Donor loving tips from the Nether-region: Stewardship Ideas

Those of you lucky enough to have attended an international fundraising conference will hopefully agree with me: despite facing unique environmental challenges in our respective markets; despite having a very different understanding of what constitutes food; despite speaking different languages – including our American friends who are yet to discover English – we find it immensely valuable to share our fundraising learnings. I’ve gleaned much more from this experience than I expected. I really didn’t expect so much information to be transferable across borders.
I’d like to share some of the donor stewardship take-aways. None of them are new, but it’s very helpful to be reminded of their potential and to know that their effectiveness is universal. With any luck you will see some value in these. I’d be keen to hear your thoughts.
1.   Encourage charities to collect all data – including complaints and questions
o   Donors who phone or mail with a grievance or question are often passionate supporters and details of their communication with the charity should be recorded and used
o   For example, preferences for particular premiums, areas of the charity’s work, reasons for supporting, a grandchild’s name etc.
o   Complaints and questions can and should be followed-up with a low involvement action designed to engage them further with the cause
o   We could design an off-the-shelf survey with questions about their satisfaction with the experience and thank them for their concern
2.   Encourage response by re-sending the donor the premium they were recruited on
o   This is the premium that is most likely to motivate them – particularly true with lower value donors who are more likely to be those most incentivised
o   Use as an anti-attrition tactic – perhaps on the anniversary of their recruitment
o   Premiums are consumable items which need to be replaced after a period of time
3.   Use the welcome pack to outline what the mailing cycle will be
o   If a donor understands the process and is encouraged to be part of it, will it increase loyalty?
o   It might make donors feel that they’re not obligated to respond. If they don’t feel obliged they might be less likely to feel harassed and therefore more encouraged to read the letter (and subsequently donate)
o   Would this strategy improve long-term value?
Very keen to hear your thoughts.
Paul

Tidbits from the Nether-side - "don't just say thank you"

Fundraising law says “keep the proposition single minded”. This applies to the response mech which usually has a straight, uncomplicated ask. It certainly applies to the letter which will include ask after ask – each denoting the same value, need and target etc. 

However, there isn’t such a rule for thank you letters.
Why is “thank you” the only thing we are allowed to say in a thank you communication? Why can’t we use the letter to say other things too? 

The answer is we can. There is no evidence to suggest that it’s the wrong thing to do.
Yes, we should produce strategic tests. Lots of them. So I would like to challenge everyone to turn the humble, single purposed thank you letter into a stewardship device, income generator or conversion tool.
Ideas:
1.   Bequests - Include a bequest reference in the PS of the thank you letter
                                              i.     A cost effective reminder for the most loyal donors (i.e. the ones who respond) to include the charity when they next review their will: “Please remember to include us in your Will”.

2.   Survey – ask the donor questions. Engagement = loyalty
                                              i.     Ask the donor what they think. Use that information next time you communicate with them
                                             ii.     Ask them what inspires them and encourage involvement with the cause on a non-financial level
                                           iii.     Collect information for hyper-personalisation opportunities

3.   RG Conversion - Include a conversion ask
                                              i.     We’ve employed this strategy sparingly – one example was at Peter Mac – but we need to do more to show its effectiveness (or ineffectiveness)

4.   Donation forms – include a form and BRE
                                              i.     Including a form will raise more income.
                                             ii.     It doesn’t need to be overt to elicit response. One suggestion is to include an explanation in the PS: “many supporters call my colleagues to ask us to send them a donation form. We’ve included one here for you so you can make a donation and its cheaper for us to do it this way.”
                                           iii.     The form need not be large because the objective is different. It might be effective as DL.
                                           iv.     The form could be generic looking – something off the shelf which the charity already uses.
                                            v.     The PS could reference a feedback form that sits on the reverse of the donation form. The donation form might not even be referenced.
                                           vi.     The emphasis of the donation ask can be dialed up or down depending on the objective and appetite for risk. For instance, the form not have a donation capture, but rather a feedback form which people can send back in the BRE. This will raise income.

