Emergency fundraising: four essentials

 

Nepal blog banner 20150428 (2)

Much of my work over the last year has been in the world of retail, famous for being fast-moving, dynamic, immediately responsive to changes in market conditions. Not for retailers the gentle pace of fundraising, the measured diet of monthly gifts and quarterly updates.

Until, that is, there is an earthquake.

Little more than a dozen hours after the first shock hit Nepal, the first appeal arrived in my inbox. Through the weekend, charities and their agencies were at work, belying the slow moving stereotype.

Over the years I have found my way onto many a charity database, as a supporter, business partner or interested observer. Checking email and text messages in the two days since news broke from Nepal led me to an unscientific survey of emergency appeals:

 

Nepal charities table picture 20150427

UNICEF were first, the only organisation to make its appeal to me on the same day as the news broke, followed on Sunday by Christian Aid and British Red Cross (the latter by text message).  Appeals from SCIAF (Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund) and Tearfund arrived during Monday.

I make no claim that my survey is comprehensive: the fact that I did not hear from a charity does not suggest that they were not equally active, equally responsive to the need. But I was struck by what I found:

  1. Speed matters: it is possible to launch an appeal within 12 hours of the need arising, seven days a week: this is the new benchmark.
  2. A clear ask: UNICEF were very clear: “we urgently need you to send a gift of £35 to help the children of Nepal”. Others were less prescriptive, perhaps deliberately so: “give what you can”. Perhaps surprisingly, Christian Aid were more blunt: “donate today”. Some donation pages had gift amount prompts ranging from £10 to £115. No doubt prompt levels have been tried and tested and are different for different supporter bases, but the importance of a clear ask is indisputable.
  3. Make it meaningful: Tearfund and UNICEF made it very clear what each prompted amount could help them achieve, giving a clear sense of the tangible impact of each donation.

Prompt Nepal blog image 20150428 (2)

 

   4. Once may not be enough: media planners know that they have to give their audience multiple opportunities to see their message in order for it to have the desired impact. UNICEF have adopted a similar approach, emailing two further and increasingly urgent messages in the 48 hours since their original appeal.

If this simple exercise has reminded us of some fundraising essentials, it does not detract from the most important point: organisations are doing vital work to respond to emergencies in Nepal and elsewhere, and they need our support to enable them to do so. They are playing their part: now it’s our turn

Gary Hancock

Consultant

 

SMS: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single text

pell and bales

(with apologies to Lao Tse)

 SMS giving was the next “big thing” in fundraising a few years back. The channel has grown and evolved, it’s become a medium for regular giving, and it’s also started to challenge direct mail as the go to medium for attracting new donors.

It is a great way of attracting attention and raising funds, and has uncovered supporters who wouldn’t even open a cold mailing, let alone respond to one, and now almost a third of Britons use it to give. 

 They’re ready to go, so where are you taking them and how will you get there?

As telephone fundraisers we’re in the perfect position to take these new donors on the next stage of their journey. After all, if you’ve donated by text then giving you a call is the most natural way to get in touch and tell you more; but what are you going to talk to them about?

Now you’ve got their attention, what are you going to say?

As with any fundraising channel it’s important to remember that it’s not the medium, it’s the message. So, are we getting our messaging right?

In the creative team at Pell & Bales we thought we’d start putting this to the test by texting into appeals and then analysing the follow up calls. It’s a great chance to hear theory put into practice, it helps us to refine our approach and puts us in the donor’s shoes. We received calls from two well known international development charities, represented by two different agencies. The calls were well delivered, but one charity’s message engaged us in a way that that the other ones didn’t.

I’m talking, why aren’t they listening?

They’re both great causes, they both do great work, and they were both represented by passionate, articulate fundraisers. So where did one succeed and the other one fail?

We put on our thinking caps and came up with a short list

  • Pick up the story where the advert left off – this may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how much charity communication is disjointed, so make sure you establish a connection to the appeal early on in the call. They say that “A picture’s worth a thousand words”, so reconnect them with the image they responded to and you’ve just saved yourself a lot of talking. But do consider the next point.
  • Don’t put the donor on the spot – so, what about that advert made you respond? Can you remember?- chances are they can’t (we couldn’t and we were actively trying to remember the details), and they’ll feel awkward if you ask them, so instead, lead them by the hand- “your support helped provide warm clothes for a little boy like the one you saw in the appeal.” Now they remember the advert and you can start asking questions and building rapport.
  • Keep it relevant– they’ve texted in response to a 30 second TV ad or a poster with a few lines of text, so how will they respond if you give them a long spiel unconnected to the image they first saw? Reconnect them with the appeal and make sure you keep your story and your asks linked to the same theme.

All of the above may seem obvious, but the calls we received suggested that as a sector we still need to work harder at engaging donors in a way that’s as meaningful for them as it is for us.

