How Send a Cow used targeted and measurable face-to-face fundraising to engage new donors
Send a Cow is a sustainable development charity working in seven countries across Africa. Its vision is a world without poverty and malnutrition. Established by West Country farmers 22 years ago, the charity’s heritage lies in agriculture. It helps African families attain food and livelihood security, by developing strong community groups and sustainable agricultural systems.
Send a Cow provides training, livestock, seeds and ongoing support to families, which enables them to make the most of the land and resources they already have. As a result, families are happier, children are educated and homes are improved. In turn, these families pass on young livestock, seeds and training to others. This ‘pass on’ principle means that even more people are given an opportunity to develop their skills, which fosters greater confidence and respect within their communities.
Send a Cow launched its first regular giver plan, Family Friend, in 2008. It was initially marketed to the charity’s existing supporter base, but within a year we recognised that future growth needed to focus on the acquisition of new financial supporters.
In 2009, we established some key priorities for our marketing activities over the next three years. These included:
- Building and diversifying voluntary income streams; and
- Building and protecting our brand reputation.
We decided to explore the viability of recruiting committed givers through face-to-face fundraising. However, we were wary about potential donor attrition rates and the level of investment required for a small charity such as ours to make such a project a success. For that reason, we decided to work with an agency, Home Fundraising, on the management of our door-to-door fundraising campaign. Home worked to a unique business model, whereby fundraising staff were employed directly, with clear accountability to the charity. This was an important factor in our decision to work with Home.
The campaign was the first of its kind undertaken by Send a Cow and its success was crucial in securing further investment in donor acquisition. Home offered contractual guarantees around donor attrition levels and established influential (and measureable) key performance indicators, which helped to mitigate the risks outlined at the outset of the campaign.
The objectives were succinct and clear:
- To test door to door as a recruitment medium for Send a Cow;
- To test donor response to a fixed £10 per month ask level;
- Generate feedback on Send a Cow’s proposition;
- Raise awareness of Send a Cow’s niche approach to development;
- Assess responses from different geographical areas, both close to Send a Cow’s base in the south west and in other parts of the UK; and
- Achieve necessary return on marketing investment, with low complaint levels
Other non-quantitative points for measurement included analysing how the campaign integrated with our existing donor recruitment channels and assessing the success of the working relationship with a new supplier (Home). To date the financial results have met or exceeded targets and we have been happy with our ongoing collaboration with the agency.
Engaging potential supporters
In a campaign like this, the ask is not a quick pitch. It takes time to explain our mission and working practices to prospective donors, so we adopted a six-step approach to our face-to-face communication. This included a detailed explanation of the cause. This enabled our unique selling points to be communicated clearly and effectively at the outset of the relationship with our donors.
Send a Cow’s community fundraiser manager, David Turner, was a key member of the launch team and believes that effective fundraising staff training was a crucial element to the successful recruitment campaign.
“The campaigners read literature, tables and stats about our work, which gave them good academic knowledge,” he says. “My role was to share what I had seen over the past 20 years of visiting the projects in Africa. In particular, I focused on the human stories that had touched my heart and illustrated very clearly how people’s lives had been changed – not just by having more to eat or by generating more wealth. We also shared how beneficiaries have grown in self-esteem and confidence. One such example is an anecdote from one of the farmers we have helped, who said, ‘I may still be considered poor but I am no longer a beggar’.”
By communicating our success stories we hoped to touch the hearts of the campaigners as well. We wanted them to feel that their pitch had an element of advocacy and individuality. Also, they needed to be confident that they are not just presenting a sales ask out of a generic manual.
Fundraisers were supported at the doorstep with a range of fully bespoke complimentary material, including Send a Cow welcome packs and branded clothing. The training ensured that the messages communicated by fundraisers at the doorstep were reinforced through introductory materials and welcome call scripting.
This robust welcome programme enabled us to monitor feedback from new donors and assess how the face-to-face fundraising proposition could be improved. Comments from the research were then communicated to fundraising managers in the field. Home, with input from Send a Cow staff, also facilitated the appropriate refresher training sessions, to ensure that donor feedback was used to its full advantage.
The strong data capture rates and donor profile also suggested that supporters acquired through this campaign would respond well to telephone upgrade activity. As a result these new recruits were included in our telemarketing uplift campaign, which had a 24 per cent success rate.
