Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How good is your donor care?


I'm Fiona McPhee - Fundraising Strategy Director for Pareto Fundraising. Sean has asked me to help him with his webinar on stewardship this week.

I am really looking forward to this as it is an area of real passion for me.  His other webinars have gone down really well, with great feedback, like this:

This series thus far has been the best investment I have ever made in webinars.  My entire development team of [six] … are participating and all of them are gaining so much knowledge and information... If only we could get our board and executive leadership to watch these too!!!”

Mary Butler, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis

If you have already registered – great and thank you!  But please read on, because I would like to ask a favour of you…

All registrants get a recording and the slides, and if you are free for one of our three time slots on Thursday or Friday (depends on your time zone) you can attend live.  

If you haven’t registered, you can now watch the recording here.  We are limited to 101 people per webinar watching live so please register soon!  

The favour:  Can you please help Sean and I help more charities? Whether you work within a charity or an agency, we want to showcase great examples of donor care and awesome anecdotes of wonderful stewardship.

A letter or video you are proud of, or a communication you received.  Anything that shows off great donor care to help others learn.

And – a very generous gift indeed – I am hoping for one or two people willing to share their organisations’ donor care plans, diagrams or flow charts.  Or an anonymised client’s plans? (If you are an agency bod, we will credit you if you request it). 

Perhaps you have a nice chart or process flow diagram of what donors get what communications?

Just imagine how useful that would be for a charity.

You could be helping so many more causes beyond your own.  And would very likely trigger a donation from Sean who will almost certainly donate himself to such generous charities!

Please just email anything useful to sean.triner@paretofundraising.com topic/subject ‘Donor Care.’

If you can’t make one of the three time slots this Friday in New Zealand and Australia, or Thursday in Europe, UK and North America, don't worry! All registrants will get a copy of the recording, slides and any handouts so you can watch anytime.  It is just US$89.  That is less than the price of a taxi from the airport in London!  (Well, it was, depends on how much more the pound has fallen since Brexit!)

Reminder of what we'll cover in the stewardship webinar:

In the session we will be:
  • Looking at a sensible and practical decision ‘flow’ for managing donor care and stewardship with limited resources
  • Dissecting some great donor care examples (like this CCIA one you can read here).
  • Giving you easy and instant tips to improve your causes’ donor care – in a way that will make you more revenue.
See you soon!

Click here to watch the recording.

Thank you so much.
Fiona McPhee
Fundraising Strategy Director, Pareto Fundraising

Friday, June 24, 2016

Great Donor Care from Amnesty International

You know how we all worry about overheads? Well, Josh O’Rourke a relationship fundraiser from Amnesty International Australia had a good approach with one of his mid-value donors.

Having met up with a mid-value donor who had ‘only’ ever given $2,000, Josh found out the donor was keen to multiply her donation.  The donor asked to be anonymous, but let’s call her Janine after Josh’s mum.

There is lots of evidence that ‘multiplying gift appeals’ increases average donation and/or response rate. The offer is something like ‘Donate by 30 June and our sponsor will match your gift…’

Janine had obviously liked that offer previously.

Chatting with his colleagues in direct marketing, Josh found out there were no matching gift campaigns that she could contribute to at that time. So he turned it on its head and asked Janine to be the ‘sponsor’ who would be matching other people’s gifts!

It turned out she was keen, and interested in Amnesty’s campaign on the back of their work with indigenous children.  She gave $30,000.  Josh was chuffed, as were his colleagues in digital direct marketing.  They usually have such a campaign around this time of year, and hadn’t got a sponsor.  They emailed it today.

Within ninety minutes of the email going out, they had raised $20,000, and will definitely whizz past the $30,000.  Janine’s donation will be worth at least $60,000 to Amnesty’s important work.

Amnesty were making sure Janine felt like a VIP.  

I hope the Amnesty example gives you some inspiration!

Amnesty match appeal email campaign

Do You Care About Donors!?

Is stewardship just another buzzword? Is that why so few charities actually bother?

Of course you care about your donors.  But how much should you care!?

The webinars I have been running for about a year now have been really popular and the Stewardship one is really stacking up to be one of my best.

After a recent webinar, Andrew Hateley from The Leprosy Mission Australia said“Thanks Sean! Really appreciated your frankness and clarity around what is and isn't a good investment. Will definitely carry your insights with me into future fundraising/marketing/communications strategies.”

Every registrant gets the recording, the presentation, and a load of useful information whether they attend live or not.  Brilliant stuff you can watch anytime.

