They’ve opted in to receive communications from you, now how do you inspire them to take action? Follow these excellent tips from Mandy Johnson
Have you ever felt frustrated by the number of people who have opted in to hear from your charity and then fail to take further action? You’re not alone. With so many charities fighting for attention, you’ve already done a great job if you’ve got someone new to sign up to hear more. So first, give yourself a pat on the back. Then, try some of the tips below to get those new recruits taking action.
1. Tell your supporters why you are ‘AWESOM’
At the early stages of your relationship, you are unlikely to know much about your new supporters, their drivers and motivations. Answering the following five questions in your initial communication(s) will help to ensure you are giving every type of person a reason, or multiple reasons, to take action:
- APPEAL: What are you appealing for? Your charity’s mission and vision is often not enough, so be specific: tell your new supporters the immediate outcomes that could be achieved through their actions.
- WINNING: Are your supporters’ actions going to help the charity win or achieve its short-term goals? Most supporters don’t want to contribute to a big, generic piggybank – they want to know they are giving to something that is likely to create change sooner rather than later.
- EMOTION: How will they feel after they take action? Emotion drives action more than anything else. Feeling like their actions will make a difference can provide relief to emotions such as anger, empathy, sympathy or maybe even guilt. Think about how you can help your supporters use these emotions to drive positive change.
- STORY OF: Who will I be helping? People support real people – not numbers or statistics, so try and tell the story of the type of beneficiary your new supporters will be helping…or even better, get them to tell the story for you. I often find that ‘David and Goliath’-type stories can be the most effective. In other words, highlight stories of individual beneficiaries who may be perceived as the underdog and show how your charity, and its supporters, can help fight against the situation or institution that is putting them in that position.
- MOMENT: Why should I take action now? Including deadlines or moments of urgency will encourage supporters to act sooner, rather than later. This is worth planning into your timelines – think about external events that can answer the “why now?” question and give you a reason to reach out and ask your supporters for help.
2. Provide regular updates…with regular actions
I speak to many charities who are scared of contacting their supporters too often, or asking for too much. This is a very healthy way of thinking, but annual research conducted by M R has shown that the more you keep your supporters updated about how their actions are making a difference, the more engaged they become. In fact, M R’s report in 2014 demonstrated that the more emails a charity sends, the more the overall unsubscribe rate decreases. Communicating with supporters too little, perhaps with a generic, quarterly e-newsletter, can be when your communications start to feel like spam.
Similarly, the more actions supporters take for you, the more they will take in the future. This is known as the “Ben Franklin Effect”. Franklin was an 18th Century scientist who recognised that getting someone to do a favour increased their propensity to do more for you. The key here is to ensure that you are providing your supporters with meaningful actions that are not always connected to a financial ask. Can they write something on Facebook, watch a video or share their opinion? Shelter is particularly good at this – if you want proof, and are are prepared to be inspired into action, sign up for their emails.
Asking supporters to take regular actions keeps them close to your cause, gives you a reason to thank them frequently and also allows you to track those who are taking actions and those who aren’t, which brings me onto tip three...
3. Segment by actions taken
Most charities hope that the new supporters joining their charity will become regular givers. It is a fundraiser’s job to move new recruits up the donor pyramid.
Supporters will always move at different speeds, and some will need more coaxing than others. This is where segmenting your supporter base can be a really useful skill.
Many charities segment their supporter base by personal characteristics such as age, gender or location, but I have seen great results from organisations who segment by behaviours and actions taken. The first time I saw this really work was with Global Justice Now (formerly WDM). The charity piloted segmenting their email list based on the previous action taken by each supporter, and through doing so, they doubled their income compared to the average income taken from previous online campaigns.
To apply this to your charity’s emails: until someone has taken their first non-financial action for you, do not try asking them for a cash gift, and until they have given their first cash gift, do not try and move them straight into regular giving.
By moving people up the pyramid at their own pace, they are likely to stay with you for longer, as the below diagram shows. 4. Test everything –and act on the results
The reason I'm in love with digital channels as a method of fundraising is that it is so easy to quickly collate the data that shows what works and what doesn’t. At a very basic level, you can test the subject line of every email before sending it out to your full database. This will ensure that you are sending something that makes people open it, and then take action. There is no point having an email with a great open rate if it then does not drive the action that you intend. Similarly, you are wasting time including a highly engaging action in an email that nobody reads. If you test everything before distributing at mass scale, then you give yourself the best chance of success.
I find that the trickiest bit of testing is accepting the results and acting on them. If an email is not driving the action you would like, then do not send it out to more people – accept it does not have the desired or expected result, and try something new. It is the bravest, but most successful fundraisers, who are able to listen to the data, accept that campaigns do not always engage people in the way that we hoped, and move on quickly.
I hope these four simple tips help get your supporters taking more actions for your organisation, and look forward to hearing the results. If you’d like to carry on the discussion feel free to contact me via Twitter – @MsMandyJ
Mandy Johnson is director of partnerships at Change.org