“You’re on mute” has to be the quote of 2020.
But is your fundraising on mute?
Back in March before the UK lockdown I wrote a piece on the likely rise of altruism.
If there is one lesson I have learnt since March it’s this:
Good fundraising + rising altruism = fundraising magic 🙂
But to harness this you need the active ingredient – the fundraiser.
The real danger at this time is that trustees or the senior team make the mistaken assumption that people won’t give, that it’s prudent to cut back on fundraising as we need to reduce costs, and that it’s not an appropriate time to ask.
Yet the reality seems to be the opposite. People want to give or fundraise for causes they believe in right now. We need to find a way to tap into this rise in altruism. People want and need to feel good. And as the Mental Health Foundation highlights below, “doing good does you good”.
Of course if you turn off your fundraising, stay on mute, then it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Don’t be surprised if your income goes down. So what should you do?
Put the experience of your supporters at the heart of your strategy
I’ve recently been part of a volunteer project thinking about the question ‘how would you approach fundraising if you put the experience of your supporters front and foremost as your strategy‘. In essence, how can we make our supporters feel good at this difficult time for them? We nicknamed it project X for short (as in eXperience).
Building on thinking created from the Commission on the Donor Experience created a couple of years ago, and after lots of collaborative input from some wonderful fundraisers, a group of us distilled down six principles to apply at this time. To this we added actions for each principle relevant for the current scenario of a further lockdown as a result of second wave of COVID-19. But what brought it alive for me was speaking to fundraisers who have been successfully adapting their fundraising since March and leading by example.
And that’s when I really sat up. Because these examples, some of which we included in the booklet, were not just of charities coping but getting really good results. Record appeals, improved retention, with wonderful feedback from grateful supporters. And across a wide range of issues and for charities of all sizes. The golden thread that united them all was ensuring supporters got a great experience.
So the project output is some plain speaking on how to approach your fundraising at this time, with wonderful examples, and in a format you can easily read and share.
Please do check it out. Get a coffee and your favourite biscuit or two – it will take you 30 minutes to read and help you think through what you could do. If you want a bit of inspiration, check out the recording of a special edition webinar on the CIOF Youtube channel (I’ll add the direct link when it gets uploaded), where 7 speakers will briefly take you through each principle and share an anecdote of putting it into action. Principle 3 below, my favourite, is so important we lined up two speakers.
If anything, the role of the fundraiser right now is even clearer. When someone has an emotional reaction and chooses to support a cause, it can generate those feel good natural chemicals of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin if the fundraiser is doing their job. Those feel good chemicals can all be released by fundraisers to grateful donors. So a fundraiser is a chemical agent!
And this is the key part which is easy to forget. ‘The ask’ is part of the experience. It taps into the basic emotion that is sparked within us when someone says, “will you please help me?“, or communicates they need help.
So it is appropriate to ask. If we do it well and follow through gratefully as a result of someone donating or fundraising for our cause, we are improving their health! So this is the time to invest in your fundraisers (check out Principle 5) and invest in your fundraising (Principle 6).
Altruism is rising
Altruism is like water – once it begins to flow it will find a course. People will find a way to feel good and if you don’t offer them the opportunity they will seek it elsewhere.
Worse still, you give people the opportunity to support you – but with lack of resources the experience you give disappoints them – and that puts them off ever doing so again. What a wasted opportunity. We all know the huge value of ongoing support.
Hence, whilst the ask is a key part of the experience, don’t forget the other parts are critical too: the experience of giving, exceptional donor care immediately afterwards and ongoing stewardship. If you’ve ever needed an excuse to ramp these up, this is the time.
I know the funding picture is more complicated. Grants might be difficult to draw on if work can’t take place, trading income will have been hit if shops can’t open, and events need to be completely rethought. But it is still heartening that fundraising at its purist – people giving donations to causes that matter to them – will rise to the challenge.
Tell your story – for many your mission problem just got bigger. So what’s the new story?
And make the ask.
And when people donate, give them the wonderful feeling they are seeking. That’s what fundraisers are for and right now you’ve never been more needed.