5.   Other ideas?
It would be great to hear your thoughts and opinions.
Paul

A systematic approach to emotionally engaging supporters

As humans we like to be acknowledged and there is no doubt that referring to me as an individual trumps being treated like a number. But can we do better? Can we connect with supporters and engage them beyond the rational - references like the date I first donated - or more personal than using the name of my dog or cat?

Maybe we could learn a thing or two from the commercial sector – specifically the hotel industry. At a recent stay in a boutique hotel (which I could afford based on a special rate) a handwritten note was waiting for me in my room.

My emotional response was to feel special and a little bit important. The gesture differentiated my experience of this hotel from others I had stayed in. It’s clearly a better choice than the hotel with the moldy shower and the concierge with tomato sauce stains on his tie. And in such a comparison – assuming similar price points – it’s the clear winner.

However, does this hotel compare favourably to hotels of a similar calibre; boutique hotels which also employ tried and tested tactics to engage customers with a personal touch? How does that handwritten note - and the ethically sourced, Fairtrade chocolate sitting on my pillow - compare to my experience in a competitor’s hotel?

Let’s bring it back to fundraising: how will the handwritten with-comps-slip from CEO ‘A’ compare to the note from CEO ‘B’? Both organisations are sophisticated enough to know that I’ve supported their cause for three years and they each know the name of my dog (Rover). Each CEO is profoundly grateful for my support and hopes that I’ll donate again today. What will differentiate my experience of one organisation from the other?

What if CEO ‘A’ had notes from every conversation I’d ever had with the charity and those notes were used to inspire a more engaging message or a more valuable phone call? If we knew a grandchild’s name or the age of their children would we use that information? Knowledge of a changed address or Rover’s visit to the vet might provide a good conversation topic or an opportunity to ask further questions. Undoubtedly supporter service teams speak to people everyday who share such information and who would be more deeply engaged with a signatory who treated them like a person – not a donor.

When I checked out of the hotel I had the welcome note in my hand with the intention to ask the concierge how the process worked. Before I was able to broach the subject he asked me: “were you happy with the window in your room, Mr Bailey?” Apparently in a phone conversation three weeks earlier I had mentioned that I prefer a room with a window and this information was available to him the moment I told him my room number. On my third stay I was asked if I needed anything printed ahead of my presentation and if the busy tax appeal workload had eased up yet.

The point to this discussion isn’t that personal engagement is important. For me, the lesson we can learn is in the system employed by the hotel. An emotionally engaging approach needs to be systematically structured to ensure information is collected and used effectively. Team members need to be trained to engage supporters and to intuitively record conversations. And a CEO needs to subscribe to the approach and embrace it.

Most organisations use personalisation in their fundraising - many are very good at it. However, as more charities move into the boutique bracket of emotional engagement, the difference between charity A and charity B will be the information they collect and the way it’s used. If you want a supporter’s experience to stand out from the sauce-stained ties, or for your CEO to mention more than Rover’s name, develop a systematic approach to emotional engagement.

Watching a couple in a cafe on a Sunday morning

He is in absolute command; listening, but waiting for her to finish. The palm of his hand leaves a red impression on his face before it is his turn to tell a story, to share another interesting anecdote. Having already eaten that morning, he orders a slice of cherry pie. She orders a sandwich. Not a good sign for the balance, or indeed the health of this early relationship - he didn’t care enough about the date to avoid spoiling his appetite. She laughs without restraint at the one liners that burgeon from his unkempt face between forkfuls of pie, while she has barely touched her sandwich.

She has been playing out the occasion in her head for the past week: vetting the location, deciding what to eat and what to wear; rehearsing how she would laugh, the stories she would share and at what point in the meeting she would invite him to join her at a beer garden she knows, where they can get to know each other better.

