Why your supporters are wealthier than you expect. Course details.

A donor-centred alternative to opt-in

Giles Pegram CBE | 6 October 2016 | Blogs

I can’t believe the publication of the NCVO report on ‘Donor Consent’ has received so little attention. I can’t believe that I am alone in thinking that mandatory opt-in was a possibility.

Indeed, some have already acted assuming it was. Yet it isn’t. Why aren’t we shouting hurrah from the roof-tops?

I write what follows in a personal capacity, not as vice-chair of the Commission on the Donor Experience. But I do write thinking about the donor experience.


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

As a donor, I expect that when I give a donation, I will hear from the charity. Thanking me.

Reporting back on what my donation has achieved, and, from time to time, asking me to give again, or increase my monthly gift. Why wouldn’t I? I have engaged with the cause. I want to feel good when I decide to give again, or when I increase my monthly gift. I want to feel good that my charity feels I am making a difference. If the charity simply swallowed my gift and didn’t give me further opportunities to give, I would be sadly disappointed. I would feel my charity didn’t want my support. So why did I give in the first place?

Mandatory opt-in?

Mandatory opt-in is anathema. It is simply not a good response to the donation of a donor.

As a donor, and again speaking personally, I would find the requirement to tick a box in order to hear from the charity intrusive, bureaucratic and almost Kafkaesque. Who is paying for this intervention? A part of my gift?

I could go further, but I’ll refrain. As a donor, I might assume donors have been asked, and this is what they’ve asked for. So I might acquiesce.

But, as a fundraiser, as far as I am aware, that isn’t true. Donors haven’t been asked. I’d find any suggestion of opt-in without asking donors extraordinary. Mandatory opt-in would have a catastrophic impact on giving, and on beneficiaries. Over the past months I have heard little discussion about the effect of all these sanctions on beneficiaries. Thank goodness, Mike Adamson and his working party, and the NCVO board, are defining systems that would not require a mandatory opt-in.

In their excellent blog Continuous donor choice: fundraising’s best opportunity in ages Ken Burnett, Jackie Fowler and Tim Connor have proposed a method of opt-out that is so comprehensive, I would argue that it would work very much better than opt-in, in practice. Unlike mandatory opt-in, which I don’t believe is donor friendly, their proposal, continuous donor choice, is totally donor centric. It puts donors in charge of the communications they receive from their charities.

Furthermore, continuous donor choice is not a hygiene factor. It will have a totally positive effect on the donor. “You have given to us. We love you. We would like you to be involved, but precisely as you would like to be.”
As a donor, if I got that message, I would have a ‘wow’ factor moment. The charity has handed control of the relationship to me. I am now an equal participant. Of course, and I’m not a psychologist, I’m going to say “yes, I like this”. Wouldn’t you?

So, again, please read the blog and proselytize. This issue must be forefront in every fundraiser’s mind.

If you agree with the blog, please say so. Forward it. Tweet it. Put it on Facebook. Let it go viral.

The Fundraising Regulator must decide how to respond to the NCVO report. Please ensure that they at least consider the option of continuous donor choice. It really is good. It will give donors the best experience.

If you don’t agree, please say so. Passive silence can be taken as indifference, which for something this important would be unthinkable. This is too important to the future of fundraising not to have your say. Indeed, as the blog says, there probably hasn’t been a better opportunity for fundraisers since the invention of regular giving.

Giles Pegram CBE
1 October 2016
© Giles Pegram CBE

Image: People’s consent – Jakub Grygier on shutterstock.com