Ted Davis from US Charity AmeriCares said my webinars had…“Great, usable content.  Goes right to the heart of the issue”

In my line of work, I come across very few ‘experts’ in donor care and stewardship.  Fiona truly is an expert.

I met her when she was ‘doing’ customer care at WWF Australia more than ten years ago.  Now she is one of the most senior and accomplished consultants in New Zealand.  With a WEALTH of experience and knowledge I reckon even just the Q&A section at the end of the webinar will be worth your time and investment!

In the session we are going to show you how to steward.  How to do good donor care. We are going to give you some fantastic handouts and examples of great donor care.Fiona is going to give you awesome decision trees and maps for stewardship.She will also give you some incredibly practical training tips for your staff and volunteers.

Stephen Batsche, Executive Director (the BOSS!!) from The Salvation Army USA“Your advice is straightforward, practical and based upon experience.”

Well Stephen, thank you – and this next webinar is going to really make sure we do the same.

You will leave with a toolkit containing immediate, practical ideas to go and do.

Also, there will be lots of handouts, examples and more.  I am going to give you the MOST bonus material I have ever included with a webinar.  (Nearly of all which Fiona prepared J)

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Long Fundraising Letters. Why, oh, why!?

Long letters work better.

But don't just take it from me. 

Dr Barnardo wrote a four page appeal letter in London in the 1880s using classic DM techniques. Underlining, urgency, dollar handles, specific ask and a clear reference to what YOU could do to help. The winter had been 'the severest and most arduous, so far as work among the children of the poor is concerned.'   So the good doctor needed to raise £100 a day for food.  He told readers 'unceasing demands upon our resources' were having an unprecedented impact on his charity.

The four page Dr Barnardo letter from the late 19th century.

Years later, another children's charity, Starlight, had a rough year and they had decided to go public about their shortfall. Unceasing demands upon their resources were tough too. They asked for funds but also had a refreshing degree of honesty. The donor learned that part of the shortfall was because Starlight funding strategy relied too much upon events and companies.After reading the press stories about their plight I pulled together an 'emergency' appeal to their donors and met up with them. The emergency appeal was only developed to show how I work, but they decided to mail it immediately anyway. 

The opening paragraphs of the Starlight letter

A full Case Study of this appeal is here, including an entire copy of the mailpack here.
It would never win awards for graphic design beauty. But the appeal raised over target. It more than doubled the amount raised from the same donors the previous year.
At the heart of the appeal was a four page appeal letter.
Despite the rise of other media, direct mail is still the biggest source of new one off donors.  So it is important we maximise revenue from mail donors.  And longer letters will tend to do that for you.

New Cash Recruits - by channel, across Pareto benchmarking charities.

I really don't like long letters, by the way. They are a pain in the butt to write, check copy, get clients approval, print and mail-merge. And someone important in most of our clients doesn't like them. And they don't look great in my portfolio (though the results do).
And I prefer doing digital stuff. And... I think you get the idea.

In focus groups, donors say they dislike them too. In Hong Kong, one client ran focus groups which all concluded that donors would be more likely to respond to a pack with a two-sided letter and tear off coupon than a four-page pack (actually eight pages - English and Chinese) with lots of additional information. The two pager raised HK$1.5m (AUD$220k) - the big pack raised over HK$7.5m (about $1.1m).

But they work.  As you can see from the test results below.  These are from a revolutionary pack National Heart Foundation did more than a decade ago.
I featured it in training I did on writing great direct mail for mid-value donors.  (You can access this training session as part of the mid-value webinar series I have done).

Long letters beat short letters - a defining test by National Heart Foundation

It isn't just me that thinks so.  Jeff Brooks attempts to explain why fundraising letters tend to work better in this 2012 article.  He also tells us in his Fundraising is Beautiful podcasts that in tests, long letters are three times more likely to win than shorter ones!  (He adds long email appeals are twice as likely to win as short email appeals).

I know longer letters tend to work better, but not because they are long. I think it is because, to tell a good story with a beginning, middle and end and ensure the right fundraising tactics, it simply takes more words. These tactics include target, what the target is for, deadline, establishing need, demonstrating solution, demonstrating why that charity is best placed to solve etc). Having said that, a dreadful four pager is worse than a good two pager - if a story can be told more quickly then tell it. As Mal Warwick says 'A fundraising letter should be as long as it needs to be...'

This article is a re-hash of one I wrote seven years ago.  Things have changed since then, but nothing changed in terms of whether long letters work better or now.
See Dr Barnado's 19th century appeal on SOFII here.