One half of her sandwich will be left, pieces of a torn sugar sachet will be in a neat little pile on his side of the table. At the beer garden, the afternoon sun will go to their heads like champagne as they fuel their inhibitions, and show each other their cards in a game that will end with a proposition, an assertion of their values, intoxicated and vulgar. Her cards are naïve, his deceitful.

Trying not to look at someone famous sitting next to me

How famous does someone need to be before it’s awkward? I feel awkward – does he? I can’t help looking over; I want to know what he is wearing, what he’s has ordered and which coffee he prefers. But I don’t know why...

After 20 years of soap and bleach, Jeremy still has grass stains on his knees


 
There are moments when I can see it in his eyes; he’s convinced he has the worst of it off. But then he’ll look more closely and see they’re still green. His evenings are often spent scrubbing at the skin; scratching at the surface and digging fingernails across pores to provoke a raw, red tinge to his emerald knees.

Good afternoon, Chapel Street

Contrast and colour fills the street. People of every sound and scent navigate the asphalt and concrete. From the over perfumed, to those in body odour denial; from fitness-fetished lycra lads, to the mobility scooter pilots in their ugg boot slippers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an assortment of flavours and personalities. A sense of conviction and identity is intense in every character and it’s worn like a flag as they go about their business on Chapel street.

There are elderly blokes in Akubra hats and wayfarer sunnies. Muscle cars with engines screaming will stop to let them cross and we’ll all hear a few bars of Working Class Man. The down-and-out ask politely for loose change with out-stretched hats and sunny faces. While further down, buskers play El Condor Pasa on wooden flutes

The aroma of espresso seduces the under-caffeinated and over worked. Business suits share tables with rockabilly parents who sip foamy mugs through pierced lips opposite quiff-topped kids. They will choose the environment that best defines them. Skinny tie or fat; skinny laté or flat white. Embracing the culture, I’ll pick another corner café, with another unusual name. The dark timbre of the room will be complemented with unexpected objects moonlighting as décor.

Sharing caffeine addictions and similar upper-inflections in their accents, the pretentious will mix with those who don’t take themselves too seriously; high-visibility vests will sit next to tweed coats; black will rub shoulders with white - and they’ll celebrate Melbourne in the best way they know how.

Flaming galahs


Galahs are everywhere. The air is congested with their shrill, disturbing squawking, and when you walk through the park, you need to be careful not to step on the slower of the flock as they waddle across the grass in search of seed.

There's a serious design fault to the construction of galahs; a problem with their centre of gravity. When the bird takes a step, it leans to one side - but its mass lags behind, so that the next step will always begin before the first foot has taken the majority of the weight. It moves like a confused pendulum.

One evening, I sat and watched a galah at the top of a tree, at the very highest point where a few stray branches stretched up out of the hulk of the trunk. It balanced on the tip of that branch; on a twig that was so small, the bird could only grasp it with a single digit of its cumbersome claw. It swayed and bobbed like a buoy in a storm. Every few seconds it would beat its wings violently to avoid falling from the petite perch.

White galahs are so prevalent they blanket the cricket oval like snow. They dwarf the more attractive pink and grey galahs with both numbers and decibels. They fly awkwardly and wander precariously from one end of the park to the other, filling the sky with strange cries like strangling noises. There are so many that they are now considered a pest. It’s a shame that such an interesting, absurd creature can become common enough to be a nuisance.

A duck waddled through the favela with an SLR

One day, a young woman sat down on the step in front of her doorway to soak up the sun and enjoy the fresh air. It was a Monday, and Monday meant tour day. Each week, a local charity called “don’t be a gringo, be a local” would take tourists through Rocinha favela in Rio de Janiero, right past the young woman’s home. She thought of the organisation with admiration. They contributed to the community through programmes for single parents and their kids. She was always happy to see the tour’s guide, Luiz, who would go out of his way to greet everyone in the street as he passed by with his line of inquisitive tourists.

