Loyalty driver 1: Personal connection (pt 2)

In the first part of this blog I wrote about how important increasing a donor’s loyalty is – the way they feel about your charity. This is the ultimate goal in relationship fundraising and to do it we need to know what drives loyalty. As a starting point I wrote about how important personal connection is to that.

That’s all well and good if you’re a university, a health related charity or a local cause. But what, I have been asked, can you do if you’re not one of these? Is it still relevant?

Yes!

Because your job is to create a connection between the donor and your cause or, better still, your organisation – an emotional link to give them a reason to believe that your charity is important to them personally.

Of course, you can’t just create a new cause, but can you present your work differently?

Can you make your appeal local?
Macmillan London appealRecently I received two appeals from national charities. Macmillan Cancer Support asked me to support their services in London. Now I don’t live in London, so I have to question their targeting, but if I did then they would have an appeal that is relevant for my family and my community – the people that I love.

Woodland Trust making it local to meAt a similar time the Woodland Trust proved they have better targeting by asking me to support the creation of a new Centenary Wood (to commemorate the centenary of the start of World War 1) just up the road from me. I enjoy walking outdoors, love woodland and (although they didn’t know this) earlier this year I visited the WW1 battle fields in The Somme and Ypres. For a national charity, I now have a local connection. And when I’ve visited the Centenary Wood (as I certainly will) I will have a personal experience.

Can you create a connection between the donor and the beneficiary?
I’ve talked before about the Baby Boxes for Bosnia campaign I ran for Feed the Children in the 1990’s. Besides being a brilliant ask, we gave people the chance to write a message of support – messages that we read.

Some of the most touching were from mums, writing to other mums that they’ll never meet or know. “I don’t know what it’s like to live in a war zone, but I do know what it’s like to have a young baby” started one mum on her message. This wasn’t just an international aid charity helping people in a far away country, she felt a personal connection to the mum receiving the box.

Be creative
Not everyone has the direct experience of ill-health, abuse or poverty (or whatever your cause is), but I’ve been involved in successful appeals asking farmers and teachers in the UK to give to farmers and teachers in Africa and medical professionals to provide medical kits for flying doctors.

Or maybe you need to create a product that links something we all do every day to your cause. I love the fact that I can twin my toilet with one in Burundi or Bangladesh.

It’s up to you. Don’t just give up and say my cause isn’t relevant. Think about your donors, your cause and your beneficiaries. Find what they have in common and get creative.

Your donors’ loyalty depends on it!

Loyalty driver 1: Personal connection pt 1

Building donor loyalty is, I believe, one of the most pressing challenges our sector faces. As the cost of finding new donors gets higher and higher, it is about time we did something about the shockingly low retention rates that we all have.

And if we’re serious about growing retention then we have to grow donor loyalty. But how do we do this? How do we change the way they feel about us to create that “feeling of support or allegiance” (as loyalty is defined)?

We know a lot about the drivers of loyalty and in this, my first post in a series looking at these drivers, I’m focussing on arguably the most important of these (at least for some charities) personal connection.

We know that often people give to you because of something that has happened in the donor’s life which means that your cause or your charity is particularly important to them. It’s why people give to their local air ambulance or the university they went to or the hospital where their daughter was treated; it’s why people who have lost someone they loved to cancer give to cancer research charities; it’s why older people tend to give to elderly charities and why Christians give to Christian charities. The experience has created an affinity.

If these are your donors then you have a huge responsibility to them. You have a cause that is very important to them and you will be talking to them about issues that will often be very personal. And, at the same time, you want to develop their support and giving over time.

But how do we do this? Here are seven points to help you to nurture these important donors and grow their loyalty to you:

1. Remember that every donor’s personal connection is unique

Don’t make assumptions. A donor’s connection may be with the cause (e.g. cancer), the organisation that they received support from (e.g. Macmillan) or maybe the individual part of the organisation they received support from (e.g. the nurse or a ward). The person with the experience may be the donor themselves or a loved one and the outcome could be extremely happy or desperately sad.

