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How Cancer Research UK is nurturing the relationship with mid value donors

Millie Perret, Cancer Research UK nurturing the relationship with mid value donors

Millie Perrett shares how the world’s leading cancer research charity is engaging with mid value supporters in order to demonstrate their impact on the cause and increase their investment


“I give £2 a month because that’s what you asked for. I could do more, absolutely, but you just haven’t asked or told me what it would do, and I suppose I just haven’t thought about it.”


In 2016, the mid value team at Cancer Research UK ran a significant piece of supporter insight. We spoke to people who were currently giving to us at mid value level (between £250 and £10,000 a year) as well as those who weren’t. We tried to understand what they needed from us in order to remain engaged, feel inspired to invest more in our life saving work and to truly feel appreciated for the incredible difference they make. We learnt that there was a huge amount of passion for our cause, and that if we develop meaningful relationships on our supporters’ terms – and ask in the right way for the right thing – we can raise more funds to beat cancer sooner.


Bridging the gap


Let’s be clear. 90% of the gifts that Cancer Research UK receives are £10 or under. The impact of people giving below mid value level is incredible. But we know that there are people who are able and willing to give more and who gain real fulfilment from making a significant financial investment in our work. These people can get lost in the gap between individual giving and major donor teams, leaving their needs unmet so we either lose their support or don’t receive it in the first place. Focusing on what they need and want from us, and giving them an appropriate journey, has huge potential.


At Cancer Research UK, we’ve had a loyalty programme for people giving at mid value level for a long time. And we’ve seen how we can further engage people giving £250 or more through our events, bespoke mailings and relationship fundraising. But we don’t want to be complacent. Recently we launched a new strategy for mid value fundraising that reflects the ambition we have in this space – based on the insight we gained from our recent supporter research.


We’re now in the middle of a year of robust testing and learning, seeking to understand the ways in which we can inspire people to start giving at this very significant level. We’ve set about developing a journey that is truly focused on what our donors want, and which is constantly evolving as we gain more insight. Our volumes are high; so the biggest challenge has been to understand how we can deliver a tailored, bespoke journey and build genuine relationships.


Encouraging further investment


We recently tested our new strategy by asking some of our current supporters if they would consider giving a gift of £25 a month. It’s too early for official results but we had some wonderful, interesting conversations with people who called us having received our letter.


Because of that, we’ve learnt more about our donors, their stories, their reasons for supporting us and what they gain from giving than we could have hoped. We’ve had people thank us for offering them the opportunity to make a difference in the way that we proposed. We’ve had donors write personal letters to our researchers, voicing their admiration and sharing stories and connections. We’re building those relationships every day, bringing people closer to the impact they’re having – and they’re investing both financially and emotionally.


Understanding supporters’ needs


In October, I spoke about mid value fundraising at a conference. At the end, we asked delegates to write down one thing that they would do as a result of our session, and one thing they would stop doing. A significant number of people wrote that they would start by speaking to the people who supported their charity at mid value level to really understand what they need in order to feel appreciated and remain engaged. It sounds so simple, but mid value programmes can fall into a gap when it comes to insight because there are too many donors to operate a truly bespoke model, like major gift fundraising, and too few for robust split tests and direct mail science that mass fundraising allows. This was a trap that Cancer Research UK had fallen into, basing the strategy for the majority of the people in our programme on insights from the few who we had a personal relationship with.


When we spoke to a broader, more representative group of our supporters, we found that many of our assumptions had been wrong. This is one of the pieces of advice that I give to charities thinking of starting or revamping their mid value offering: talk to your supporters. The insight work we do continually surprises us, and because of it we’ve built a stronger programme than we could have a boardroom.  


Building that lifelong commitment


I’m the founder and chair of a cross-charity mid value group. Something that always gets asked at the meetings we have is the range of gifts that different charities consider to be mid value. There’s always a huge variation, and often charities who are thinking about setting up a mid value programme get stuck at this first hurdle, almost paralysed by the range of options. My advice is that, in many ways, this matters very little. The core principle of mid value fundraising is that there are people who can and will give you a significant amount of money if you treat them in the right way and invest in building relationships. These relationships will build into a lifelong commitment, and the journey that you take them on will be hugely valuable in many ways, for both your supporters and their beneficiaries.


Millie Perrett is mid value lead at Cancer Research UK

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