CDE project 11: part 2 — tools and tips

Here are some tools and tips that can help you improve your every­day integration.

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
April 30, 2017

Mystery shopping

Perhaps the easiest way to assess your efforts at integration is to conduct a mystery shopping exercise. Ask friends or family to make a donation through a range of channels – mail, over the phone, online, via a mobile device – and see what happens.

We would bet that there is likely to be significant differences in the giving experiences by channel. Here are just some of the things you might want to compare:

  • Ease of donating: was the online donation page easy to find, was the telephonist polite?
  • Timeliness of thank you: how long does it take for the donor to get a thank you?
  • Quality of thank you: do online donors get an offline thank you?
  • Feedback on gift: how do you show people the difference their gift has made?
  • What happens next: do people get put in the fundraising machine or get a bespoke welcome?
  • Satisfaction of experience: do you measure how people feel about donating?
  • Data capture: are you capturing the same data in all channels?

Once the mystery shopping exercise is over you can tabulate results and look at problem areas: some may have simple fixes, others may require more work. You can consider the problems by ease of solving, cost to solve and impact of solution. From this you can develop an action plan to improve the donor experience and make it consistent.


Checklists prevent professional fundraisers from making stupid mistakes. From the point of view of integration, a checklist makes sure you don’t miss anything that will spoil the donor’s experience with your cause.

Marketing guru Denny Hatch provides a 69-point direct marketing checklist in his book Career Changing Takeaways! As Denny says, ‘… checklists in this complex, high-tech world are indispensable’.13

Here are some sample questions you might want to think about when you are planning an integrated appeal:

  • Has the receptionist been briefed and knows where to pass calls to?
  • Is the appeal on the front page of the website?
  • Has a bespoke landing page been made for donors to give through?
  • Have you arranged for the landing date of your mailing, pre-appeal e-mail
  • and telephone calls to flow in a logical sequence?
  • Have you prepared appeal content for social media?
  • Have you produced ‘thank yous’ by channel?
  • Do you have a plan for donor feedback after the appeal?

These may all sound obvious, but it is amazing how often mistakes are made. We have heard of a DRTV advert being launched, but no one had told the call centre so it had closed, meaning no one could respond. Maybe a new online appeal has been launched, but someone has forgotten to change the default e-mail message for donating. Easily done, but checklists can stop these sort of mistakes from happening.

Tailoring content

Just as you speak differently to your parents, colleagues, wife, friends and children (at least we hope you do), you need to tailor your content to the channel it is being promoted on. In Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, entrepreneur and social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk describes the importance of doing this:

Today, getting people to hear your story on social media, and then act on it, requires using a platform’s native language, paying attention to context, understanding the nuances and subtle differences that make each platform unique, and adapting your content to match.

The author loves ice cream. Here is how he could use different media to let people know:

  • Twitter: I love #icecream.
  • Facebook: I had an ice cream.
  • Instagram: look at my ice cream.
  • Four Square: this is where I ate my ice cream.
  • YouTube: watch me eat my ice cream.
  • Direct mail: here’s a postcard of where I ate an ice cream

Although the differences are subtle they are important. You are missing out if you put a copy of your direct mail letter on your website and then link to it on your Twitter and Facebook page. Think about how your supporters interact with each medium and tailor your content appropriately. What will make someone ‘share’ or ‘like’ a post on Facebook (normally the image is important) or ‘retweet’ it on Twitter? It is going to be different to what inspires someone to write a cheque after reading a four-page letter.

The temptation with the opportunities that digital and social media offer is for us to try to reinvent the wheel. Often less is more: concentrate on getting the basics right. Digital and online fundraising expert Bryan Miller had this to say on his blog:

Fundraising is all about inspiring people to help change the world for the better by funding your organisation’s work. Online fundraising simply adds digital to the donor engagement mix. So, don’t start by thinking about doing new things online. First look at the fundraising that is working for you already and consider how online activity might make it work even better…

Focus first on the basics that will help you deliver more income before investing in innovation…ensuring your donation pages are really effective is likely to deliver you far more income than trialling innovative new ways to fundraise online or tinkering with your Twitter feed. The clarity that you’ll gain from such focus will also mean you’re far better prepared to brief your organisation’s digital folks (who are often in a different silo) on the key things you need them to do to help you raise more money.

Appeals and campaigns

This last part is about bringing teams together to plan and execute major fundraising appeals and campaigns. The barriers are similar to everyday integration, but the stakes are higher.

If you are able to pull off large-scale integrated appeals then they can deliver transformational sums of money for your organisation.

Paul de Gregorio, from UK fundraising agency Open, has this to say about integration and fundraising campaigns:

  • I think integration for campaigns means…
  • Having a clear and single-minded proposition; one that can be articulated in many ways in many places to many people.
  • Integration is not: a logo, a visual identity, a strap line.
  • If you are integrating well you’re communicating the same thing across multiple channels to multiple audiences in a variety of executions. And everyone gets it. 
  • If you’re integrating well all your colleagues and all your agencies get it and are producing work that effortlessly feels part of your campaign. Most importantly it doesn’t need to be explained.

We agree with Paul. Yet not many charities are able to pull it off in practice.

This appeal and campaign integration is crucial for charities that have one main fundraising event. Think Movember (worldwide), Stand up to Cancer (USA and UK), Comic Relief (USA and UK) and telethons in individual countries around the world (the largest of which, in terms of funds raised per capita, is the Norwegian National Telethon).

These campaigns all focus brilliantly on a single fundraising message and then integrate it over as many channels as possible (they also happen to be fun to take part in).

Conclusion: integration is more important than ever

There is no lack of guidance available on integration but the sector still has a long way to go to get this right. Many organisations still work in silos and are not being bold enough in their attempts to integrate their resources and engagement activities effectively. Whilst the challenges are great, in terms of the practical considerations and the investment required, the opportunities are clear.

Those charities that are able to achieve everyday integration and develop transformative integrated appeals and campaigns will be on the road to fundraising success.

Fundraisers needs to be brave and to do everything in their power to make integrated fundraising and campaigns the norm in their organisation.

Click here to view project 11 in full - PDF format

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

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