Feedback from our supporters showed that once they had signed up to Family Friend they appreciated the regular e-mail updates and communication on how their family groups were progressing.
Planning and development
Send a Cow’s fundraising manager formed a close partnership with the dedicated Home client services team to develop the fundraising proposition for the doorstep and all supporting materials.
Given the economic climate, the fixed rate ask of £10 pr month could be viewed as a risk. Therefore, it was essential that fundraiser training and location targeting focused on the appropriate middle-income areas of high-density housing – which had not been over-harvested by previous door-to-door activity. This ensured that we were given the maximum opportunity to access a suitable audience of potential donors.
Feedback and weekly results from each of the regions are closely monitored to enable the proposition to be developed and improved. Frequent training updates also help to build a strong bond between Send a Cow and the fundraisers representing the charity.
Approximately five months into the campaign, we performed some external profile analysis on those new recruits who remained active and those who had cancelled. We found that while we had recruited a higher percentage of younger supporters, they were more likely to cancel early after activating a new direct debit. This information has helped us to refine our targeting by postcode areas.
Why funding is so important
Every year we rely heavily on the generosity of our supporters to sustain our programmes in Africa through voluntary donations.
We are currently working with more than 18,000 families and over the next five years we are planning to increase our reach to help 35,000 more leave poverty behind. A strong regular giving base, delivered through schemes such as Family Friend, will be key to this expansion.
David Smith is fundraising manager at Send a Cow
Sam Lucking is an account director at Home Fundraising www.homefundraising.com
11 Tips for Effective Doorstep Fundraising
Some dos and don’ts for doorstep fundraising, based on key lessons learnt during Send a Cow’s face-to-face programme.
- Do consider what type of donors you would like to recruit and work with your agency to build a targeting strategy. What can be learnt from your current donor file? Is the ask value and proposition suitable to the audience you would like to bring on board?
- Do consider your charity’s strengths when developing your proposition and fundraiser pitch. Be honest about what you do and be clear about your donor development programme. Can you support your ask with facts and stats about your cause? How can the messages you use to excite your new donors be supported in your ongoing communications?
- Do get to know your agency. Collaborate with its account teams and operations staff. Get to know its business model and how it does things. The better your campaign works for the agency, the better it will work for your charity.
- Do invest in your fundraisers by training them well. Show your commitment and sincerity in the training. Be interesting and memorable, stick to the point (your proposition), draw on case studies and compelling stories and make it visually interesting. Make sure you regularly review your campaign, monitor your results, learn, develop and plough your energies back into the fundraiser training. Train, train and train again.
- Do develop materials for your new donors that are specific to their needs and tie them in with your proposition. Give them a warm heartfelt welcome and thank you. Now you have them on board the hard work starts, to build loyalty and develop the relationship. So, make that initial communication as special as possible.
- Do reward your fundraisers with praise and recognition. Make them feel like they are part of your organisation and that you care about them. It’s a tough job, especially in winter, so make them a certificate or buy them a warm hat.
- Don’t be boring. Face-to-face fundraisers are communicators – they will pick up on your enthusiasm and passion for the cause and translate it into their conversations with potential donors. Do your best to predict questions, but don’t be worried if you don’t know all the answers about your organisation. You can fill in the gaps after the training. It’s more important to gain the enthusiasm of your fundraisers.
- Don’t let opportunities to communicate with your donors pass you by. An advance notice letter is required by law when setting up a direct debit, but view it as another opportunity to say something special and engage your donors too.
- Don’t forget to brief your internal departments. It’s important that your supporter services and other key stakeholders are aware of the activity. If you have shops, make sure they recieve a list of postcodes where you will fundraise in their local area – they will often be the first port of call in a community. Brief your supporter services to objection handle. If your donors phone to cancel, it’s better to reduce their gift or take a payment holiday, rather than just say goodbye.
- Don’t be surprised if you get a complaint. For every one donor you bring on board, there will have been potentially hundreds of doors closed. Just by sheer scale, it’s likely a member of the public will object to being asked for money, so be ready for it and clear with the facts. Door to door is an extremely cost-effective way of fundraising.
- Don’t let your new donors be passive when they come on board. Involve them. Ask them for their opinions and even complaints. Encourage them to give feedback or invite them to do something non-financially orientated on your behalf.