CDE project 23: part 3 — project 11

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
March 28, 2017

This project is a summary of all the projects that sit under project 11, and so these recommendations for smaller charities are applicable across all of the projects within this group. One of the biggest short term challenges will be compliance and consent, and this is an evolving issue. However charities of all sizes will have to ensure they are legally compliant.  It is also important to consider integration of all these techniques and how the donor receives them. Small charities have an edge here as it’s often the same person/team communicating and so can co-ordinate and regulate the communication that individual donors receive. 

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Small charities can take much from this project, but perhaps the first place to start is culture, and this needs to stem from the top. A focus on non financial targets would be a great place to start to begin to look at communication from the needs of the donor rather than purely transactional. This process could be started by making sure a supporter promise is in place, which is developed by senior managers and fundraising staff. (Recommendation 1)
  • Critical to good communication with donors is the way the donor database is used. Small charities can struggle with this due to restricted resource but there are some good cost effective systems out there with suppliers who specialise in smaller organisations. Consider seeking a volunteer who may be able to help research this. (Recommendation 3)
  • Above all of the tactical recommendations, compliance is as important for smaller organisations as it is for larger organisations. As a minimum, small charities must make sure that they are behaving legally and any communication must have the correct level of consent. (Recommendation 9) 

This project is perhaps least relevant for small organisations, however, consider that as well as national media, there is also local mass media that can be utilized. Occasionally partnerships with corporate supporters or major donors can present opportunities which will make this project relevant and give great guidance on both the decision to undertake a campaign and how to deliver it. 

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • At times there is pressure to undertake mass media campaigns from trustees or significant influencers who do not have the bigger picture/necessary background information and so this could be a useful project to use as an educating tool. Consider the whole budget – not just media but production costs before agreeing to pro bono offers that do not make good financial sense. (Summary guidance step 1)
  • When undertaking a campaign, plan what will happen next with that donor – at the minimum they should receive some tailored communication relevant to the campaign. This needs planning in time/cost – don’t spend all your time producing creative with no thought to the supporter journey. (Summary guidance, Step 6)
  • With any mass media campaign, establish a strong proposition and message that will appeal to the largest audience possible. This should be an ‘entry level’ proposition. Small charities will not have the capacity to test and learn as larger charities will, so consider propositions with value e.g. lotteries or specific campaigns over something more general. (Summary guidance, step 2) 

Direct Mail can be challenging in a small charity. Without sophisticated databases and high tech agencies and printers it can be more difficult to ‘keep up’ with what bigger charities are doing. However, there is a real opportunity for small charities to get Direct Mail right by following the basic guidelines in this report and concentrating on authentic, simple communications that really get the message across. Sophisticated segmentation can be replaced with personalisation, and fancy design and printing can sometimes overshadow the message. Often a simple, strong and honest ‘homespun’ communication can be just, if not more effective. 

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Focus on getting the message and tone right using the recommendations and advice in the report. Small charities are often unable to do lots of different segments and versions, so consider that the message needs to be relevant to the wider donor base. Consider hand written ‘PS notes’ on letters where the donor is known, anything that can make the letter more personal will make a better experience for the donor. (Recommendation 2)
  • Small charities often do a lot of inhouse copywriting and design and/or use pro bono agencies, some of whom have little fundraising experience. Consider agreeing a copywriting and design checklist to use both in-house or with designers and copywriters who may be volunteering or working on reduced rates. Use the excellent tools and Do’s/Don’ts listed in the report to assist this. (Recommendation 4)
  • Make sure your donation mechanisms are integrated and appropriate – at a minimum try and have a specific landing page for donations and a separate thank you letter to make the donor feel that their donation is specific to the proposition you have set out in your direct mail. Even better would be to get the organization to thank donors personally.  (Recommendation 5)

*Note – in all individual communications it’s important to note that even small charities must follow proper data processing and data protection guidelines.

Small charities can use and apply all of the recommendations and principles and can make good use of the guidance in this project. The use of clear references/links to examples is a big help for those who may need leading in a new area and there is nothing in the project that cannot be applied to a small charity with little or no cost.

