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Study finds off-the-page fundraising didn't mention the recession

The fourth annual review of off-the-page fundraising, The Tick Box Report 2011, has found that many charities have not used the recession and its impact as a theme in their adverts, loose inserts and mailshots during 2010-2011.
The Tick Box Report 2011, published this week by advertising, marketing and communications consultant Andrew Papworth, studies current practice in the use of the techniques in direct, off-the-page fundraising. The first such studies were carried out in 1990 and 2005 and they have been annual since 2008. The new report is based on an analysis of 185 ads, loose inserts and mailshots which appeared during 2010-2011 from 93 organisations.
“I was amazed” said Papworth “that there was not a single example where a charity had made the case for extra support because public sector cuts and the squeeze on disposable incomes had increased the need for their services whilst reducing their income. It’s as if the recession hadn’t happened and the Big Society con-trick was just a nasty dream.”
The only possible evidence he could find of charities responding to the tough economic climate was a tendency to reduce the entry point of the amounts asked for but to reduce even more sharply the tops of the ranges of asks. He acknowledges that reducing the entry point makes sense, but not the top range asks: there are plenty of people around, he argues, who have either been untouched by the recession or have prospered and could well afford to be more generous – perhaps even to assuage feelings of guilt.
Papworth conceived the Tick Box reports having noticed that while “fundraisers agonise about a creative concept, a headline or a graphic… the business end of the communication goes through on the nod – on a ‘same as usual’ basis.” He believes that quite small changes to the coupon, the ask or the response options can make a significant difference and that in order to make rational, systematic decisions about these issues it is
necessary to understand fully the range of possibilities and to appreciate what other charities are doing.
The 150-page 2011 edition features analysis of one-off gifts v. regular giving; sponsorship and membership; methods of payment accepted; donation amounts asked for; use of menus; ranges of asks; response methods, inclusion of Gift Aid mandates; types of telephone numbers used; use of FREEPOST; user-friendliness of reply forms; use of celebrity endorsements; use of incentives, gifts and rewards; saying ‘thank you’; asking for donor data; data protection opt-outs, and other topics.
It includes charts, tables, illustrations, data, commentary, interpretation and opinion.
The Tick Box Report 2011 is published this week and costs £70 (postage free within the UK and Republic of Ireland).