How closely do you work with your fundraising colleagues?

Last week, we were delighted to support the launch of the outputs from the Commission on the Donor Experience. A vast body of resources that includes 28 projects, 526 ideas for change and 250 case histories, it aims to transform fundraising and to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money.

This isn’t just something of value to fundraisers, it is an important resource for charity comms professionals also.

Indeed, the Donor Commission is urging charity PR teams and agencies to work more closely with fundraising colleagues to ensure more effective and engaging charity comms that meet the needs and expectations of supporters.

This is important for a number of reasons:

Research conducted by the Commission on the Donor Experience shows that the quality of fundraising activities can be very inconsistent, with people reporting varying degrees of positive and negative experiences.

For example, in a survey of 1,040 people conducted in partnership with Qualtrics, they found that while 90% of respondents had an example of a ‘best experience’ (such as being thanked sincerely, being respected when they say no and understanding the difference they had made), some 87% had an example of a ‘worst experience’ (usually feelings of harassment, being pestered, asked to give more than they can afford and/or guilt at not being able to give more).

In addition, the research highlighted the value of offering donors choice over how and when charities contact them. Currently, only 54% of respondents said that the charities they support allow them to choose how or when they hear from them, but when questioned further indicated that being kept informed on their own terms would positively affect their overall experience, and could increase the likelihood of them giving again and/or giving more.

The findings from the research were backed up further by the results of a focus group, conducted in partnership with YouGov, which found that:

Participants were quick to report stories about charities that they had heard in the media. Most of these stories painted the charities in a negative light, concentrating on bad practice that in some way related to spend (often around staff salaries) or an aggressive or inappropriate fundraising technique.

Participants felt that there was an over reliance on emotional language and appeals that are perceived to manipulate potential donors into giving. That said, participants did understand why charities behave this way, but it often left them powerless, upset or frustrated when they were unable to donate. The focus on such messages should become the beneficial power of the charity, rather than the gravity of the problem.

The ability to tailor communications to donor choice seemed to be missing, and also seemed to be an unmet need. This would provide both an opportunity for donors to ‘opt-out’ of receiving communications and an opportunity for the charity to demonstrate that it is listening and wants its supporters to have a say in the relationship.

There are loads of ways in which Charity PR teams can support better fundraising. For example, by working with your fundraising colleagues on creative ideas for communicating the positive impact of the work charities do; or by seeking out the authentic voices of your most committed supporters and beneficiaries, and empowering them to talk freely on their charity’s behalf.

And of course, we all recognise the value of helping fundraising colleagues better understand and work more closely and effectively with journalists.

It is possible that you are one of the lucky ones and already work really closely with your fundraising colleagues or that you’re a multi-talented superstar and deliver both comms and fundraising for your organisation.

Or perhaps you have tried to work more closely with fundraisers but have found it challenging and would like some help.

Either way, we would love to hear your stories and ideas about how comms can be used to deliver a brilliant experience for all charity supporters.

You can see a sample of the coverage about the Commission here: