You don’t divide your friends, so why divide your supporters?

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You don’t divide your friends, so why divide your supporters?

You don’t divide your friends, so why divide your supporters?

Donors have started a revolution. Since 2016, they have changed the way they give, the charities they support and the information they need. At the same time, legacy prospect profiles have changed extensively in recent decades – there is now no such person as a “typical legator”.

Given all these changes, why do charities segment their prospects and donors which, in my opinion, now excludes some of the best legacy prospects?

Perhaps it used to be “Divide and Conquer” your potential. Now is it “Divide and Destroy” your potential?

Listening to supporters

I spend about a third of my time meeting supporters and have done this for 30 years. I never thought I would say what I am about to say: donors and legacy donors in particular, are not the same as they use to be. Years ago, I could almost recognise the type of supporter they were within minutes of meeting them. Now I just find myself addicted to listening and discovering surprising gems.

The donor revolution

Older Donors: They have virtually given up spontaneous giving. They think, they plan and they investigate. They are defining their own journey. They are fed up with being asked; they want freedom of choice. I hardly ever meet a “multiple donor” (say 10 charities). But 5-10 years ago, about 40% gave spontaneously. Older donors are clever, thinking, donors who have worked professionally or are still working past retirement age.

Legators: A few decades ago, 83% were females – almost all single. Now the split is 60% female and 40% male. Now legacies and Wills are talked about by both partners and even their children. Some of the best prospects give £1 week in a lottery, equally good prospects are high net worth individuals. So are retired staff, regular donors, lapsed donors and eventers. We think for years about our legacy because family life and structures are changing. As for volunteers – they will rarely give money, but they do leave legacies.

Segment at your peril

And god forbid you run a “past legator profile” propensity model. Of course, those without a family are great legacy prospects. But wealthy people equally do not want to spoil their children by leaving everything to them. The only “non prospects” for legacies are those who have absolutely nothing to giveaway at death. So do not put them in a segment box before they get in one. The only excuse to segment is if your charity is huge and has 40,000 pledgers, 40,000 enquirers and 1 million supporters. Response levels to any legacy communication will depend NOT on the status of the supporter but the current lifestyle, state/stability of the family, retirement ambitions and state of health let alone holiday ambitions. These details are not on your donor base – but if they are then god help you!  

Propensity to receive model

Because there is so much thought about giving – especially a legacy – these investigators do very specific research into who should receive their legacy. They ask intelligent questions:

  • What is the long-term vision of the charity?
  • Is it a charity that I want to benefit from my gift?
  • What are their reserves?
  • How well do they spend their money?
  • What impact have they had in recent years?
  • Are there any tax benefits?

Once they are happy, they then consider their family circumstances and think about the best type of gift – which might not be a gift in a Will. It might be an alternative death time gift – from their pension scheme, live insurance, stocks and shares.

From the past to the future

I started in fundraising 40 years ago. 38 years ago, when at the Order of St John we did our first ever acquisition direct mail campaign for donations. We researched segments and profiles (as much as we could then) and got a response of (wait for it!) over 11%. And it wasn’t just a one-off! One campaign (smaller) got 14% and another 8% (which we thought was really bad). Can you imagine this now? You will be lucky to get 1%.

In my view, donors have changed far faster than fundraisers. We need to play catch-up.

Friendship is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don't have trust, the friendship will crumble.

It is time we stopped calling donors ‘donors’ and started calling them friends and treating them as such – with equal trust and respect by letting them choose the way they want to give.

Written by Richard Radcliffe, FinstF Cert. Founder of Radcliffe Consulting. Richard has met over 29,000 donors volunteers and service users. He has trained thousands of people to talk about legacies and developed every type of legacy strategy possible. He received the Lifetime Contribution to Fundraising Award from the Institute of Fundraising in 2018.   

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