CDE project 23: part 4 — project 12 — 17

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
March 27, 2017

There are many practical recommendations that are also generic enough that they can be applied in the contexts of different charities. Particularly helpful for small charities are the links for additional knowledge and information, for people who want to know more about these specific items (copy writing, design, etc.).

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Supporter Centered Creativity. Try and adopt a ‘supporter in the room’ or even a small supporter panel to achieve supporter centered creativity. Reduce jargon and always try and look at communications as if through the Supporters eyes. Small charities should be able to achieve this easily and might even have close supporters who can input into creative feedback. ( Principle 2) 
  • Small charities often have fundraising and brand guidelines integrated – often the lack of a Communications/Brand/Marketing team can give fundraisers an advantage here, especially where fundraising and communications roles are merged. Review and make everything consistent across the organisation; not just for fundraising but for volunteers and marketing communications too.  (Principle 6)
  • Sometimes the lack of using a professional agency can actually be of benefit to smaller charities when aiming for inspirational communications that leave supporters feeling satisfied and inspired. The principle of truth over techniques is a necessity with tighter budgets so can remove the temptation to follow ideas and formats that may well distract from the message. Inspirational creativity is about telling the truth, not hiding it. (Principle 1) 

Offering choice can be hard for small charities due to limited resources, but small charities do have the advantage of a smaller database which might enable more choices to be offered. It has been proven that giving choice improves opt in levels, so this is something that should be considered by even the smallest of charity.

Three things to consider/prioritise:

• The project has some great specific actions that can be actioned by charities of any size. Start with the section ‘what can you do now’ and prioritise data protection and a privacy policy from a governance point of view.

• Consider what your organisation can realistically deliver in terms of preference. Also consider how this is offered to donors. Preference in both channel and frequency is ideal, but sometimes difficult to deliver. Start with the legal minimum and work up to recommended best practice. Over promising and under delivering is a problem for good donor experience.

• Make it easy at all times for people to get in contact, change their preferences, ask questions and opt out of further communications. 

Recruitment is one of the challenges that all charities face, but a lot of smaller charities, particularly those outside of London can struggle to attract the right people for fundraising roles. It is important to recognise the increased skills needed for working in a small charities, often as sole fundraisers. It can be very isolated, without the support and development available in larger charities, but also very rewarding as working in a small charity can mean being involved in many different aspects of fundraising.

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Employ for attitude and key traits – a lot of the technical skills of a fundraiser can be easily taught, but natural behaviours and attitudes are essential. Look beyond ‘fundraising experience’ and look to find the right person with transferrable skills. Be clear on what the organization needs and employ the right person for that e.g. a good relationship builder may not be a good starter/finisher. (Recruitment checklist – Immediate implementation) 
  • Include donor centred behaviour in objective setting, and reward it. Building strong relationships with committed and passionate donors increases staff retention as well as giving a great donor experience which will result in increased giving. (Longer term retention point 1)
  • Invest in giving staff time to develop skills. There are plenty of free networks and training available for small charities, this should be utilised and embraced! Make sure fundraisers have the time and are encouraged to use these. As part of recruitment, look for a good mentor and consider investing in this. (Longer term retention – point 9)

It is widely accepted that there is still a long way to go for many charities and many trustees in fully understanding not only their responsibilities towards fundraising but fundraising itself. Small charities could usefully adopt some of the ideas set out in the paper, particularly around reviewing fundraising strategy and involving trustees in fundraising activity.

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Ensure that Trustee induction includes developing an understanding of the fundraising environment and the internal fundraising context, together with an understanding of how their roles can advance the cause. (Principle 1)
  • Encourage trustees to place importance on the donor experience by suggesting a report that includes donor satisfaction, retention and feedback from donors. (Principle 2)
  • Consider making attendance at fundraising events part of the job description of a trustee and ensure that every trustee attends at least one event where donors are present. (Principle 3)

The issues of service culture are key for small charities who should have an advantage over the large charities.  For small charities, the emphasis should be on a service culture throughout the organisation which should deliver a more consistent experience.  

Three things to consider/prioritise:

  • Invest time and money into donor care – all too often in a smaller charity, ‘back office’ work becomes a ‘desirable’ and not an ‘essential’. This can mean donor care can suffer. Don’t see it as a luxury, but a necessity. Bad donor care can undo great fundraising. Ensure your leadership understands the importance of having good systems and processes.  (Straight away recommendation 1)
  • Think like a supporter. This recommendation (7) within the project is a really easy one to action for small charities, and if you can, even better is to ask a supporter! 
  • Get the whole organisation involved and bring an emphasis on embedding donor care throughout the organisation and the responsibility of everyone in the organisation, not just fundraisers. What could you do that’s specific to your charity that would really emotionally connect with your supporters? Involve them in delivering WOW moments. (8) 

There is much in this project which is applicable to small charities, some of which could be better followed in small charities which may, by necessity, be flatter in structure. Full of practical tips, leaders in organizations of all sizes should be able to implement and take some of the recommendations from some of the sector’s best leaders. 

Three things to consider/prioritise:

• Culture – set a clear vision, one that places the supporter experience at the heart of achieving the mission, cross team working and interaction between fundraisers and programme staff. This can often be easier to do in small teams. (1a)

  • Spend more time on internal relationships. Small charities might use the advantage of a flatter structure, but leaders also have a challenge of a very heavy workload and are often responsible for operational and tactical activities that can shift priorities away from spending time on the team. Set small, measurable goals to make sure that there is a focus on building relationships with your team and separate day to day management from leadership. (2b)
  • Empower your team to deliver. With a clear vision, expectation and direction, empower your teams to make decisions and use initiative by having a values based approach to sign off. This can be beneficial in a small organisation as it is more time effective to delegate sign off, but also can be more challenging as senior management and trustees are more likely to have sight of materials produced. They often have a strong option, want to be closer to the detail and can often prioritise their own personal preferences.  Concentrate on embedding the vision and basic requirements and messages by developing a checklist of ‘essentials’ that will give staff guidance. (3b)

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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2. Fundraising and vulnerability

3. Satisfaction and Commitment 

4. Thank you and welcome

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CDE project 23: part 2 - project 7 - 10

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10. Legacies

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19. Evidence of impact and effectiveness

20. Fundraising investment

21. Working with suppliers

22. Media relations and the public face of charities

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A very special thanks to the following individuals who volunteered their time to review and present the observations and recommendations in this project. 

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