Communicating with donors: getting it right

I have just read an interesting article in Third Sector, outlining new research that indicates that more than half of adults would stop donating to a charity if they were contacted too much. (You can read the full article here)

The article reminded me of a charity (that shall remain nameless) that I stopped my regular donation to many years ago. I’d started donating in response to an appeal leaflet, but as I was a student I could only afford to give £5 a month. Not much, but better than nothing I thought.

But then the post started arriving – glossy ‘update’ magazines, fliers, special appeals, free gifts. Something seemed to hit my doormat every other week. They were clearly targeting me to increase my monthly donation, but in the end I got offended that they must value my £5 so little that they were prepared to spend more than I donated on sending me bumf. So first I asked for no more post. When this didn’t work I stopped my donation and asked to be removed from their mailing list.

On the other end of the scale, the organisation who never contacts their donors is clearly going too far the other way. So how to strike a balance?

My personal headline tips for working this out (and it is an individual process – one organisation’s donors are unlikely to have the same needs as all other organisations’)

  1. Give donors options about what they’d like to receive. Include an option to only receive your newsletter, or to only receive an annual update.
  2. Remember all the different media available to you. Try to capture who would rather be contacted by email, or Facebook, or Twitter or so-on. And use these sensibly – you are sharing the space with communications from friends and family. No one wants to see their inbox/timeline/Twitter feed completely full of inane ramblings from one organisation so they can’t see other updates. The other big advantage of new media is that you can easily monitor its success (we have some free training on this on 10th May) and see how many people are reading and engaging with you. (Although I’d hesitate before abandoning post altogether, even with the rate-rise – there is a lot of ‘noise’ in the online world to potentially drown you out).
  3. Be a secret squirrel. I’ve said this before and no-doubt I’ll say it again. The single most useful way to gain information is from other organisations. So donate to a few, sign up for information from some others and make a note of what happens next.

You might also be interested in our publication ‘The Art of Raising Money’, written by Ian Bruce CBE, who is the leading expert in using marketing theory cleverly to improve your fundraising and income generation.

Any other quick tips or experiences? Share them below!

Rosaline Jenkins, NCVO Sustainable Funding Officer

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Ros is NCVO's lead in Sustainable Funding, promoting a more sustainable, suitable and strategic approach to generating income of all kinds - donations, grants, contracts and trading. @RosJTweets

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