Long letters tend to work better with mid value donors too. Maybe it is just about respect - good donor care to take the time to explain why the donors support is so important.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The most powerful fundraising tool in the world

Understanding donors

The most important asset a fundraising organisation has is its database of supporters. But only if it is actually recording useful information.

Luckily, most organisations record main contact details plus transactions. In other words, you know where someone lives, hopefully you have their phone number and email address and you know how much they donated and when.

Basic analysis of this data can help you predict how likely people are to donate to you and how much. If communications that have been sent are also analysed you can even work out what donors are most likely to respond to, too.

This basic data is crucial for making a basic direct marketing program work. But to make charity direct marketing fly we need to build relationships, and we do that through respecting our donors and their wishes. And we do that by using the most powerful fundraising tool ever – the survey.

The survey - the most powerful tool in fundraising

Achieving many goals 

This multi-function device, used well, will also help corporate, major donors, events, donor retention and bequests. It can even be used for PR purposes, and it usually makes a profit on its own.

These are real surveys, getting really useful information, they are not scientific research and shouldn’t pretend to be. Even so, be honest with the donor – you want their opinion and to be able to communicate better with them, but you can also share their views with the public.

Short term benefits

Our tests have shown that, despite running a survey to get data including a direct ask does not suppress response. In other words, using the survey as an actual fundraising appeal subject works. You should aim to break even but what we have found is that when a survey is sent to donors who have responded to a previous appeal through the post, the survey actually makes a profit.

The Australian Conservation Foundation has been using surveys as an integral part of its donor communications strategy for some time now. Their first survey was mailed to over 25,000 donors and nearly one in four responded – half with a gift. They not only received a ton of useful information but made a $50K ‘profit’ as well.

Information taken from the surveys is then reflected back to the donors in future communications. For example, if a donor is motivated and interested in climate change, but an appeal is about forests then the letter should be personalised to connect the donors concerns with the subject of the appeal.

Important Note:  The sort of surveys I am talking about tell us how to communicate better with individual donors. They are not quantitative research tools!

Medium term

Appeal results and retention can be improved by clever use of survey information, and their completed survey is The Perfect Aide Memoir to take with you with when meeting a major donor. It pretty much tells you what to ask for!

But most charities who use the survey wisely get medium term returns on their regular giving. For example, The Lost Dogs’ Home uses surveys to gather pet names. It has found that this is crucial for building relationships. They include personalisation in appeal letters mentioning the donors pet name:

“Thank you so much Sean, and please give Bilbo an extra cuddle from all of us at The Lost Dogs’ Home!”

But they also use it in phone conversations with donors. When asking donors to increase their monthly gifts, known as ‘upgrade calls’ our caller asks after the health of the donor’s pet. 

The Pareto Phone team compared the upgrade success rate of donors we spoke with where we knew pet name against those where we had no pet name. The results are extraordinary:

Knowing Bilbo – a great way to see the value of listening to donors and reflecting back what you heard in future communications.

And the long term 

Already surveys have proven their worth. You can see how using them for donor care, appeals and upgrades can work really well, and make them a useful part of the mix. But the biggest return comes from bequests. Specifically using surveys to generate bequest (legacy) leads.

The best measure a bequest fundraiser has to monitor their performance is a count of people who have mentioned the charity in their Will. We call these ‘confirmed bequestors.’

By asking the right questions, we can identify these and also bequest ‘prospects’ – i.e. those most likely to become confirmed bequestors.

A well thought through approach ‘burying’ the bequest question in a survey obliterates any other method of bequest marketing I have ever seen.

For example, Australian National Heart Foundation had seven full time equivalent bequest officers working traditional bequest marketing techniques for seven years to get around 1,500 confirmed bequests. A brilliant achievement and potentially worth $75m, producing a huge return on investment.

But a year of surveys with follow up mail and phone acquired another 1,500. The charity now uses a combination of both techniques to drive more bequests.

And the surveys keep working. The Lost Dogs’ Home now has about fifteen (!) percent of key financial supporters who have put the charity in their will.

A word of warning 

Don’t rush out and do surveys without ensuring you can follow them up, record the results and actually use the data in communications with your donors.

It is not as easy as just writing a survey – a good survey needs a great cover letter, it asks questions that help you understand what motivates your donors (avoid questions like ‘how many times they like to be mailed?’), a bequest conversion pack and trained people to follow up leads. And remember, a bequest lead from a survey is only ‘hot’ for a few weeks with conversion success dropping off dramatically the longer you leave it.

Surveys are just part of good donor care.  

Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here