It was a quiet morning. Some kids played football with an empty Fanta bottle, while nearby, two dogs licked at the water beneath a dripping tap. Absently, she stroked at a cat that rubbed against her denim skirt. She thought about work; in 2 hours she would be dressing tables for the evening’s reservations. Most of the customers in the Copacabana restaurant would be tourists, looking to have a good time by the beach. The young woman took a pair of tweesers from her pocket and a mirror from her purse and began plucking her eyebrows.

Suddenly, out of the very corner of her eye, she noticed a blur of yellow. She turned, and there waddling towards her, wearing nothing but a vest and a pair of flip-flops, was a 5ft yellow duck! The young lady gasped and dropped her tweesers. The cat ran. Shifting awkwardly from one webbed foot to the other and shaking his tail feathers enthusiastically, the duck came closer and closer; his big blue eyes gazed hopefully. “Quack”, said the duck.

What could a duck be doing in Rocinha? What did he want? The young woman was puzzled and a little bit scared, too. And then, to her horror, he lifted the giant camera that hung around his neck and aimed it at her face.

“Click” went the shutter. “Click”, “click”, “click”. It fired like a mouse trap, over and over again. She tried to tell him “no”, but she didn’t speak duck. Out of desperation, the young woman covered her face with her hands.

After taking what seemed to be hundreds of pictures, the duck stepped back, extremely pleased with himself. He let the monstrous camera hang limp around his neck. Behind him, the other tourists filed past as they continued to follow Luiz through the favela. The big yellow duck turned and joined the end of the line without so much as a quack in the young woman’s direction.

Like an animal at the zoo, she felt unclean. She also felt trapped. Next Monday the tour would return and there might be another duck on safari. The young woman sighed and thought of the approaching evening which she would spend serving a restaurant full of ducks.

The monkey enclosure

You will hear them before you see them. They make more noise than any other animal at the zoo. And you’ll smell them too. They’re covered in their own filth and the ground is littered with their waste. They treat everything around them as if its only purpose is to indulge their personal desires. If they behaved like this in their own jungle, they wouldn’t survive.  

Suddenly, they notice us approaching.

Desperate screeching blankets the entire space. They jump up and down with excitement; hands wave back and forth, beckoning companions toward spots where it’s easier to see us. They crane their necks above the crowd to get a better view and the masses at the rear push forward, pressing the backs of those in front. The lucky ones against the barricade poke their hands through the bars and stretch their fingers out to try and touch us as we pass. They shove objects and body parts into our faces and plead with us for attention.

If they could, they would tear us apart with their bare hands and take the pieces home to show all the other monkeys; souvenirs to remind them how they felt while watching us. Anything they don’t want will be left to rot on the ground with the Coke bottles and empty film canisters, as a reminder that the tour stopped here.

The steps at Christ’s feet

The steps leading to the platform are spotless. There isn't a cigarette butt or piece of used gum to be seen and every square inch of concrete is without blemish. Hundreds of tourists are perched on the platform that overlooks the city beneath His gaze. Their oversized shoes make no sound on the ground as they pass the man in the yellow overalls.

The man is using a long-handled dust-pan and brush. He digs at the corners of each step with the worn brush to make sure every last speck is removed. Despite the intense glare of his yellow overalls in the mid-morning sun, the uniform fails to give him any substance against the asphalt grey surfaces, and the tourists don‘t notice him. The man grooms the concrete without complaint as the only witness to his work admires him from 200 ft above.

Like a flock of feeding birds, the tourists chirp back and forth incoherently all over the base of the statue. Camera shutters open and closing send sounds like hands clapping through the air. As the tourists applaud the perfection of the concrete and soap stone, vultures circle overhead in hope of spotting a morsel missed by the cleaners of Corcovado.

Lunch break at a truck stop

It was lunch time, about 4 hours into the trip from Corumba to Campo Grande. The couple in the seats in front of me got off the bus to eat hamburgers. I decided to stay on board and eat crisps. After about 30 minutes or so of gazing through the window and enjoying the quiet time, the driver walked the length of the bus counting passengers’ heads. 60 seconds later, as the bus pulled away, I realised my neighbours weren’t on board. I feel that I almost need to apologise for the first thought that went through my head: “It serves them right. Who has a half-hour lunch without being sure what time the bus is going to leave?”

