Earlier this week, I read Joe Saxton’s blog “Is the fundraising community in denial about donor irritation?” I absolutely agree that Botton Village seem to be getting in right, when so many others aren’t.
All of us should be asking our donors (and all the people on our databases) what they’d like to hear about, how often, (indeed if they’d like to hear at all) and then we should make sure we do it.
It seems simple!
So why don’t we all do it?
I’d suggest that the main reasons are:
· a lack of time
· an inability or a reluctance to invest in stewardship and processes / systems, and
· frankly, rubbish systems.
None of these are good reasons – they’re poor excuses, but in a lot of cases fundamental change is required - and these are not always things that can be changed by the fundraiser doing the work.
Maybe your director isn’t a fundraiser, maybe their own personal opinion overrules the evidence on what works and doesn’t. Maybe it’ll be reviewed next year, or the next, or maybe “we know it’s not ideal, but it’s what we have.”
There may be a sense within the organisation that we don’t have time to sort out our stewardship, our clunky database, or remembering that we’re dealing with people, not ‘market segments’? Yet how much time is wasted chasing new donors, and ‘irritating’ Joe?
We know from Adrian Sargeant that boosting retention can be far more valuable than ‘churn and burn’ fundraising, but it takes bravery for a fundraiser ‘on the ground’ to say ‘No more new asks this month, I’m going to just focus on looking after people who already give’.
It also presumes that you have (or will have) enough donors to sustain the organisation and grow– and what if you just don’t have enough income NOW?
Regardless of how we act, I think another factor is that people simply do need to get slightly thicker skinned at saying no. Even the nicest call or letter to only find out contact preferences can be considered irritating by the most, let’s say, sensitive of people. (I can’t be alone in experiencing this?)
Joe says he’s been called 30 times about this balloon thing, describing it as ‘bombardment’. I suspect that either:
1. He’s been called by a ‘team’, who haven’t noticed that he’s been called 30 times (back to rubbish systems / processes) and / or
2. They know it’s a mobile no, they know Joe’s busy, and they expect he won’t call back, so they just need to try to catch him – and are being persistent (when do persistency and tenacity become bombardment?) - after all, he gave last time, and hasn’t SAID no….
How hard would it be for Joe (who after all has insight of the sector), to take one call, and say, “hiya thanks, but we’ve decided not to take part this year.” I’d be very surprised if the calls didn’t stop immediately (perhaps he’d get a call next year)
I’m not sure I agree with “We should aim for the maximum reduction in aggravation for the minimum reduction in income”
Some people are simply aggravated that charities dare to ever ask anyone anything. Trust me, I’ve met some of these people. A number of charities simply can’t afford any reduction in income, and I’m not sure ethically, it’s right to accept it. Ultimately, looking after existing donors better should see an INCREASE in income, but there’s the perception within the sector that this is much riskier than ‘doing the same thing’. Combined with the reluctance to invest in tools and training for stewardship (for anything in some cases), trying to focus only on existing supporters without being able to do it properly may not create the ‘Sargeant effect’ in income.
Doing the same thing as always is in fact way more risky than regularly trying new things – and I’m looking forward to The Fundraising Detective’s upcoming post around the topic of Fundraisers as Artists, which I think may cover some of this.
Some people will never give (for example on the street) until they’re asked, but other will never give even if they’re asked. How can we ‘weed out’ (as it were) the latter, without losing the former?
Perhaps if we are expecting people to get better at interacting with charities, to get slightly thicker skinned, and to be able to say no, then we DO need to ‘give’ a little and make it easier for people to opt-out.
Alongside making it easier for people to opt-out, we need to make it more desirable to opt-in!
When it comes to helping people opt-out, Joe’s ideas make sense – MoneySavingExpert already offer a sign for doorsteps (helpful also for other cold callers)
There might well be something in the lapel badge (could your charity be the first to produce it?) More years ago than I care to remember as a street collector shoogling buckets, one tactic was to give EVERYONE we’d asked a sticker, whether they gave or not. That way, we knew they’d been asked, and either had given or didn’t want to – that meant when one of us saw them later, we could smile, thank them and ask someone else, rather than people who didn’t want to give being asked repeatedly – the fact it reduced ‘irritation’ was secondary to increased income*.
The last one is the one you can start – dare you make 2013 the year you blanket mail everyone asking what they want? Dare you stop being ‘busy’ and invest the time and money in updating your system so that you actually have the ability to do this? Because until you can do it, there’s no point in offering it – that’s a guaranteed way to upset more people!!
For a lot of us, being able to do the ‘simple’ things, will take a few complicated steps.
Which step can you work on today?
*not remotely scientifically tested.
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