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.


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.


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


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.




We’re recruiting for our next star Account Manager – want to join us?

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. Don’t take our word for it –  check out all these fabulous people that all started their careers here with us– we must be doing something right!

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 Vacancy 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: Wednesday 12th November 

I can’t wait to hear from you, Bethan 



Doing a good job here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit …

A  great study by social scientist Adam Grant has just been bought to my attention .  Grant carried out a study on motivation and productivity in a university fundraising call centre in Canada.

He separated fundraisers into three groups and prior to calling they were to;

  1. Read stories written by other employees describing personal benefits of the job (personal benefit condition)
  2. Read stories written by students who’d benefited from fundraising (task significance condition)
  3. Control Group did not read any stories at all

Grant measured the number of pledges and donation amounts one week before the above and one month after. Group 1 performed exactly the same. Group 2 earned more than twice the amount of weekly pledges and doubled the value (donations went from $1,228 a week to $3,130!)

While at the university, Grant saw a sign on someone’s desk that said:

 “Doing a good job here is like wetting your pants in a dark suit – you get a warm feeling no one notices.”

 So he set up a second test to thank fundraisers. One group did the job as normal. The other half were visited by the director of annual giving who said “I am very grateful for your hard work. We sincerely appreciate your contributions to the University.” Just 16 words difference between the two groups. The first group (obviously) performed as normal, the second made 50% more calls in the following week!

We definitely see a difference in results when charities come in to do fundraiser engagement sessions with our fundraisers.  We are experts at training, coaching and motivating our fundraisers, but nothing can match hearing appreciation directly from the beneficiaries or thanks from the charity in person. It brings fundraisers closer to the cause and always drives more passionate conversations and better results.

Thanks to Charlie Hulme for pointing me in the direction of this study. You can read more in the bookGive & Take’ by social scientist Adam Grant  

 Thanks for reading, Bethan

Follow Bethan on twitter @bethanalys


Searching for a needle in a haystack

…when you could be shooting fish in a barrel?

Acquiring new charity donors has never been tougher – response rates are in decline, attrition is high and costs are rising. For the 1% response we might get from mail, 99% are saying no. For every person that stops on the street to talk with our fundraisers how many walk on by? And then, when we do secure new donors vast numbers are lapsing.

It begs the question, how sophisticated is our targeting? Which group would you target from the two below?





If only we could find whole communities of like minded engaged, socially conscious individuals like this just hanging out on the street corner right!?

Well, maybe not the street corner, but online communities just like this are growing and growing quickly.

In the last 12 months we’ve been working with online community specialists Care2 to identifying prospects who demonstrate particular charitable and philanthropic attitudes and a genuine interest in the cause.

This type of behavioural targeting is far superior to simple demographic targeting. When calling prospects to convert to regular monthly givers, results have been fantastic – as much as three times higher than a traditional cold list.

The other thing we love is the level of channel and message integration on this approach: data is collected online with a campaigning ask, quickly followed with an email (or mail) follow-up and then a phone call taking the ‘prospect’ to ‘campaigner’ and then to ‘donor’ seamlessly and efficiently.

As Tom at the Agitator said of Care2 in the states; it should be a staple in your acquisition toolkit. ‘Very Straightforward.’



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 😉


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

IFC Round-Up 2013

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;

  • Engagementwith 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 Fundraisingreplacing ‘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.