Big thank you to the wonderful Dr Claire Routley, who covered me on live-tweeting duty on day 3, and wrote this blog about the day (links to her Twitter threads for each session are built into the article):
Fundraisers already work really hard; managers can’t go to their teams and ask them to double their efforts. But could we perhaps ask them if they could do 1% more, or 1% better? A 1% improvement across several areas of work, and across several fundraisers, will soon multiply, potentially making a significant difference to a team’s fundraising success.
In the first session of the day, Rob Woods and Joy Jones shared how these incremental improvements in practice can make a huge difference in fundraising, enabling Joy to coach her team to become Diabetes UK’s first #millionpoundteam.
Joy and Rob recommended:
- Setting a goal, which can then be broken down into manageable chunks
- Developing habits: small things that can be done every day to make an impact. Rob described these as ‘keystone habits’
- Creating an identity for the team, and focusing on your own role as leader within it
- Finding resilience by focusing on your ‘why’ (see also “Charities: we need to start with why!”)
- Learning more about the principles by reading books such as The Kaizen Way or The Compound Effect, helping you to spot opportunities as they arise
One of our keystone habits could be to say thank you promptly and well. In the second session of the day, Laura and Saul talked through wowing donors with the right thank you. Laura opened by telling us about the anthropology of gift-exchange, and how indigenous communities in North America used a cycle of gift > accept > thank you > return (known as potlatch) to determine social status. Missing out any stage would, apparently, be tantamount to declaring war!
The session covered a couple of key principles from potlatch which feel absolutely relevant to any fundraiser who’s considering how to thank their donors:
- You can’t give back the same gift someone gives you – but different gifts can have equal status. Of course, we generally wouldn’t give money back to our donors, but we can find some way to thank them that would be just as valuable, such as a video showing the impact they’ve made on someone’s life.
- The best gifts are endowed with the spiritual – they show that the giver knows and understands the recipient. We can create magic by thanking our donors in a way that’s personal to them.
Being able to empathise with donors and give them just the right thank you could be described as a virtue of a good fundraiser. In the pre-lunch slot, Ian MacQuillin covered virtue ethics in fundraising. At their core, virtue ethics would suggest that an act is right or wrong depending on whether a virtuous person would perform them.
Ian focused on what makes a virtuous fundraiser (as differentiated from just a virtuous person). His suggestions were that they are:
- Judicial i.e. demonstrates good judgement
He also suggests that they might be:
He threw in a couple of controversial suggestions, which I’m sure will generate some interesting discussion in the sector:
- A fundraiser who doesn’t have the right skills and knowledge to do her job is morally culpable
- Is passion for the cause a necessary pre-requisite? Passion can develop over time.
If you have strong views either way, you can join in the debate with Ian via Rogare, or the Critical Fundraising Forum on Facebook.
Session 4 (with Claire Warner and Luke Mallett) focused on engaging beneficiaries. They shared that often fundraisers find that there are barriers in the way to working with their beneficiaries (or, as we might call them, clients, service users, guests).
There’s a whole host of reasons we face these barriers, from internal culture, to logistics, to confidence and skills. But very often, beneficiaries really want to be involved with what we’re doing! Claire Warner shared a brilliant story about a beneficiary who was the focus of a fundraising appeal. She was thrilled that her appeal had beaten its target, and wrote a letter to the charity, thanking them for allowing her to help. Similarly, CLIC Sargent have found that people who have a personal connection – parents and grandparents – raise more than general supporters.
Claire and Luke recommend overcoming these barriers by focusing on why: why would beneficiaries want to support you, and why, as fundraisers, would you want to work with them. Once you understand this, you can focus on moving the internal culture. You could:
- Use the right language – don’t talk about making the ask, talk about offering opportunities
- Get fundraisers and service teams to train each other, enhancing the skills each needs to engage
- Share success stories about engaging beneficiaries and how service teams’ involvement has made a difference
The final session of the day focused on measuring and improving donor satisfaction. Roger Lawson began the session by explaining why these metrics matter. Of course, it’s a good thing to want donors to have a positive experience, but improving satisfaction, and ultimately, loyalty can make a measurable difference to the bottom line. In Roger’s study:
- A 1 point increase in commitment meant a 2.33% increase in repeat giving
- A 1 point increase in satisfaction meant a 2.18% increase in giving
- A 1 point increase in trust meant a 0.7% increase in giving
- And for the legacy giving people, at Red Cross, highly loyal donors were 5 to 6 times more likely to say they would leave a gift in their will
If you really want to understand, and then manage, these factors, there’s not a lot of point just asking about satisfaction, for example. You need to break them down into their component parts or a series of questions that identify what’s truly important to the donor. When you understand which elements are important to the donor, and how you perform against each, then you can take appropriate action – and ultimately provide the donor with the best possible experience.
And that’s a good place to leave this blog, and fundraising convention – whether it’s doing things a tiny bit better, making sure you’re doing things right, or understanding your donors better, if you can implement even one or two things to give your donor a better experience then you’ll make good use of IOF Convention.