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Keep it simple. Having a single strong message that is communicated through offline channels as well as online channels will strengthen digital work. Ensure that the message is credible and something that people will care about. Choose the right channels and do them well, don’t feel that you have to be using everything the minute it comes out. (Strategic step 3) 
  • Concentrate on the donation process and usability – ask a group of people to ‘test’ the flow from social media through to donation. Make live donations to test the functionality of forms. Seeking donor feedback can flag up potential issues and problems that might impact on success.  (Implementation step 8)
  • Avoid the extra work of mapping and creating separate journeys for digital by mapping integrated journeys across different channels. Include offline pieces as well as online and make best use of materials already available. This can be done at low cost with post it notes and a large room! (Implementation step 1) 

*Note – in all individual communications it’s important to note that even small charities must follow proper data processing and data protection guidelines. 

There is much in this project which is relevant and sound to community fundraising within smaller organisations. However, given the multiple roles charity staff balance, especially those from very small charities, the recommendations should be modified to meet their specific needs. Many local charities will have community fundraising established so will be able to use the recommendations to improve and refine their engagement. 

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Not all small charities have the capacity to manage volunteer fundraisers as well as they would like. Having volunteer fundraisers in the community is a real asset, but there are specific skills and resources needed to manage them properly. Consider a trustee or head volunteer to help with this. (Panel observation)
  • Small charities have an advantage as community fundraising staff are more likely to be based in the same location as the rest of the team and often the programme work. Make the most of this by ensuring community fundraising volunteers are also closely connected to the cause and create opportunities to meet beneficiaries and/or see impact of their fundraising as much as possible. (Recommendation 7)
  • Make it easy for people to support you! As a small charity, resources are likely to be limited and so empower community fundraising volunteers by helping them with ideas, poster templates etc. Anything that will enable them to fundraise independently. Concentrate on building the relationship rather than facilitating the fundraising! (Summary Guidance 5) 

*Note – in all individual communications it’s important to note that even small charities must follow proper data processing and data protection guidelines. 

Telephone campaigns are often considered expensive, but if you can encourage participation internally there are ways you can use the telephone to enhance your donor experience. Getting the whole organisation involved can be difficult – a lot of people don’t like to use the phone, but there are people who love to talk! Whilst telephone fundraising has attracted a lot of bad press, a great call can be a wonderful donor experience. 

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Consider small telephone campaigns in-house and make it part of everyone’s job to call and speak to supporters – and not necessarily with an ask. Ideally people who are closest to the work would make time for a small number of calls so that it becomes about building relationships primarily. Perhaps start with an annual ‘thankathon’ and get people comfortable with calling supporters. Make it fun for those taking part and share great calls and positive stories of increased donations or follow up comments. Trustee’s should be asked to take part and volunteers can be a great asset to any thank you campaign. (Summary Principle 9, 12 & 13) 
  • If your team are comfortable to make an ask, make it purposeful e.g. not call on an annual basis to upgrade, call and ask for a contribution to a specific campaign that is meaningful to the donor. Asking for gift aid declarations is a nice ‘halfway house’ between thanking and asking. (Summary Principle 15) 
  • Telephone calls can make recognizing potential vulnerability more difficult, so ensure that everyone who is making calls is properly briefed on the guidance available. Remember that if you are doing in-house campaigns using staff and/or volunteers, vulnerability can be on either side – both caller and supporter. (Summary Principle 16)

*Note – in all individual communications it’s important to note that even small charities must follow proper data processing and data protection guidelines.

Few small charities identify with engaging ‘face to face’ fundraising but this project has a really impressive set of guidelines for any small charity or fundraiser wanting to move into this area. That said, there are times when some of the recommendations in this report could be aligned with volunteer face-to-face interactions e.g. collections, signing up new donors at community events.  

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Ensure anyone having face-to-face contact with potential donors are equipped with the basic knowledge to speak on your behalf. Produce a quick guide with ‘FAQ’s about the charity. The experience must be positive, whether the individual donates or not. This must be conveyed as importantly as the charity information. 
  • Any fundraiser or volunteer signing people up on your behalf must be aware of the vulnerable people guidelines. This can easily be conveyed during a quick training session or guide for anyone who might be fundraising on your behalf. 
  • Get in touch with new donors following the interaction to find out how their experience was and to welcome them to the charity. This can be done via a phone call or a simple email communication. This will give you feedback in case any of your volunteers perform below expected standards or are behaving in a way that may be providing a negative donor experience. 

*Note – in all individual communications it’s important to note that even small charities must follow proper data processing and data protection guidelines.

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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