Everyone’s connection is unique to them because everyone’s experience is unique to them.Perhaps most importantly, everyone’s emotional response is also unique to them.

2. It’s not about you, it’s about the donor

It isn’t for you to tell these donors why they should support you – they have their own reasons. Prompt by all means, but remember that encouraging someone to think about why they support your work is far more powerful than telling them why they should.

3. Remind them why they give to you

If they have told you why they give then talk to them about this. Many Livability donors (a Christian disability charity) have told the charity that they give because of their Christian beliefs. And Livability mentions this in appeals because it increases response.

If they haven’t told you, create tools to enable them to think about it themselves. This could include writing down their story, either to share it as many do or to put in a private place and to look at in special moments (as Cancer Research UK did when people decided to leave them a legacy – the note sits with their will and will be a reminder should they ever look to re-write the will).

4. Use the sense of community

Bringing people together and creating a sense of belonging is incredibly powerful when people have a shared experience. Membership is obviously a fantastic tool for this but there are many other ways as well.

If the community doesn’t yet exist then create it yourself. When Addenbrooke’s Hospital launched an appeal to raise money for the Rosie (their maternity hospital) they created the Rosie Born facebook group. Anyone who had been born at the Rosie could join. And much of their fundraising was run from this group.

5. Make the donor feel needed

The number of people with this connection may be small and exclusive so you need to tell those donors who give to you just how important they are to both you and the cause. In research with lapsed donors I often hear the phrase, “I didn’t think they needed me anymore.” You have the chance to make your donors know just how needed (and how special) they are.

6. Let this drive your recruitment

I know we’re talking about retention, but part of this is about bringing in the right people in the first place.

Not everyone is going to give to you so don’t try to reach everyone. If you can target according to the personal connection (e.g. by location) then do. If you can’t then make sure that you are still writing for the connected audience – let those people who do have the relevant experience self-identify themselves to you.

7. Add emotion to the experience

Emotion is essential in fundraising. You can successfully fundraise by understanding the donor’s emotional reasons for giving even if there is no experiential connection, but you won’t be successful if you use their experience without understanding the emotions involved.

Personal experiences create a complex mix of emotions. People give to their former university because of pride and because of gratitude; in research I ran for Friends of the Elderly earlier this year I heard people talking about giving to elderly charities because they felt guilty about their own parents and grandparents; people give because of a sense of fear of what might happen when they get older; they might give because of the memory of someone they loved; they give in celebration of being given the all clear (and, again, from gratitude); and, of course, they give through sadness, or an angry determination that no one else should go through what they have.

In conclusion…
You have an immense responsibility in nurturing these donors’ giving. But if you do this in a way that allows the donor to feel that you are there to help them achieve something important to them then you will be as important to them as they are to you… they will feel tremendous loyalty to you… and they will stay giving to you for many years to come.

This is the first in a series of posts looking at the different drivers of loyalty. If you haven’t done so already, do please sign up in the top right corner to make sure you receive them all.

Campaigning and fundraising – 38 Degrees getting it right

I love the NHS. For me it’s been the place where life starts as our four children were all born in the local NHS hospital, it’s where life is extended as it gave us all extra time with my mum before she eventually lost her fight with cancer and it’s where the quality of life is improved as the NHS repaired my knee and got me playing tennis and football again.

It’s an institution that I am passionate about, that I am grateful for and that I am immensely proud of.

So when Jeremy Hunt, who happens to be my local MP, was given the role of Health Secretary last year, I was worried. Of course the NHS isn’t perfect, but I don’t agree that parts of it would work better under private ownership and I don’t want to see him, or any government, selling it off.

It was at that point the 38 Degrees contacted me. They had a plan:

Will you tell Jeremy Hunt that we're watching him?

Will you tell Jeremy Hunt that we’re watching him?

