So it’s that time of year again: time for another IFC round-up blog. So what were the theme’s from this year’s conference? I think they were;
- Engagement – with regards to driving loyalty and life-time value. Interesting these sessions were as focused on our own personal engagement as a fundraiser as much as donor engagement (after all – if I’m not passionate how can I expect my donors to be?)
- Emotional Fundraising – replacing ‘storytelling’ as the new buzz word: the next thing we all need to learn to do differently, properly. Now that it’s beyond question that emotions not reason drives decision making we as sector need to understand what we really mean by emotion (it’s not always just sentimental). And boy is Charlie pleased to have the masses talking about this at last!
- Impact – how do you demonstrate impact: as an organisation and as an individual.
- Integration – from acquisition to retention we saw example after example of the best results coming when we speak to donors across multiple channels.
- Risk Taking – the need for the sector to innovate, to do it faster and bolder (and be donor led in this). Tony Elischer challenged why we would even have 5 year strategies and went as far to suggest we should be all be working to a 3 month strategy
Great stuff. All important. But if you read blogs and know the sector well then you’ll probably know these themes well too. Haven’t we all been talking about this stuff for a while?
Unfortunately the conference didn’t move us on too far from talking about why we should do these things to how. More debate is surely needed about the barriers to change in these areas. After all, who wouldn’t want to conduct more innovating, rewarding and successful fundraising – so what’s stopping us?
Is it that we need someone to show us how – in part yes – we have a culture in the sector of waiting for someone else to test first – but that is why innovation was a theme, we need to break away from this thinking. The evolution from talking about ‘innovating’ to ‘risk taking’ this year is significant and very helpful: It’s not about having processes and structures in place to ‘innovate within the work place’, it’s about growing some b*lls and trying something different!
There was one very useful session that did show how it can be done. It was Suzanne Cole Nowers session entitled ‘What you can learn from US political fundraising’. Suzanne showed us a different way of fundraising: truly engaging, impactful, emotional, ballsy fundraising. When sharing how the US 2012 election raised over six billion dollars in a matter of month’s she shared 4 secrets of US political fundraising;
- Research – know your public/donor. Listen to them, carry focus groups, tele-focus groups and surveys
- Testing and risk taking – Suzanne talked about never ‘rolling out’ and how what worked last month probably won’t work this month. She compared political fundraisers to bungee jumping addicts when referencing their approach to risk taking
- Urgency – in the messaging, action and risk taking. Suzanne talked about ideas in the board room being tested 2 hours later
- Multi Channel – political fundraising campaigns are always integrated and results maximised by reaching out to people across multiple channels – from knocking on their door, to phoning, mail, online…you name it they do it!
Suzanne also joked that a further secret to success was that they don’t have to consult a brand team (there isn’t time), but I’ll leave Charlie to pick up that subject for a different rant on a different day!
So there were a few ‘How To’s’ courtesy of the US candidate race. But I fear we could have examples of ‘a different way’ coming out of our ears and many would still struggle to change, innovate and engage our donors. As I voiced in a recent article for Civil Society, in order to see real change;
- There needs to be a cultural shift amongst trustees, CEO’s and senior managers away from fundraising being perceived as a sideline that finances the mission to placing fundraising and engagement of the public as a central and integral part of that mission
- Fundraising needs to be restructured away from silos and towards relationship marketing teams and product & innovation teams
- A significant increase in the quantity and quality of research – given the size of the sector the amount of research being conducted to understand supporters, how they give, how they want to give and engage is meagre.
- A genuine shift from transactional to relationship fundraising: listening to people and how they want to support you and develop the processes to manage and support what they want
- An acceptance of risk and failure. Developing alternatives to Direct Debit giving will require investment and innovation that will have as many failures as successes. But currently whilst a trajectory of decline is accepted for DDs, failed campaigns and new ideas are not.