Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Does your left hand know what your right hand’s doing?

Does your left hand know what your right hand’s doing?

An organisation I have supported communicates with me by text. No problem there then. But their messages always ask for a donation; they are random and disjointed and they don’t seem to correlate to any emergency or general need that is being expressed by the organisation. Worse still, like busses, the texts I receive come in quickly interspersed multiples, then none come along for the next few months!

I can tell from the inconsistency of message construction (compliance with regulation executed differently; message tone and content varying massively from text to text) that each text is from a different person communicating with me through ‘their’ own interpretation of organisational brand and agenda.

So, at one minute past six I’m asked to help people sleeping on the streets; then at 35 minutes past six I’m asked to send money urgently to stop people drowning? What happened in those 34 minutes, did a flood of biblical proportion engulf the street where the homeless were located; and if it did, why wasn’t it on the news?

Dysfunctional charity?

The effect of all this is to leave me feeling that the organisation I am dealing with is rather dysfunctional and perhaps not one that I should trust to spent my money wisely.

They appear to me to be behaving very much like that acquaintance we all have come across who runs out of money at the end of every month, always as a result of a different, unforeseen dire emergency!

In similar fashion I am multi-texted to deliver a ‘fiver’ from me and my ‘mates’ (as one recent text referred to fellow text recipients) to solve the most recent unforeseen crisis befalling the charity.

But it gets worse. Not only is it the case I don’t have ‘mates’ when the charity communicates with me in my ‘direct mail persona’ (where they know my name), in those communications they don’t talk to me in that way at all, not ever!

In the past it is true that I did give in response to multiple text donations – I did so because I was inspired by the tangible ask that made me feel empowered. But in response, I didn’t get any updates and I haven’t given a donation for a few years now.

To compound their ‘integrated’ relationship building errors, they then took it upon themselves to call me to ask me to give regular SMS giving (something I couldn’t bear the thought of) and they declined my offer of a Paperless Direct Debit instead, because, as they put it, the campaign wasn’t set up to do that!

Consistency matters

A lot of time and energy is spent in achieving brand coherence and acquiring new supporters; but when considering consistency through channel, the ‘voice’ of organisations can often seem disjointed and unrecognisable. Adapting the message for the specific channel that will deliver it is important, but having consistency in delivery and understanding the different interactions you are having with supporters by alternate channels is essential.

Often within organisations, different channels are controlled by different departments, each having their own budgets and targets that need to be achieved.

But supporters don’t care about organisational silos or departmental budgets; nor do they care about ‘brand experience’, especially when that experience is so disjointed. Supporters want to feel inspired, confident and rewarded; trusting that they’ve made a difference with the actions they have taken and the money they have given.

How integrated is your fundraising?

If my ‘non-relationship’ relationship experience has any resonance with your current fundraising practice, here are a few key questions that you should be asking yourself to ensure that your fundraising strategy is properly integrated and brand effective across all channels

1. It’s important to know from the outset why you have chosen to use a channel. Is your intention to raise awareness, attract new supporters and build a relationship or just raise one off funds? Setting expectations at this point will allow you to measure and test in the future.

2. Ask questions of your supporters early on which establish who they are; what motivates them; what forms of communication do they use in their everyday life and find out if they are already interacting with you in other ways?

An organisation I worked with recently saw a 20-percentile point rise in opt-in to mail just by providing its’ supporters choice in the number of mailings they would receive in a year.

3. Establish from past performance who or what groups or sub-groups of supporters you are likely to attract via different channels, use this data analysis to create meaningful, bespoke supporter journeys going forward. If you do this diligently, further value can then be added to the relationship by offering choice around the way those supporters want to engage in the future.

4. Create templates around regulatory and functional requirements and instil consistent brand values across each channel you use.

Traditional forms of media go through sign off procedures. Whilst this may not be appropriate for new media because of the speed in which things need to happen – updating brand guidelines consistently to include new channels as they are adopted will create recognisable voice and message for supporters receiving multiple communications.

5. Map the supporter journey across different departments and channels to check that each successive communication is both logical and timely and that it doesn’t simply become wallpaper – especially around charity wide appeals; emergencies; matched funding opportunities etc.

6. Appoint a project team, not to control the communication, but to experience it and report back. Seed them in to different streams and see what is really happening, rather than what you thought was happening.

7. Don’t always ask for money – an update with some good news is very motivating. A recent client launched a very successful telephone appeal around an emergency. However, the subsequent telephone campaign to the same supporters to thank and update on success, months later, raised more funds (un-earmarked) without even having ‘an ask’!

8. Try and make each communication as interactive as you can so that you can find out more about your supporters. Ask about them when you call; invite feedback on what they want to hear about and how they’d like to hear it. Then integrate their preferences into future communication.


Jane Cunningham has been working in the forefront of fundraising for nearly 25 years. Known for the high quality of her fundraising practice and practical experience in segmentation and analysis, she has pioneered many new fundraising initiatives in the UK, Europe and the US. In everything she develops, she believes that the starting point should be to take the donors perspective, which will ultimately lead to developing the most effective strategic and creative responses; resulting in donor satisfaction and financial success.

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