CDE project 8 sec­tion 4: appen­dix 1 — case studies

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

Appendix 1: Case studies

Of the emailed responses that were contributed, just under half of them approached the issue from the fundraiser’s point of view – what the funder could do to make the donation experience better. Some of these did emphasise good trust fundraising practice, but not from the view of the donor’s experience; many focussed on what we, as fundraisers, would want the donor to do differently, to satisfy our fundraising needs. This was echoed particularly in the 2012 article by nfpSynergy: “Taking nothing for granted: A research report into what charities think a model grant-maker looks like”. Nevertheless, many of the contributions highlighted good practice, where positive donor experiences were either outlined or implied. These representative samples (anonymous at the contributors’ request) are included without endorsement.

  • “We make sure we follow this simple rule –
    Apply to trusts and foundations that will fund our type of work on time and thank them promptly if successful. Report back to them on time. The objective where appropriate is to try and build a relationship with a trust/foundation that could develop into a long term partnership. This can, among others, include: inviting them to see our services in action, getting out [our] Chief Executive to speak to them on the telephone and inviting them to appropriate events.
  • In the Grants and Trusts team here at [removed] we consider the approach requested by trusts as the minimum level acceptable. If we realise an objective or have an unexpected success (one that is not part of the original outcomes expected) we will contact them (via their preferred method of contact) to notify them of progress. We also send them a copy of our quarterly donor magazine as it will always have a short update of their project’s progress over the previous quarter.
    Obviously we work hard to ensure we do not over-communicate and so tailor our approach to the wishes of each individual trust or foundation.”

  • “I try as you say to really adhere very closely to what the trust wants. So if they want no newsletters and no reports I do respect that. With others though, where either they do ask for a report or don’t specify either way, I try to send back a write up with photographic evidence and quotes from project beneficiaries, together with any measures of outcomes we are able to report on. If it is a local trust, we also put in a press release to the local papers and offer a visit and tour of the Hospice if they so wish.
  • We don’t do an annual mailing to trusts e.g. Annual Review and we don’t list our donors in roll calls on newsletters etc – we try to report back and give publicity on an individual basis depending on what the trust prefers and have more of an ad-hoc approach.
    This wasn’t always the case – we used to have a volunteer who did trusts before I came along and because he wasn’t here all the time, report deadlines were often missed, thank you letters not sent for weeks etc. I have at least two examples where I believe this resulted in the trust ending their support. I really believe you need to respect trust supporters (like any other supporters) and they will probably stick around.”
  • “I have been a trusts and statutory fundraiser among other roles for nearly 20 years, and have seen good, bad and indifferent practices. I support entirely your view on the Commission website [see below in Appendix 3] about a more considered approach – that good practice starts with careful research into (and respect for) the purposes and passions of a donor, their guidelines and requirements (and the interests of the individual trustees); and that this is your starting place with regard to making an application and/or building a relationship with a trust. I cannot understand how anyone can have a perfunctory view as you describe, but know some do. For many years I managed a small specialist charitable service and we raised all our own funds. We did so successfully I think because we played it absolutely straight and carried out extensive research before picking up the phone or making an application, and were equally focused on delivery and reporting as agreed with the donor. We also, unless explicably powerful reasons prevented us, delivered on time and within budget.      Yet I have (briefly, I left after time revealed a small catalogue of horrors and continuing sloppy thinking) worked for an organisation with a high staff turnover that appeared to be quite indifferent to what happened to projects and funding from some high-profile donors: minds had been changed, in some cases projects had not even been delivered yet money kept, simply because no one knew what was going on, and moreover, no one seemed to care or take responsibility. It was when I started to imagine the conversations I might have with donor x, who may one day write or call to find out about project y, that I started to plan my escape. I took matters seriously, closed down one failed project and told the donor (it never really got off the starting blocks and what money had been spent had not been spent in line with what was set out in the bid). For another, in which no attempt at all had been made to deliver a promised project and key staff had moved on, I went to senior management and suggest to them they had to pay the money back. One senior manager suggested it be spent on something else! In a kind of ‘over my dead body’ moment I told them this was unethical and that they had to return the funding and reapply if that were the case. I left shortly after.”

Additional input came from discussions and the collective experience of trust fundraising colleagues.

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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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Trusts and foundations are significant donors to charity but while most operate in ways substantially different from individual donors they have distinct needs in terms of requiring an exemplary and rewarding donor experience for trusts and their staff. This project will seek to define the best ways to deliver that experience for any trust or foundation.

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