Knock Knock – the new face of donor recruitment

Knock Knock.

Who’s there?

It’s your neighbour. They want to show you a solar light and tell you about the cause they support (SolarAid) and if you’d like to make a donation too.

20121102-163312.jpgThis is exactly what we learned was happening. We started getting a series of donations with similiar post codes. It turns out a supporter of ours was going down the street knocking on her neighbours’ doors and telling them about SolarAid. We know this because one of her neighbours, inspired to donate to us, called to tell us. Then we started getting letters from other neighbours (and spouses) saying what a great idea it was (donations of ¬£50 or more). What prompted this supporter to be so proactive to talk to her street? Well we thanked her and we empowered her by sending a solar study light just like the ones we use in Africa and we asked if she would “kindly show it off and tell others about the work of SolarAid” (donate ¬£36/$54 to SolarAid and we will send you one too).

How inspiring thankyous can help attract new supporters

Some months ago there was a raging debate on SOFII’s LinkedIn group about whether you should ask for a further gift in a thankyou. Having given a donation I think donors get a bit tired of being asked the same thing i.e. for another donation. Something Charlie Hume equolently wrote about in their recent 101 Fundraising blog: Want to raise more money? Then stop asking for it. We need to think what’s their next stage to inspire them? What’s their “donor journey”? Sure you could get them to give again – but what if you could get them to advocate on your behalf and recruit new supporters. How much is that worth to you?

Type “camera” into Amazon and you get nearly 1/2 million results. No wonder customer reviews help people make a purchasing decision.

That peer to to peer ask is so powerful. It happens when a friend asks you to sponsor them. When Kath, our neighbour knocks on our door each year for Christian Aid week we give a donation not because its for Christian Aid but because it’s Kath who has asked us. People increasingly make purchasing decisions based on recommendations – if not from a friend from other customers (think Amazon 5 star ratings). So who better to represent your cause than your “customers”.

The answer?

Rather than try and get more out of your “file” you should be empowering as many of them as you can. I don’t mean the ‘donor gets donor’ or ‘friend gets friend’ schemes where they send you their friends addresses and you (or a telephone agency) call them up. I mean supporters making the ask for you (or at the very least recommending you to their network). Think Obama four years ago and how his campaign mobilised grassroots supporters to get more support.

And you could even share the problem that you and so many causes are facing – the cost to attract new people to support you cause. Read Ken Burnett’s thought provoking post, The true cost of acquisition, on how we need to tackle the communication of this issue. If your supporters realise the value to you for every new person they brought to your door then what a great way they can help rather than just giving. And what a fantastic way to engage them! They will want to know what to say – you could offer them the tools, and even feedback the impact of their efforts. Before you know it they will taking up a new kind of door to door fundraising.

But to do that they need to trust you and they need to be inspired by what you do.

So invest in inspiration

In this time of austerity you could mistakenly think the best strategy is milk your existing supporters for all you can and plough what budget you can get into donor aquisition, despite the cost. I’m suggesting the opposite. Get your exisiting donors so inspired they will bring in your new supporters. Invest in awesome thanking that people just have to do something (relative to donor acquisition it will cost far less). At least give it a try! I don’t think it will break the piggy bank.

Then you are tackling two issues. Donor retention because a donor involved with your cause will be more likely to stay (especially if they have convinced their friends and neighbours to help too) and cost effective donor aquisition which is far more pull, as people come to you, than push – with the likelihood of far higher retention rates.

How to attract new loyal supporters cost effectively?

The answer is staring us in the face!

Knock Knock.

7 thoughts on “Knock Knock – the new face of donor recruitment

  1. Hi Richard,

    Great stuff. i love the idea of selling solar lamps to supporters who’ll then take it up and down their street to show to friends. Unique to SolarAid perhaps but many organisations could develop a similar involvement device, often at low cost I’m sure.

    Would you be willing to write this up for SOFII and share it with other fundraisers around the world?

    All best,



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