So the UK fundraising review is out and regulation is in. Fundraisers used to relying on direct marketing are clearly feeling a bit hard done by, especially at the prospect of not being able to ask donors who sign up to the proposed Fundraising Preference Scheme.
First it’s a mess of our own making. And those of you familiar with my blogs will know I’ve been saying it’s been a long time coming.
Am I worried? No I am genuinely excited. Because there is alternative approach that works. Here are three examples that took place at SolarAid, the charity I work for as a fundraiser, on the day after the review was announced.
First a trust contacted us to apply for a five figure grant. My point is they invited us. It just illustrates that the ask can work both ways!
Then we had a donor contacting us to double their direct debit from £50 a month to £100 a month. Again no ask came from us. This was the second time they had uplifted their giving. I was delighted to see sometime back they had received one of our solar lights (cost to us £5).
And then to finish the week off on Friday morning we had an email from Ethan’s mum. Ethan is clearly a supporter of SolarAid. In the video he made he tells our story. He makes it his story. He tells you why you should give £10 to SolarAid, In fact he says “I’m going to convince you”! I don’t know where he got all the information from about SolarAid but it’s spot on. He even has one of our solar lights, which we sell as one of our ways to spread our story. Perhaps this sparked the idea. Last I looked his JustGiving page was approaching £500. This is the video he made – worth a few minutes of your time : Ethan’s video.
Create the ripple effectAnd how have these come about? Focusing on supporter care, sharing and retelling our story, empowering those who support us to advocate on our behalf, and simply engaging people. And yes the money will come. I know the sceptics abound and don’t believe the “build it and they will come” philosophy. But it does come and in ways you might not expect – which is why fundraising needs to be seen holistically not in isolation. Fundraisers still think in direct response mode and it doesn’t work like that anymore. I’m not speaking as some theoretical consultant – I am a fundraising practitioner who has been applying this approach for some years. It’s not about the return from a single mail shot or a direct face to face ask or telephone call – it’s about the ripple effect you create. This will more than make up for the reduced direct response which has been in decline for some time. Sure it’s going to be harder to measure and scary. But in time we will learn to measure what matters as best we can. I’m still learning. I’m really not worried that we may not be able to ask someone to give if they sign up for the Fundraising Preference Scheme that prevents charities contacting them. In part because I know we are trying to do our utmost to inspire and acknowledge the donors who do support and give to us. And besides if a donor to your cause is so bombarded by charities they feel they need to sign up to the new scheme then great. I wonder who they will remember ? If you have treated them well with great donor care and sticky story telling then they will be back. They will probably remember you even more at the moment they feel able to give once again. Indeed if one our donors is feeling pressured by charities asking them I hope they do sign up the FPS. That way there is every chance they will enjoy the prospect of giving again. And I’d like to think we will be remembered when they do.
But if you’ve been relying on the technique of bombarding your donor file, pressing for uplifts, and reactivating lapsed donors, then yes I would be very worried. So I would get cracking now. Think of it like learning a new language. Start with the basics. Sure up your supporter care so it doesn’t just get a thank you out efficiently but beautifully – one that is remembered by the donor and tells your story. Rethink all your communications so they are about authentic story telling that conveys who you are, rather than tactical techniques and piecemeal stories designed to try and get a response.
Engage people in their worldSo for those donors that do sign up to the FPS how will they decide who they will they give to if we can’t ask them?! We will need to touch their hearts in their world and engage them via issues that interest them. We will need to learn about our supporters more than ever before. That’s no bad thing. The asks that matter and resonate will come from, or in support of, friends, relatives and colleagues. We will reach new donors from getting our stories across in places they engage with. Finally it will need us to involve supporters. Charity now needs to move from “give us the money we will solve the problem” to “we have a problem to solve, want to be involved?”
Of course if we start to create engaging communications that inspire, people will want to hear from us, and so won’t sign up to the Fundraising Preference Scheme. So really the responsibility lies back with all of us. And of course there will be many, if not the majority of our donors, who are quite happy to be contacted.
Exciting times ahead.