“From day one, let’s make sure he knows how important our NHS is. Let’s deliver him a huge open letter, signed by thousands of us, telling him that we’ll stand strong to protect our NHS. Let’s make it clear we’ll challenge him every step of the way if we need to. Can you add your name today?”

You bet I could.

So far, so good. I felt better (I’d done something) and I wasn’t on my own. But it’s what followed that I think was brilliant.

38 Degrees is a campaigning organisation, but if asking for donations sits slightly uncomfortably it doesn’t show. With great timing, they followed up with a donation ask.

But this wasn’t any ordinary ask. 38 Degrees’ plan was to buy some advertising space in ‘The Times – Hunt’s favourite newspaper’. To ‘prove we really mean business, and put our message where he really won’t want to see it. Can you chip in to splash our warning to Jeremy Hunt across a full-page advert in The Telegraph or The Times?’

Will you help pay for an advert that Hunt can't miss?

Will you help pay for an advert that Hunt can’t miss?

Of course I gave.

And four days later, my ad was in the paper. How great did I feel?

I did this!

I did this!

It’s a great story which I share because it’s a great example of how campaigning and fundraising can work together.

For all the lessons we can take, I think the most important thing they got right was the ask. They didn’t just assume that because I take part in campaigns with them that I’d be happy to fund their campaigning infrastructure, they gave me an opportunity to pay towards saving the NHS, something they knew I really cared about.

And they didn’t simply assume that because I had taken part in an NHS campaign through 38 Degrees, that I was ready to jump straight to an unrestricted direct debit.

They realised that the thing I cared about was the NHS, not 38 Degrees. And because of that they got my money, they developed my ‘supporter journey’ and, at the same time, they increased my commitment to the organisation.

Newsletters – was I wrong?

 

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about how poor I think charity newsletters are and how I’d like to see the end of them. A lot of people have told me they agree with me (whilst still producing their next newsletters!) which is always nice. But I am most grateful to one person who was keen to disagree, which is great.

I received a tweet from Denisa Casement, Head of Fundraising at Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI). In this tweet she shared her results which are, frankly, brilliant. One newsletter had raised €92,000 from just 8,500 donors. That’s nearly €11 for every person mailed!

Intrigued, I asked to see a copy of this newsletter which arrived very promptly in my post.

At first glance, the newsletter is nothing special. It’s not glossy, is only 4 or 6 pages long and doesn’t have masses of striking images.

What it does have, in bucket-loads is authenticity. The design is simple, and in keeping with the idea that this is a local charity who just get on with the life-changing work every day. And it has stories – of project workers, of clients and of volunteers. I was particularly touched by Davey Page, a Project Worker, sharing his experiences in one newsletter and then saddened to learn that he had passed away in the next.

But what strikes me more than anything is the way it says thank you. Over and over again. Every article talks about something real and tangible that MQI has done from building a new building to opening a new kitchen or opening a new Centre. And they thank me for my donations, because this is what they have been spent on.

I could talk here about how having clear objectives and obviously writing for a very specific audience pays off, but I don’t think that is the reason they work.

What comes across is the passion that Denisa obvious feels towards the work of the charity and, especially, towards her donors. It is this passion that drives the newsletters and, I suspect, drives all communications. She also told me that they have increased their donor file by 50% in the last three years, so it’s not just the newsletters that work!

So do I think I was wrong about the newsletter? To be honest, I’m not fully convinced. MQI has proved that they can be done well, but I still believe that more often than not they aren’t. In most of the donor research I’ve conducted, donors aren’t very excited by them and neither, in my experience, are many fundraisers.

I like what MQI have done and I’m impressed by what they achieve. I hope it lasts and that they continue to build the stories, the passion and the thanks into the newsletters and that no-one gets bored of them.

But I also have this nagging question at the back of my mind that wonders if creating a one-off piece of magic once in a while might pay back more. Am I wrong?

Surely we’re not evil?

A couple of days ago I wrote about the how the offer we make to the donor is more important than the ask we make for ourselves.

