The tragic death of Olive Cooke, and the sometimes aggressive media scrutiny that followed it, have brought much soul searching for charities, but also a renewed focus on relationship fundraising (RF) – the aspiration to put the long-term health of a donor relationship ahead of short-term transactions. The ever-increasing cost of donor recruitment makes this both urgent and important.
The resurgence of the RF movement in 2015 has been led, in large part, by Giles Pegram (formerly of the NSPCC). Giles’s blogs on 101 Fundraising and UK Fundraising have achieved huge readership across the Charity sector and are encouraging many fundraisers to think hard – not just about whether their operational ethics are always ‘spot on’, but also about the nature of ‘real’ long term ROI and about their fundraising ethos in general. It has to be a good thing to be self critical.
For Giles, it boils down to this:
Good fundraising ensures that each contact with a donor should leave the donor happier after the experience than before it.
It’s hard to disagree. Dissatisfied or despondent donors are much more likely to cancel a payment, more likely to switch charities. And much less likely to respond positively to the next funding request. The message, very simply, is to “stop doing dumb things to donors”. If you wouldn’t like it done to you, don’t do it to them. Instead, treat donors with respect and over time, they’ll respect you in return. Authentic transactions will build trusting relationships. And trusting relationships will build higher value transactions, repeatedly.
UK customer experience guru, Peter Massey has been expounding a corporate version of this message for decades, in partnership with Amazon’s pioneering VP of customer service, Bill Price. Their shared mantra has been about not being a “Stupid Company“. Who on earth would actually choose to alienate their customers, they asked? Why indeed? The same question can be asked of donors!
Of course it’s far easier to state this aspiration to donor responsiveness than to actually deliver it. The real challenge to decide what a responsive donor experience would actually look like – not for you, but for the donor? And then build it. And scale it.
Their 7 lessons apply perfectly to a charitable situation too. I’ve captured them below and then suggested what they might mean for donors. This is, in effect what “relationship fundraising” would look like, digitised.
1. You know me and remember me
Donor Implication? Personalise each donor’s experience.
2. You give me choices
Donor implication? Empower and inspire donors to be able to give as they feel.
3. You make things easy for me
Donor implication? Give donors simple, intuitive interfaces to manage their involvement.
4. You value me and listen to me
Donor implication? Ensure donors have ways to give regular, relevant and fun feedback.
5. You trust me
Donor implication? Help donors participate more directly in your cause.
6. You surprise me
Donor implication? Give donors exclusive offers, knowledge, status – and impact.
7. You make me better, or help me do more
Donor implication? Explain how donors make a difference. Help them feel it.
Being donor responsive is about building the entire lifetime experience around the donor; inviting them inside the organisation; and connecting them continually to your cause – in substantive, lasting and emotive ways.
It’s then about getting out of the way of the personal relationship that they form to the cause. This is the age of automation. The age of the algorithm. The age of the app’. The best service today is self-service…
The purpose of responsive experiences, and thus relationship fundraising, is to achieve scalable social impact on the world. To support that, it’s about achieving financial sustainability. And underpinning the whole lot, it’s about being an effective digital steward – ensuring that your information, communications and technology capabilities are all future-ready. You can only be responsive if you actually know your donor, as an individual.
If you don’t, somebody else will.