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