Spenser

Creative Manager

How to do great fundraiser engagement

I recently attended a very inspiring fundraiser engagement session along with some of our wonderful RNIB fundraisers.  The session was delivered by Kevin, who had received support from RNIB. It was an amazing experience, I’m sure the fundraisers will agree. Here’s why I think the session worked well:-

A personal story

Kevin gave us an insight into his life before he became blind, and his life now.  He went into great detail about how the team at RNIB had helped him, emphasising the vital support he got from their Helpline immediately after he lost his sight. His biggest fear was the unknown, he didn’t know what to do next but talking things through, and getting advice, enabled him to get things back on track.

It provided him with practical and emotional support which allowed him to get on with his daily life and also take on new challenges he would have never considered before losing his sight, such as computer and internet training and a gardening course. He now mentors other people who have also lost their sight, to help them feel more positive about their future.

It was really inspiring for the fundraisers to hear how he was living such a full and confident life thanks to the support he received from RNIB, made possible by our fundraising efforts here on the phones.

 As Tom discussed in his blog a few weeks ago, it’s the individual story that counts; and Kevin’s personal story is what fundraisers will remember when speaking to supporters. For example, Kevin talked of his incredible knowledge of London streets, learnt through his previous job as a bus conductor but also about his new found photographic memory which allows him to remember locations by using landmarks (mainly local pubs!) to find his way away around London. RNIB had helped him combine this previous knowledge with new skills to help him adapt as easily as possible to the new challenge he faced.

Engagement

As fundraisers we spend a lot of time and effort exploring how we can engage and inspire supporters, but it’s not often that the same emphasis is placed on inspiring and engaging our frontline fundraisers. When you consider it is their job to inspire supporters, it’s surely important that first and foremost they themselves feel inspired by the stories they hear and can see the impact they have. This session did exactly that!

Enabling inspiring fundraising conversations

For me, no fundraising experience is complete without a great fundraiser engagement session!

Not only do these sessions enhance the overall fundraising experience for the fundraiser, they help us understand first hand some of the challenges faced by people like Kevin, that we’re helping to support. We can ask questions and really appreciate their situation and in turn have better conversations with supporters, enhancing the experience for them too. As a trainer I can refer to these personal experiences with the charity and people like Kevin, that they support, rather than referring to someone I haven’t met.

Motivation

The cause, the need for RNIB and for us to fundraise to make that possible had never felt more real to me. It was there in the room with us.  Kevin’s visit demonstrated to the team the link between their hard work and the support RNIB provides. The team were uplifted. By the end of the session there was a buzz in the room and we were all raring to get back on the phones fundraising

Thanks

Fundraisers are often asked to call supporters and thank them for their support and demonstrate how they have made a difference to the charity.  The time and effort RNIB put into this session, into thanking the fundraisers for their hard work, especially coming from Kevin himself, was amazing.

 

 Camille

Trainer

Stop taking selfies and get to know your donors

A couple of weeks ago Reinier Spruit posted a great post on the 101Fundrasing blog. He highlights the need to spend more time and effort learning about our supporters if we are to really drive retention;

“… We’re all taking selfies. It’s all “Me, Myself and I“. But we’re looking the wrong way… we should be taking pictures of our donors. All those snapshots will tell us a story about who they are and what they want…We don’t take the effort to really understand them, talk to them, let alone track their feelings about us!”

So, how do you ‘take pictures’ of your supporters? Here’s a few simple ideas for starters;

  1. If you use direct dialogue fundraising then go along to the phone room, join the teams on the street, at events and on the door steps in order to listen to your supporters and meet with them. Do this regularly. I am constantly amazed in how little time some charities invest this
  2. Ensure those same teams don’t just deliver you results and new donors each week, but insight too. Have an agreed process for this
  3. Set KPIs for donor satisfaction levels. Collect and monitor satisfaction (by email, mail, phone or SMS)
  4. Review and manage your supporter communications against a set of ‘retention criteria’. What drives satisfaction, commitment and trust, and how good are your communication at driving those things?  

Read Reinier’s full article including the inspiring vision for his retention fundraising here

Bethan 

 

Legacy Fundraising Part 2: Are we targeting donors too late?

Most charities are targeting the over 60’s in their legacy programmes.

But is this too late? Firstly it depends what you’re looking for. Undoubtedly you’ll find more legacy ‘pledgers’ in the older segments on your database.  For one, they are more likely to have written a will.

 

legacy blog part 1 graph 1

 

And of course it’s important to understand who your legacy pledgers are in order to aid forecasting and also to ensure you can nurture them.  But  isn’t the real potential for a legacy fundraiser in speaking to those that that haven’t yet decided what charity to leave a gift to;  those that haven’t yet written their final will?

Look at the graph below.  A study by Xtraordinary in 2012 shows that more 23-49 year olds are considering leaving a legacy to charity than the 50+ age group. At 70+ the percentage of people considering a legacy gift drops significantly.

 

thinking about what they will leave

This is something we’ve seen when speaking with supporters on the phone too: the graph below shows a clear decline in interest with age. The older the donor the less likely they are to be open to consideration, to change their will.

