Monday, February 8, 2010

Post Haiti Fundraising Follow up

Last week I promised more on what should happen after a disaster.

Unfortunately we live in a world where huge natural disasters are frequent events. Although they generate lots of media attention - and therefore money - we in fundraising know that they are actually superceded by ongoing humanitarian and environmental problems.

So we fundraisers have an uncomfortable responsibility to maximise the long term impact of the outpouring of human emotion and good will that is catalysed by these media events. For every Haiti there is a chronic problem like malaria.

People don't really care about Haiti more than they care about malaria - they are just more motivated through stories, media, peer pressure, guilt when a big media event happens.

A good illustration of how these disasters have engaged the interest of Australians is this chart showing the relative proportions of searches in Google by the Aussie public. For example - bush fires dominated in February 2009 but Haiti peaked in January 2010.

Not surprisingly, emergency response charities such as the Red Cross have been kept busy.

These charities are great getting the aid where needed and getting money straight away. But they all seem to fail on the follow up. I donated to a selection of charities - who asked me to - on Jan 19. I have had no follow up.

When a disaster strikes, these charities are sometimes overwhelmed with donations.

The short term priority is to get the money to the field where it is needed.

But really, the long term priority is to get these - often new - donors more involved. The charities need these people to help with less media hyped but euqally tragic circumstances.

For one charity, we proposed that their entire non face-to-face acquisition strategy be built around disasters. We know there are going to be disasters. And you can plan a growth strategy around them to supplement your other methods.

With initial donations made without the heavy cost of asking, the cost per acquisition is much, much lower than normal. But the lifetime value is very low.

Our initial work in this area shows that speed is of the essence. To increase the average lifetime value, how about getting to emergency donors very quickly with a low-level monthly gift ask? Even with the costs of this taken into account, and the fact that you won't convert everyone, you still end up with a superb cost per acquisition.

The secret about when to go to the new donor with an ongoing proposition is immediately after you have been able to thank them and tell them what their money was spent on.

I saw Australian charity direct mail expert, Leo Orland, present a couple of years ago and he said charities should thank new donors straight away. In that thank you he wanted the signatory to commit to feeding back within a stated period ‘how we have spent your money'. This is excellent advice and is applicable here too.

The bottom line - a media event disaster is an open door to people who care, and what to make a difference. They are hard (and expensive) to find and quickly drift off. Get to them quickly.

That is enough for today, but tomorrow I will post my 'Disaster Donor Conversion plan.'

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