I looked through the window as we drove out of the car park and I saw them both come out of the cafe. They looked rejuvenated and pleasantly contented. They yawned and stretched. As I watched them, I tried to anticipate the point when their relaxed expressions would turn to apprehension, and then terror. I searched their faces for a sudden realisation and subsequent fear. It didn’t come as I expected. With furrowed brows, opened mouths and arms stretched wide, they posed in expressions of accusation in the direction of the bus as it drove away down the street. Somehow, they felt that their predicament wasn’t their problem. They stood gaping, waiting expectantly for the solution to present itself to them.

I looked around the bus. No one else seemed to notice the event. The couple on the back seat continued to slurp saliva back and forth. And the fuzzy-haired 4 year-old was still making faces at the cowboy 2 seats behind. I put down the half-finished bag of steak flavoured Ruffles, got out of my chair and walked towards the bus driver.

As I stared at the tops of the heads of the couple in front, their chairs fully reclined, skin relaxed on the back of hands that lay strewn over the back of the chair, fat fingers spread sedately over the fabric, I wondered how different their trip would have been if I didn’t tell the driver to go back and get them. They will never know.

Point of view of the man selling packets of tissues on a street corner in La Paz: How to sell

I have a box of things to sell to people as they walk by my corner everyday. I like this corner. There are many different people passing by in many directions. I enjoy watching them. I imagine where they are going and what they will do when they get there.

They are all in a hurry. Most do not notice me on the corner, crouched, looking up at them. They are too occupied with their own concerns. To sell something to a person on the street, you have to take them out of their thoughts. I grab their attention with my voice and I convince them with my words and with my eyes. Always, I must tell them to buy, or they will get distracted and disappear back into their day dreams, with the other people on the swollen street.

I must sell as many things as possible so I can pay for food. If I cannot get enough people to notice me in the day, I will eat nothing in the evening. When the sun goes down, I call to people - loudly. I say: “Tissues! Tissues! Tissues! Look at my tissues! Buy my tissues!” I search the eyes that pass and I hold the packets out to them so they can see the quality. I plead with their starched, blank faces to come out of their thoughts and to notice me; speak to me and buy from me. When I have sold all the packets of tissues in my box, I can go home.

A man selling packets of tissues on a street corner in La Paz

I met a man the other day. I only said two words to him: “cuanta cuesta?” I accepted the price and I bought a pack of 10 facial tissues for $1 Boliviano. He was dark as dusk and his lines absorbed the light of the afternoon so that he lacked a third dimension. His desperation made me ache, but I only had the heart to buy his tissues. I had not the stomach to offer him anything else. And yet, his eyes lit up like fireworks and he accepted me as a friend when I offered him the coin; placing it into his wrinkled hand like it meant something to me - because I knew it meant something to him.

A man at a bus station selling baked goods

There´s a Nike cap on his head and a bum-bag fastened across his body from his shoulder to his hip. He walks with a waltz, as if he is determined not to bend his knees as he moves through the crowded station that is his stage each night. 

He is holding a Victoria sponge cake threateningly towards each person he passes. One by one, he approaches them, he leans in very close, and in a furious voice he bellows a sales pitch at the top of his lungs. Directly into their faces. And though I can´t be sure what he is saying, I could guess some of the adjectives he is using to describe the plastic-wrapped cake:

an irresistible strawberry conserve and cream filling, cushioned between delicately moist sponge
Victoria Sponge
But nobody wants it. Most targets of his awkward gestures pretend not to notice, unwilling to take part in his act. Their ignorance has little effect on his outward countenance, though, I find myself melancholic as I watch his scene. And I begin to imagine the immense sadness that must fill his lungs and which is only masked by consistency. Today is the same as yesterday, and we could see the same performance of the play tomorrow, in which, his part will be to continue without direction.