 

2nd graph

 

The lesson here is to start the legacy conversation earlier,  before your supporters have written  their will, before they have decided which charity[s] to give to.

Bethan 

5 Things a 19th Century Folk Song Can Teach Us about Telephone Fundraising

As well as writing for Pell & Bales, I’m also a keen folklorist.  Recently, I noticed that one particular folk song works by using very similar principles to the ones I use when writing telephone fundraising scripts.

The song in question is a broadside ballad, historically written to relate news updates, generally with a particular viewpoint in mind.  People would only ever hear the song once, so it had to be immediately effective and memorable.

Sound familiar?

To get the proper experience, listen to this performance of the song through once now, before reading any further.

 

 

What stood out? How do you feel afterwards? Similar to how a supporter feels after they’ve had a fundraising call, I think. Powerful, wasn’t it?

But what exactly makes the song so effective? How can we use this to make sure our fundraising calls are just as powerful?

 

1. Keep the topic simple and the content focused

Firstly, the topic.

It’s so effective because, even from the briefest possible explanation, it’s obviously a bad thing. People died in a fire. There’s no room for doubt.

Remember, someone would only hear the song once.

It’s not the place for nuances, or for in-depth explanations about why something is in fact a bad thing.

You also might’ve noticed that the song didn’t go into a lot of detail – there wasn’t much in the way of set-up or context. The topic’s so simple, it wasn’t needed.

 

2.Tell in terms of an individual, personal story

Now, the content itself. What made the disaster so compelling and relatable?

It was all told through an individual story. (It was also particularly effective because that individual was a young girl, with her whole life ahead of her.)

Granted, some would say the story’s a tad on the melodramatic side, but that’s not a bad thing. When it’s only going to be heard once, it can’t be too subtle or it’ll get missed.

Noticeably too, it’s (mostly) just the one story, developed in steps over multiple verses. This keeps the focus, and builds on what’s been said already rather than having to start from scratch multiple times.

 

3.Use a strong image for each part of the story

How was that individual story told in such a compelling way?

You saw the whole thing.

It might’ve been told only using words, but every stage of the story was based on a very powerful, striking image.

This is made possible by the simple and focused subject matter – a strong image can get across most of what needs to be said.

By anchoring the emotions of each stage of the story with an image, those emotions will stay with you.

 

4.Don’t let statistics distract from the main story

Do you remember how many died overall?

The answer here is “too many”. That’s the key thing.

The song does give a number, but the number isn’t what sticks. It’s the individual story.

The figure itself was very unobtrusive – a simple, rounded number, just indicating the scale. You didn’t have to stop and think about it, so it didn’t distract from the impact of the story.

One identifiable person is enough. When listening, statistics don’t have much impact unless they’re in immediately relatable terms.

 

5.Provide a clear, socially proved call to action

Lastly – what was the song aiming to achieve?

On the surface, it’s to inform people about the disaster, but really it’s to inspire action. In this case, forming a certain opinion.

So which part was the call to action?

It’s the chorus. It repeats, so it gives the listener a few chances to respond. It’s essentially the same, but each time the verse has developed it further, and it follows logically. Each time, it works as a focus, a clear summary.

It might not be asking for a direct response, but it is aiming to motivate you to do something. Implicitly, it’s asking you to agree.

The way it asks is also particularly effective: to join someone else who’s already doing something positive and affirming. This is social proof.

Tom

Copywriter

Legacy Fundraising Part 1: Where are we going wrong?

Speaking at conferences recently with Stephen Butler, we challenged legacy fundraising managers to consider whether their current selection models work and whether they are truly able to target their best legacy prospects.

I asked them: ‘Would you have found Pippa?’

 

pippa

Meet Pippa, a fictional character sitting on the database of cancer charity X:

  • She is 48 years old
  • She has no children
  • She gives just £2 a month and has done so for under 2 years (from what the database tells us)

…perhaps not looking like the best legacy prospect?  Let’s consider a few more things about Pippa before we judge…

  • She has a history of cancer in her family
  • Sadly she lost her husband to cancer
  • She believes everyone should leave something in their will to a charity
  • Charity X is her favourite charity
  • She trusts Charity X explicitly
  • She believes without doubt that Charity X will achieve their vision of beating cancer

An ideal legacy prospect? Of course! She is exactly the supporter you want to speak to (for those sceptical about her age – hold that thought, I’ll come back to that next week).

But would your selection model have found Pippa?

The likely answer is no. The problem is, most charities don’t have access to nor do they use attitudinal data.   And the criteria they do use to determine legacy propensity is based on transactional data and giving history, which can be too prohibitive. We are discounting people because they ‘haven’t been on the database long enough’ or they are ‘too young’.

The answer is to start collating the attitudinal data on supporters and build a model around the information you capture. The easiest way to do that is via surveys. (There are some really clever surveys out there, get in touch or follow future blogs to find out more).

Bethan