Should we chase replies?

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I’ve been pondering recently on the pros and cons of chasing people for replies when it comes to fundraising. Should we as fundraisers be assessing how many times is too many times when it comes to chasing? Should we chase for donations at all? Is it OK to ask for money more than once per appeal? Does the platform make a difference in your approach in terms of email vs phone?

I recently had a very successful Christmas appeal, which raised x3 our original target. I did choose to chase donations for this direct mail appeal with two follow up emails and we did see an increase in response rates after chasing. However, I did have one donor write to me, asking me not to chase in the future, as he personally takes time to decide if he will give and doesn’t like to feel pressured.

He did choose to make a gift, but from now on, I will make sure he is excluded from any ‘chasers’ that I send. IF I decide to send any!

Just because something creates a more desirable result (increased income), does that make it the right path? Could we be alienating our donors by pushing them too much? Or, do they appreciate the reminder in their busy lives? Is it ok to send them a chaser email if the original appeal was postal?

As many of you know, I am a big believer in treating donors how they deserve to be treated (as the heroes that they are!) and making sure they know how much their support is appreciated. I am also a very big advocate of #donorlove, especially in the form of hand-written thank you cards. So, by chasing donors that I usually treat so well, am I ruining the work I have done? Or am I simply doing what I need to do to achieve good results?

Do you have any experience of good or bad results after chasing an appeal? I would LOVE to hear from you as I am certainly questioning the practice of chasing.

It’s time for charities to focus on their staff as well as beneficiaries – A guest blog by Lizzi Hollis

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I think we can all agree that charities are great. Our causes support our next door neighbours; people in the furthest corners of the planet; they help animals; conserve environments and enable all sorts of scientific discoveries. Without charities and the people that run them the world would be a darker, unhappier and far less healthy place and yet, are our organisations dedicating as much to the well-being of their employees as they do their beneficiaries? In many cases, the answer is sadly no.

Whether it is maternity pay, flexible working, staff benefits or understanding of mental health issues, our organisations are often not equipped to support their people with the same dedication they do beneficiaries. The problem with this is, that without a happy, supported work force, our charities simply cannot continue to do the awesome work they set out to.

Through the group I run, Charity Women, it has come to my attention that most charities do not offer their female employees more than statutory maternity pay, making the prospect of starting a family a financially stressful time, particularly if the woman in question is the main bread-winner. A significant reduction in pay for a prolonged period can be off-putting and in some cases feel like a punishment for daring to have both a career and family.

It goes the same way for men too, many of whom, at the arrival of a new child want to take some time to get to know the newest member of their family. Many organisations do not offer proper paternity leave and often do not recognise the male as an equal member of the household when it comes to childcare and parental responsibilities.

Development of staff is also a really important aspect that can be overlooked. If our charities are working towards, say skills building or educational opportunities for beneficiaries, then this must also be extended to staff. Even for organisations where money is tight, options can be found for development. The FSI is a great place to start if you’re a small charity, they offer free and significantly subsidised training opportunities for almost all income streams and all over the UK. The IOF First Thursday events are worth going to and if you’re a member the cost is only £5 (£10 for non member) and are an opportunity to learn and network in a relaxed environment. The IOF also offer a number of bursaries for individuals from smaller charities to be able to attend their Annual Fundraising Convention.

As fundraisers ourselves we should also be looking out for affordable development opportunities. Twitter, Fundraising Chat, CharityConnect and Dawn Newton’s Charity Meet Up page on Facebook are all good places to start and cost nothing to be a part of.

Some charities have already nailed it and we should be looking to them for encouragement. Girlguiding in particular have perfected practicing what they preach – for example they offer no statutory maternity leave and for the first 20 weeks offer 100% of normal salary to employees. As an organisation dedication to the progression of girls and women it is refreshing to see them extending the same support to their female employees.

My own organisation, Independent Age, is dedicated to people development and I delighted to say I have never been denied a training opportunity if it will maximise my development. Even at the comfort of my desk I can contribute to my own learning through our Charity Learning Consortium, where I can do anything from honing my IT skills to career planning.  We have an Employee Forum Group that is run solely for the benefit of the staff and discusses things like our induction process and staff benefits.

By giving our charity employees opportunities to grow, progress and feel valued we will create a much happier workforce and grow retention, meaning we can hold on to the most talented and dedicated team members. In the long run this will actually save our organisations money and create the best outcomes for our beneficiaries. It’s a win-win situation and is something we should all be thinking about.

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Lizzi is a corporate fundraiser and feminist. Founder of Charity Women and believer of bringing your authentic self to work. Follow @LizziHollis on Twitter for opinions, retweets of great thought pieces and pictures of cats.

Cultivation pays

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Quite smugly, I admit, I am reporting that this year I project managed my organisations most successful Christmas appeal of all time. And (again smugly) I report that money is still coming in and currently we have raised more than triple our original target.

Was it a ground-breakingly original campaign? No.

Did we get hundreds of new donors? No.

Was it more expensive and higher quality than previous appeals? No.

Was it a hugely different format to previous appeals? No.

So how, you may be wondering, did it become such a successful campaign?

The answer, quite simply is; Cultivation and engagement throughout the year. Over the last two years I have taken our donors and members from being, un-cultivated and disengaged to informed, engaged and supportive!

I strongly believe that the success of this Christmas appeal can be accredited to taking measures to really nurture donor relationships throughout the year.

How did I do this? Well, here is a list;

  • Hand-writing thank you letters to ALL donors (no matter the size of gift)
  • Reporting back to donors after the appeal to tell them what their money made possible
  • Inviting donors to non-ask events, which allow them to find out more about our work without feeling the pressure to give
  • Personalising comms!
  • Training the CEO in thank-you phone calls and ensuring time is set aside to call all major donors promptly after gifts are made
  • Training Trustees on what it means to be ‘involved in fundraising’ and ensuring these actions are carried out
  • Remembering that donors are people and they appreciate being treated like friends, not ATMs

If you have a fundraising resolution this year, make it cultivation, because cultivation and engagement pay off with long-term, loyal donors.