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Why my latest charity direct mailer went straight in the bin…

This week, my ‘thank you’ package arrived from the charity I signed up to with a door-to-door fundraiser last month, and I’m sorry to say it went straight in the bin.

I have to admit, I was relieved to see it at first as it meant I hadn’t handed over my bank details to a con man. But after that initial relief passed, indifference took over and it was added to the junk mail from cleaners, taxi firms and roofers.

‘There’s £1 of my £8 monthly donation gone down the toilet’, was my shameful thought.

Because I work on Third Sector, I probably understand and appreciate better than many donors that there will always be overhead costs. You can’t give 100% of your donations to the public – it’s impossible. I know that.

But despite knowing that, I still kind of resent the onslaught of direct mail landing on my doorstep from the causes I do and don’t support.

This latest piece of charity literature isn’t the first to be consigned to the recycling pile. The ones from charities I have never had anything to do with are always the first to go – without being opened, I might add.

Next are the charities I used to support but no longer do that are trying to win me back.

After that are the regular updates from the charities that I do support.

It’s a difficult balance to strike. I’d be the first to complain if I didn’t hear anything from them – branding them ungrateful and money-grabbing for taking my donations without acknowledging them.

But I can’t say I’m actually interested in what they have to say. As a natural cynic, I’m surprised to find that I trust they are spending my money wisely. I feel if I wanted to find out what projects they are currently working on I’d go on their website and find out. I don’t need a 20 page handout six times a year.

Now, I’m probably alone in feeling I don’t need regular updates. I’m sure the majority of people actually like them.

But have charities ever thought of just a postcard that says ‘thanks’, with a few pictures showing the work done recently, just once or twice a year? It could direct you online via a QR code for more information if you were that way inclined, and being just a postcard it doesn’t make you think much money was spent on it, or trees cut down for it. You could even allow people to chose this method of update at the outset.

Or even a text? Saying ‘thanks, we’re still working hard, come see our website if you want to see what we’re doing’.

Just a thought.

  • Larry Boyd

    So both getting a thank you and not getting a thank you would annoy you? Typical, I think.

    The key to fundraising and supporter service is figuring out how people want to be communicated to. We have asked our donors on occasion. However I always worry about the donor who says, ‘Hoorah, I’ll tell them to leave me alone’ and then we never hear from them again. If we were big enough, I would setup a trial to see which approach yields the most for the charity.

    I have received letters saying, ‘why are you badgering me, I just sent you a donation’. When I look, their last gift was over two years ago.

    It is complicated. Lots of people don’t have a smartphone and wouldn’t know what to do with a QR (that includes me). Lots do but it won’t save any money to have to set up destination webpages.

    We get lots of phone calls asking for information — we ask for contact details and nearly 20% do not have an email address.

    So new technology doesn’t really make it cheaper to keep in touch with donors. It does make it much more complicated and opens new ways to improve that relationship.

  • Larry Boyd

    So both getting a thank you and not getting a thank you would annoy you? Typical, I think.

    The key to fundraising and supporter service is figuring out how people want to be communicated to. We have asked our donors on occasion. However I always worry about the donor who says, ‘Hoorah, I’ll tell them to leave me alone’ and then we never hear from them again. If we were big enough, I would setup a trial to see which approach yields the most for the charity.

    I have received letters saying, ‘why are you badgering me, I just sent you a donation’. When I look, their last gift was over two years ago.

    It is complicated. Lots of people don’t have a smartphone and wouldn’t know what to do with a QR (that includes me). Lots do but it won’t save any money to have to set up destination webpages.

    We get lots of phone calls asking for information — we ask for contact details and nearly 20% do not have an email address.

    So new technology doesn’t really make it cheaper to keep in touch with donors. It does make it much more complicated and opens new ways to improve that relationship.

  • Michael Naidu

    Hmmm, you say that you don’t want a 20 page handout six times a year. Well, allowing you some leeway to exagerate is fine, but no charity sends out this much info, especially to someone who signed up to a DD on the doorstep.

    What was in the thank you package? It could have been a postcard saying thank you with a QR code linking to info on their website about the good they are doing with your donation. It could even have included a chance for you to tell the charity how you want to be communicated with and how often. But you will never know as you threw it away and the charity will potential waste money because you didn’t tell them. Self fulfilling prophecy really, well done.

    Looking at the analysis done by Adrian Sargent for the Donor Attrition Retention Surevy (DARS) you should expect to receive a telephone call between 6 – 10 months asking you to upgrade your gift. Should make for an “interesting” blog.

    Mike

  • Rupert Tappin

    Valid points – I think as a sector we have got to wake up to the personalisation that our donors now enjoy when they make their commercial decisions…

    Buying anything online these days sees instant confirmation, rapid delivery, good follow-through and surveys checking you’re happy with everything. Whilst over here in the third sector, we send new donors an April newsletter because it’s April, and a Christmas newsletter because it’s Christmas. Precious little that reflects either that you’re very early on in the relationship with the charity, or reflects your preferred communication channel. And donors consequently vote on this experience with their feet (not all, but an increasing amount…).

    Larry puts forward a good hypothesis about giving donors their choice of the frequency with which we communicate with them. As the co-author of the PFRA’s DARS report that Mike refers to in his comment, Adrian Sargeant’s analysis of the payment behaviour of 1.5 million individual F2F donors recruited by 30 charities across 120 campaigns spread over the past six years has shown that if you do this at the beginning of a relationship, you will significantly drive up cancellation rates.

    So it’s down to us to explore ways of confirming to our donors that they have made the right choice, using the right medium, at the right time. Yes, we need to make better use of technology available to us (MMS text messages, video-embedded emails, mobile-optimised landing pages to our website, etc, etc) – all bespoke, to some degree, depending on our donor’s motivation to having made a financial commitment to us in the first place.

    Yes, it’s more complex than sending out a newsletter in the post to all and sundry (which will start to see a renaissance in our donor’s hearts as mail becomes increasingly rarer), but we need to ensure we dynamically adapt to how our donors respond to the messages – who here tracks which donors actually bother to open their e-mailed newsletter: come on, hands up??; the ability to do this has been around for years now.

    We’ve got to play catch-up with the experience’s our donors enjoy in the wider-world, or we risk being side-lined into the virtual bin even more.

  • Charles Cawley

    Politics is a neutral word. It is to do with the way the internal poltical information landscape actually enables the plan of organisation and the business to do its work. The way to deal with negative internal politics is not to dismiss it but to learn how it works and meet it head-on turning politics to the good in the process.

    There are no games in business. If you lose a game you lose little but pride. If you lose in business you can lose your job, your home and marriage. This is no game.

    This is fully described and explained in Corporate Power:

    Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Corporate-Power-Charles-Cawley-ebook/dp/B00GUMODMI#reader_B00GUMODMI

    But we can send you a pdf copy, free of charge. Dealing with this problem and meeting the challenge is very close to my heart.