From face to face to regular giving and from high value to reporting back, the roots of our favourite fundraising techniques go back many, many years. It's astounding that the ideas and tactics our fundraising forebears developed still boost income when we use them in the technologically advanced environment of today. As a result, when I consider a fundraising problem I always look to the past and use that understanding to create a solution for today. As part of my personal fundraising journey I've been spending time with the fundraisers who were involved in some of the most amazing campaigns from the second half of the 20th century to see what what I can learn from them. And I thought it would be a good idea to share their thoughts and stories so everyone can benefit - so I recorded them. This series of podcasts is the result.
Why do people give? The supporter experience podcast with Giles Pegram.
It’s been a while, but I’ve moved away from video back to the podcast for another great chat with Giles Pegram.
Giles joined me to share his thoughts about what fundraisers should be doing to prepare for 2021. But most importantly, he spoke about a great new project that has produced some essential reading for us all – Fundraising in The Time of Covid-19, recently published by the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Supporter Experience special interest group.
Giles and I met about ten days ago, but because of pressure of work, I’ve only just been able to sit down and get our chat edited. In the discussion, you’ll hear Giles talk about a very exciting webinar that the team behind the guide are presenting on the 25th of November at 2pm (GMT).
So check your watch and calendar. If you still have time, you can sign up here. It’s free. If you’ve missed it, I’ll add a link to a recording as soon as one is available.
In the guide, you’ll be introduced to six key principles necessary to deliver a great supporter experience:
It’s about the donor not you.How to develop the right organisational mindset.Why your supporters still believe in your mission. And why they want to give.Why you shouldn’t assume that you are providing a great supporter experience.Why charities should invest in fundraisers.Why charities should invest in fundraising.What makes this guide so important – and useful – is that it goes far beyond just telling you to be nice to donors. It actually shows you how to do it. And how to do it well. It’s packed full of examples of how charities have developed and implemented these ideas for you to learn from. You can also use them to persuade a nervous senior management team (SMT) of the sense in investing in this approach.
In the conversation you’ll hear us talk more about the guide, about the importance of continuing to fundraise during the current time and how our approach needs to change in response to the needs of supporters – as they evolve under the influence of the ever changing pandemic. We also discuss some of Bluefrog’s latest research findings.
Apologies that the quality of the recording isn’t brilliant. It’s fine, but you’ll hear a few of those Zoom glitches that are a trademark of our daily working lives.
The Legacy one with Richard Radcliffe
With legacy fundraising growing at a terrific rate, this was an important time to be able to chat with one of the world's most experienced legacy fundraisers, Richard Radcliffe.
Richard has been a fundraiser for over 40 years and for most of that time, his area of focus has been understanding why people leave gifts to charities in their wills.
With 32,000 conversations with potential legators over four decades, Richard has a great understanding of what motivates people and what they want to achieve when writing their Will.
In this conversation, Richard shares why people leave bequests and what changes he has noticed over the years, particularly as baby boomers have begun to seriously consider which charities they want to remember.
Unsurprisingly, we discuss legacy giving in the time of Coronavirus, examining what is different now and what we should be doing in preparation for the end of the lockdown. We discuss the massive increase in legacy giving that we are currently experiencing and talk about the different types of Will that people write during their lives.
You'll hear that we refer to the numbers released by FreeWills.co.uk over the last month that demonstrate an astounding level of generosity. Will writers were leaving an average of £60,000 to £70,000 a week to charity in their Wills in the early part of the year through the FreeWills website. Last week saw that figure reach almost £900,000.
I'd recommend following @freewillscouk on Twitter for their updates. It's an astounding record of public generosity.
We discuss some recent legacy campaigns. For those of you who don't recognise the phrase My Brother Cyril, it's a line from a British Red Cross ad that doesn't seem to be available online anymore, but you can read more about it here.
We also take a look at innovation, particularly the use of digital channels and how we need to get messaging right for your audience, particularly when there is a large group of (predominantly younger people) who don't want to think about Will writing at all.
If you'd like to contact Richard you can find his website here.
I mention that the latest round of Bluefrog research on the impact of Coronavirus on giving in general is due for publication this week. I have simply run out of time to get that written up. I'll publish early next week instead. Apologies. If you missed it, the first study is available here. Drop me a line if you'd like to discuss findings sooner than that.
You can also subscribe and listen on iTunes. If you enjoy the podcast, and had some time, a review would be really appreciated. Thank you.
Talking to donors during the Coronavirus crisis with Amber Nathan
Today, I'm sharing the first feedback on a Bluefrog research study aimed at finding out what UK donors need from charities during the time of the Coronavirus crisis. It should be emphasised that these are still early days and we expect donor attitudes to further evolve over the coming weeks.
Back in February, we launched an independent study into attitudes to giving amongst donors to organisations working with people suffering from neurological disorders. In early March, as soon as we started to see the impact that the Coronavirus would have on us, we repurposed this study, widening the remit of the people we were speaking to and refocusing on the impact the virus would have on giving to charity.
This has meant that we have been able to gain an understanding of how donors attitudes to giving has been influenced by Covid-19, the lockdown and the subsequent social fallout from job losses and social distancing policies as the impact of the virus has grown over time.
This is a qualitative study. That means that rather than asking a large number of people a series of relatively shallow questions about giving to charity, we have long, in-depth conversations with a much smaller number of charity donors where we can explore in detail how they are feeling at the moment and the role charities have in their life.
Each interview has three main components:
What have been the main issues when thinking about the pandemic and how has thinking changed over the past few weeks? How has the pandemic influenced giving behaviour and how are they thinking about giving now, as compared to before the pandemic?What role, if any, has the work of charities had in their lives since the arrival of the of the pandemic? All interviews were undertaken by Amber Nathan, who has run Bluefrog's research function for the last 16 years. During that time she has spoken to thousands of donors from throughout the world, so she's pretty experienced at this type of work.
The research will continue as we track how attitudes continue to change. If you are interested in finding out more or understanding how you might change your current fundraising strategy to engage and help your donors at this time, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Coronavirus special with Giles Pegram
This is unprecedented territory for fundraisers. Few of us will have experienced anything like this.
To help people gets their immediate response into place - before planning commences for the medium to long-term – I thought it would be useful to record a conversation with Giles Pegram. Giles featured in episode one of Why Do People Give? and with 30 years experience of fundraising as Appeals Director at the NSPCC, he is as good a resource as any.
Things are changing on a daily basis. What we need to do today will not be the same as yesterday and circumstances a month down the road may well require a radically different approach. But we are addressing the situation as of lunchtime on the 18th March.
As you'll hear, we recommend moving the fundraising focus away from 'activities' to concentrating on answering our donor's needs.
At Bluefrog we have already started research into donor attitudes to giving at this time. Luckily we had one of our private studies underway and have moved the focus onto the impact of Coronavirus as the situation has developed.
Early feedback is that people are obviously confused. We are all getting our heads around a new way of living. The interviews from yesterday evening seemed different from those that were undertaken at the beginning of the week.
But donors were firm about what they valued. They want their community to come together, they value mutual support and they are concerned about the vulnerable. This will drive giving.
In unsettling times, giving offers people a way of taking back control. It is empowering. We must never forget that.
In terms of practical advice, we discuss what to do if you have cancelled events, how you should approach putting together emergency appeals and how, at times of crisis, donors always tend to give more. We recognise that fundraising must be undertaken with the utmost respect and consideration, but this is not the time to stop inspiring donors or stop asking.
There is a real concern for those who do not have food, shelter, health and finances. And donors expect us to be there for the causes who need us.
The resources we discuss such as the free template appeal letters can be found on my blog, at queerideas.co.uk.
Conronavirus has reset the fundraising clock. It's almost like a year zero. We all need to start again, applying the basics in the most appropriate way for our cause. I hope this podcast helps you do just that.
The Mid-Level one with Angela Cluff
This is a must-listen for anyone interested in mid-level donors. It's actually a must-listen for everyone, but particularly for those with mid-level donors within their remit.
Angela Cluff started out her career at the British Heart Foundation before moving to the NSPCC where she was Head of Major Donor Development. She then became joint head of the Full Stop Campaign and Giles Pegram's deputy. As well as being the Vice-Chair of Oxfam GB, Angela now works as a consultant.
There are so many highlights here that it's hard to single any out. It really is a masterclass in mid-level donor fundraising.
Angela uses the terminology they used at the NSPCC in the 1990s, so it might be useful to explain a couple of phrases here. Both groups fit broadly into today's mid-level zone.
Major Donors were supporters that gave anywhere between £500 and £2,000. Core Donors were those who gave over £2,000.But as Angela explains, her approach wasn't based on just how much donors gave, but also focused on their level of commitment.
This meant that they looked at donors as individuals and tried to develop approaches that worked for them as much as they worked for the NSPCC. As you'll hear, Angela often answers my questions with the phrase, "It depends" as she explains yet again how she worked with donors to help them discover what projects they wanted to support and their communication preferences.
We talk about cash gifts, monthly giving, legacies and giving clubs along with how events should fit into any mid-level programme.
And of course, we spend a great deal of time discussing why people give with reference to each individual donor's needs, history and life-experiences.
We also talk about great ways to improve the supporter experience and hear Angela's views on the best way to work with consultants.
It's great stuff - I hope you enjoy it.
You can contact Angela here.
As a bonus, I've also included a message from Beth Crackles who has a fantastic series of podcasts called Cracking Charity Chat. It's always worth a listen.
The one with Lyndall Stein
Lyndall is a remarkable fundraiser. Her experience includes setting up the UK fundraising operation for the African National Congress when Nelson Mandela was still in prison. She then went on to work for the Terrence Higgins Trust when HIV and AIDS were still beyond treatment before moving on to The Big Issue Foundation.
What makes this interview so special is that Lyndall repeatedly had to work without budget and with very little in the way of resources – no computers, no filing systems, no agency and no database. But what she achieved is amazing.
She shows how she identified her audience and used the fundamentals of direct marketing – through testing – to make her advertising as effective as possible whether it was ads on the front page of The Guardian or through developing mailing packs (with techniques that are still effective today).
Lyndall speaks of the importance of learning from the experience of others and sharing knowledge. And to that end she gives us her advice on use of photographs and the need to make sure that our language is right for our supporters.
We discuss offering donors choice. Whilst working for the ANC, Lyndall included tick boxes on her response devices so donors could choose how a gift should be used – schools, hospitals, or 'wherever it was most needed’. As we see today when we use the same technique, many ticked the most needed box, but since the interview, I've learned that some donors added an extra box of their own ‘for AK47s’.
We speak about hate mail and how the advice her father gave her - "chuck it straight in the bin" is as relevant for today's trolls – with their anonymous and abusive Twitter accounts – as it was then.
But what I found most valuable are Lyndall’s thoughts on what fundraising is good at and what it isn’t. It can raise money, but don’t think of it as a cheap route to boost PR or promote an ideology – even when you are part of a liberation movement.
And, of course, she shares her thoughts on why people give where we spend plenty of time talking about connection.
You can see some of the fundraising materials that Lyndall speaks about on my blog, queerideas.co.uk.
Fabulous lessons from the past that should be lessons for now!
Great insight into two of the biggest fundraising successes in recent history and a great reminder of what fundraising should be about.
Essential listening for fundraisers
Fascinating, in-depth conversation. There are so many lessons here for fundraisers! Highly recommend.