The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

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What to focus on now to increase fundraising momentum

This 6th May, Rob Woods, Fundraising Trainer, Author and Coach hosted a webinar to showcase how fundraisers can have more valuable conversations with their high-value supporters.

At a time when charity income is more pressing than ever, how can you ensure your charity is getting rewarded for the hard work you do all year round?

Change your focus

Rob kicked off his discussion by asking fundraisers, ‘what do the best car salespeople focus on?’

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the best salespeople concentrate on ‘how many cars have we sold’. Actually, the best performing salespeople focus on ‘how many test drives have we had’.

Test drives are crucial. Why?

1. Test drives are what gets the customer to buy

2. They help the salesperson’s morale, persistence and confidence because they’re offering a nice thing. This allows them to be less pushy, reduces stress levels and allows them to have better conversations with potential buyers.

While, as a fundraiser, you can’t offer test drives to supporters, the same concept can be applied, by looking at the things you can affect that are ‘nice-to-haves’, which in the long (and often short) term, can increase donations.

Increasing fundraiser morale

In recent times we’ve all learnt the importance of virtual cups of coffee, catch ups and even events for positive mental wellbeing, motivation and progress. Like test drives, virtual cups of coffee, where you aim to find out about your supporters’ feelings, interests and viability for support can increase custom, as well as fundraiser morale, creativity and confidence, because you‘re not asking for anything.

So, get as many virtual cups of coffee as you can. By increasing your conversations with supporters, particularly through the pandemic, you:

-        Help the person you call by showing your support and appreciation to them

-        Help yourself – because you feel good by doing it

-        Increase the chance of gifts in the long and short term by maintaining relationships

James Wright, Sue Ryder, used this strategy in contacting every single runner raising money for them during the London Marathon on the day the event was cancelled. While initial fundraising is delayed, every runner James spoke to agreed to still run and raise money when the event does happen, showing that all is not lost and that conversations lead to support.

Centre Point adopted a similar strategy, making outbound calls to people already giving £15 a month. Their usual uplift return rate for this tactic is 19%. However, during the pandemic, this return rate lifted to 29% - nearly 1 in 3! One donor even asked the charity to set up a further conversation where they committed to giving a £5000 lump sum which otherwise would never have happened.

Rob at this point reminded listeners of the quote:

‘Evil does not over-power good. Good is not stronger than evil, but the active absolutely displaces the passive’.

There’s no guarantee that you will get extra support by calling your high-value supporters, but on the whole engaging with them usually pays back in some way.

Getting their attention

Your outcome right now quite simply is to turn your call into a conversation. If you’ve tried getting hold of supporters before to no avail, use the 4 m’s model below to get creative on how to get there.

1. Change the Messenger: Who is contacting them? You? Your chief exec? Your trustees? Whoever it is, switch this up and see what happens.

2. Change the Medium: If your usual method of contact is call, email or Whatsapp  why not try something new like a video call, Facebook live or even a letter?

Earthwatch sent out 400 letters to previous supporters, who they hadn’t contacted since 2014, offering them the chance to share their stories of going on expeditions with them. 50 said yes, and 40 have already had Zoom calls to do so. While this might not be direct money, the relationship is being rebuilt.

3. Speak to different Motivations: What feeling or image do your supporters identify with? Can you speak in a way that’s more personal to them? One woman included an image of herself with her cats when emailing her supporters – more personal and for cat lovers she found this went down really well!

4. Change the Message: Charity supporters like the inside track of what it takes to help charities during COVID and beyond. Could you make it easier for your supporters to see your charity through a virtual event that allows them to chat to people on the ground? Animals Asia and Greenpeace have both had great success with this.

Holding their attention

Now you’ve got a hold of them, how can you make your calls with supporters more enjoyable and engaging for all parties?

1. Manage your state

When talking to supporters, non-verbal signals make a massive difference as if people can’t see you, they pay much more attention to the quality of your voice so it’s down to you to convey true feeling and sincerity when connecting with them.

A way to do this might be to exercise in the morning to put yourself in a more positive, energised headspace. Another way is through power posing, found to increase testosterone levels by 20%, making you feel positive and bold, and reduce cortisol levels by 25% to calm you. See this TED talk on power posing.

2. Tune into your purpose

Engaging supporters won’t happen by talking about the running of your charity and the money behind it. Your supporters want to know the stories that show how their donations make a difference. So tell real stories that give sense of who they’re helping. It’s these that lift people’s motivations to continue to give.

3. Manage your focus

Pick up the phone because you care about your supporters, not because you want their money. The energy you convey should be ‘give not go’. While gifts might not flow instantly, this should help retain them in the long run.

4. Know what to say

Explain why you’re calling, ‘I wanted to check in and ask how you’re doing’ - and really listen and ask questions before you go into what your charity is doing. ‘I want to let you know what’s tough for our beneficiaries right now and what we’re doing to help them.’ 

For more information on increasing your fundraising momentum now, and how to have more meaningful conversations with your supporters, check out our free webinar with Consider Creative on Communications in the time of COVID-19. You can also check out Ben’s guide, Power Through the Pandemic.

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