Millions of donors feel good about themselves because they have saved lives, stopped animals being cruelly mistreated, helped find a cure for cancer and so much more. Donors have a passion to make a difference, and we help them do it.

The world would be a worse place without us – not only for the causes we fundraise for but also for the donors we serve.

People who don’t speak to donors (and I bet there are lots of them in your charity) don’t often get this – so it’s our job to remind them. Bring donors into the charity, invite colleagues to donor events, make sure everyone listens when you have research presented back to you. Let everyone hear the passion that donors have.

That’s why fundraising is not a ‘necessary evil’ as someone described it to me the other day! We bring value to our donors that no-one else can. We bring joy into their lives too.

That’s not evil – that’s something that I am immensely proud of.

Actually, it’s not an ask

 

My first job in fundraising involved opening letters and banking cheques from people donating to help send aid to Bosnia in 1992. What I learnt then, from reading the letters from these generous donors, has stayed with me ever since.

What we offer to a donor is immeasurably valuable to them. Often far more valuable than the face value of the cheque they were writing.

It’s why I think it’s misleading to use the word ‘ask’. The best ‘asks’ we make are actually great ‘offers’.

Of course, actually asking for their support is arguably the most important part of the fundraising process – just ask any successful Major Donor fundraiser.

But what’s most important in this is what we can offer to the donor and what they get out of it. Again, ask that successful Major Donor fundraiser.

At our best we make unique offers that no-one else can compete with. For £10 I can make a blind man see. Is there any other way of spending £10 that will make me feel that good?

Help the Aged - £10 can make a blind man see

For €25 I could buy a webcam on the new Rainbow Warrior. Who said giving to charity can’t be cool?

Greenpeace webcam

For £15 a year I can ‘own’ my own word – that no one else owns. I can even wear a unique T-shirt with my word on it.

ICAN Adopt a Word

Or I can ‘sponsor a day’ at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Not just any day – a day that is really important to me.

Royal Marsden Sponsor a Day WALL

 

I’ve worked with charities, hospitals and universities this year helping them to create their fundraising asks (and yes, I’m guilty of having used that word!). No matter who you are, we need to start from the point of what can we offer to the donor?

Remember, no-one else can offer the joy of giving and the experience of changing someone’s life like we can.

Connecting donors with the beneficiary

Sofii launched its 23 all time favourite campaigns a couple of weeks ago. I am proud to have worked directly on two of them, but it’s the Baby Boxes for Bosnia campaign that I will always be most proud of having helped create.

In the mid 1990’s, Bosnia was a war zone. Mothers with young babies were desperate for basic essentials to help keep their young babies fed, healthy and safe. Nappies, wipes, soap, disinfectant and feeding bowls. And a cold winter was approaching.

Feed the Children was a small charity that was providing aid to these mothers and young babies. A Feed the Children fundraiser and their agency Account Director donned flak jackets (literally) and visited the programme and came back with a brilliant idea.

For a donation of £30, a donor could provide a box with all the essential items a mother in Bosnia so desperately needed.

That the boxes were real (and packed by volunteers in the warehouse in Reading underneath the offices where we fundraised) helped with the tangibility of the ask.

But for me, the real power was in the emotional connection that we were able to offer the donor to the beneficiary. Donors felt that they were almost putting the boxes into the hands of the Bosnian mothers themselves.

This was made even stronger by asking the donor to put a message of support into ‘their’ box. Some of the messages we received were incredibly emotive and included stories, photos and drawings as well as many messages which were simply from one mother to another. Many times we received messages back from the mothers who had received them which we passed on to the donor if we could. We also published these in our newsletters so that other donors could see them and share in the connection. This was fantastic proof that the aid was getting through.

Rarely do I see a fundraising ask that creates the same level of connection between the donor and the beneficiary as this did. If you’re honest, do yours?

PS please do read the full case study at Sofii where you can also see the larger images!