Fundraising Preference Service: Opt-out numbers are down, but that is a low bar to set for the quality of communications

This blog explores a little of what we have heard from the sector about the take-up of the service and what this tells us about communication in the sector.
by Debbie Hazelton
 

Launched after the climax of media stories surrounding the inundation of supporters and the general public with fundraising asks, the Fundraising Preference Service provides an opportunity for the public to opt-out of communications from charities. The majority of the public receive charity communications yet there were less than 4,000 people making around 12,000 suppression requests to the Fundraising Preference Service between November 2017 and October 2018[1]. Considering the public hostility towards certain fundraising methods seen in our data; such as 26% saying postal appeals or letters, or 22% finding email fundraising annoying[2], this number seems surprisingly low. And has further decreased since the first month when FPS was launched where 6,300 requests were made to block communications[3].

However, this doesn’t mean that charities are not concerned about FPS. Not only because of the practical pain of removing individuals from their comms when they come through the FPS, but also the inferred problems of over-communicating with supporters or the general public to the extent that they would go to an external body to stop this. Beyond this, people not using the FPS to remove themselves from communications with your charity is a very low bar to set, and instead the best communications and relationships with your supporters and newsletter receivers should be the aim.

In order to improve your communications, you need information on what the audiences who currently receive your comms want: 

  1. Are you sending too many communications?

Research through our Supporter Satisfaction Benchmark shows that 14% of charity supporters think that the charities they support communicate with them a little too often or far too often. This increases up to 26% for some charities and dips as low as 5% for others. We can see in our data that the desire for communications is often linked within many different things, from affinity to the cause, the quality and interest level in the communications that are received, through to demographics.

Differentiating between those who find repeated contact intrusive and those who have an affinity for your cause and want to hear more from you is the challenge facing fundraisers and charity communicators. And as our data shows only 1% of supporters think that charities do not communicate nearly often enough, it is unlikely you are communicating too little – so it is about targeting and making the communications sent as interesting and useful as possible.

  1. Do your communications interest the supporters you send them to?

Post-GDPR most charities know that individuals have at least some interest in hearing from you but understanding your supporters’ priorities and key areas of interest allows for insightful communications that they want to receive. Using a supporter survey to identify if different sections of your supporters prioritise one aspect of your work, or joined your mailing list due to a very specific campaign can be used to provide them relevant communications and slowly introduce and communicate around a more diverse range of your work. This can make a logistical challenge but segmenting your supporters, and in turn your communications can increase satisfaction and reduce the likelihood of people turning to the FPS.

The same can be said about communications to the general public. If you have many aspects to your brand or activities, do you know which is the area that is most likely to engage the different sections of your target audiences?

  1. Can people change their preferences easily?

Once again it is a delicate balance of giving individuals the opportunity to change their preferences and making it too easy for them to distance themselves from your work. If a regular donor has affinity with one area of your work, yet mainly receives non-targeted communication about all the work you do they could lose the emotional response and interest in support that initially engaged them. The risk of not allowing them to easily opt-out of communications or choose the areas that they are interested in is then greater than that of giving them the option. In a society that is bombarded with information there should be no guilt or shame in limiting or reducing contact to be mainly about their areas of interest.

 

As with so many things, it all comes down to communication as a two-way process. Charities spend a lot of time informing their supporters and other audiences of what they do, often surrounding the areas that have the most internal salience. But in order to really engage people (and stop them wanting to bar you through the FPS!), time needs to be taken to understand what they want to hear about and what most engages stakeholders outside of the charity to keep people on board.

If the real FPS is not something to be greatly feared by charities, then instead it is the problem of individuals never engaging in the first place, or choosing to disengage completely that is the challenge for charities. Understanding what your supporters want helps in the process of retention but can also shape your messaging to engage those who lurk but do not yet engage.

 

If you want to know more about our work, or our Supporter Satisfaction Benchmark, please get in contact with Debbie Hazelton on debbie.hazelton@nfpsynergy.net

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