Taking care of your supporters

At nfpSynergy we’ve spoken a lot about negative media coverage of charities over the last year, with a particular focus on fundraising practices.

At nfpSynergy we’ve spoken a lot about negative media coverage of charities over the last year, with a particular focus on fundraising practices.

This coverage, combined with the looming Fundraising Preference Service, has created a precarious atmosphere for charity fundraisers. More than ever fundraisers give careful consideration to how they approach people in order to maintain positive relationships without alienating potential supporters.

Public discontent with fundraising is nothing new, but this recent flare-up of attention has provided an outlet for the frustrations of the public.

In this blog I’ll take a look at a couple of the key factors pushing people away from supporting charities and what charities can do to keep the public content while raising funds.

 

The public is hostile to ‘over-persistence’ in fundraising

Our research with the general public in early 2015 (before the controversy around Olive Cook began) revealed that almost half of people felt over-persistent fundraising put them off giving to charities, with just over a third also citing intrusive fundraising methods.

Over-persistent fundraising was as much a demotivating factor as overspending on staff salary and a lack of transparency around how donations were used, highlighting the importance of avoiding making supporters feel they are being given a ‘hard sell’ by your organization.

Our recent Voice of the Donor research with online communities gave us some insight into how the wrong approach can put your relationship with supporters in jeopardy;

 “I donate to a homeless charity & I am always getting phone calls asking if I will increase my monthly direct debit to them, it actually makes me want to cancel it rather than donate more due to the 'sales' approach to it."  Female Voice of the Donor participant, under-30

 

But changes in personal circumstances remain a key driver for support

Obviously this doesn’t mean that fundraisers should shy away from re-contacting supporters entirely; our soon-to-be-released Paths to Giving report for Charity Awareness Monitor clients shows that the biggest reason for donors to increase or decrease their donations is a change in their personal circumstances.

It goes without saying that changes in supporter circumstances are beyond charities’ control, but it’s vital to remain in contact to ensure that lapsed supporters stay engaged with your cause and work for when they are able to help.

This represents something of a catch 22 – how can you avoid pestering your supporters, but at the same time remain in touch with them and keep then up to date on the work you do?

Differentiating between those who have an affinity for your cause and want to hear more from you and those who find repeated contact intrusive is the challenge facing fundraisers.

 

Are opt-in systems the way forward?

Responding to recent coverage, several major charities (including RNLI, Age UK and most recently Cancer Research UK) have announced that they will be moving to their own fundraising consent opt-in systems, in the process pre-empting stricter EU data-protection laws due to be implemented in 2018.

These charities have judged the potential fall in income to be worth the long-term benefits of building trust and maintaining positive relationships with supporters in light of recent developments in the sector.

To me, the move towards an opt-in system represents an impressive degree of foresight from these charities – while fundraising through frequent requests for small or increased donations yields reliable results for charities, the current climate of declining public trust and increasing media and government hostility means that this strategy may well not be viable in the long-term.

In addition, this kind of opt-in arrangement may even have the effect of insulating charities from the impact of any Fundraising Preference Service – if a supporter has specifically requested to hear from a charity, it could act as an override to any blanket fundraising exclusion already in place.

However, that depends on the specific form the Fundraising Preference Service takes.                

It’s arguable that the backlash we have seen in the media has been fed by long-standing discontent with the way charities approach fundraising, and it is good to see some of the largest charities taking steps to address this. 

Rick Wright
 

Subscribe

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the next one first!