recruiting for …

… a stellar Campaign Planner to come and work on several of our largest charity accounts. Could this be you?

It’s a very busy client facing role so you’ll need to be calm under pressure and have experience of fundraising, direct marketing or project management. You’ll also be a great communicator with strong project management analytical and time management skills.

So what will you be doing?
Responsibilities include managing the key processes to develop and deliver effective campaign strategies, leading and influencing client strategies through analysis plans and sector insight and evaluating final campaign performance to ensure learning is taken forward by the client and wider business.

Sounds great? 
If you have some or all of the experience above then great you’re definitely what we’re looking for! Ultimately though we’re on the look out for passionate, dynamic individuals that are inspired to design and deliver the world’s best fundraising campaigns for some of the UK’s best loved charities.

What’s it like at Pell & Bales?
With over 20 years experience and our first £billion for charity under our belt, new team members can expect to experience unrivalled development and career progression working within a forward-thinking, innovative environment. Don’t take our word for it – check out all of these great people that started their careers with us – we must be doing something right?

Get in touch?
Email with ‘campaign planner role’ in the subject header and we’ll send you a full JD and details of how to apply, closing date is Wednesday 8th July 2015 

We’re on a bit of a mission to save the world at Pell & Bales and now you could be part of it too.