Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

Let’s push our own re-set button

Let’s push our own re-set button

The Daily Mail really hates us. Not a lot we can do about that. But we could stop handing them material.

This week has seen yet another round of biased, aggressive, outright vitriolic headlines against the sector we love. And, rightly, we’ve been protesting (albeit amongst ourselves) that the treatment has been unfair. Which it is, right up to the point that it isn’t.

Putting aside all the things we had no control over (i.e. the clumsy handling by the ICO, and the obvious media bias), we should look at what was under our control, to see how this could have been avoided.

Let’s ask, objectively, what happened here?

1. Donors to a couple of big name charities donated the amount they were asked for

2. These charities, without consent, wealth screened those donors to target them for bigger gifts (as though ability to give more correlates with wanting to)

3. Donors were upset this was being done to them without their knowledge

If our immediate defence is to say, ‘but commercials can do it, why can’t we?’ we miss the point. It goes without saying that it’s just as intrusive and irritating when done by a commercial. But do people feel the same sense of guilt ignoring what they send as they do when it’s sent on behalf of someone in desperate need? Do they feel their kindness and generosity is something for which they should be targeted?

The tragedy is we know for sure that the charities who were ‘exposed’, and all the others who weren’t, had nothing but the best of motives. The danger comes from confusing good motives with good practice.

If these donors had been asked for, and given their consent, there would have been no ‘scandal’. But they weren’t so there was.

Can your charity answer these questions?

This latest media mauling is the inevitable outcome of the factory assembly line mentality the sector has towards the kind people who give their support. With a handful of notable exceptions, there isn’t a charity in the UK today who can answer for sure:

1. Why people support (Identity)

2. What they want from their support (Preference)

3. What it’s like to support (Experience)

We either don’t ask these questions, or think we have the answers. Year upon year of low to no net growth and lousy donor retention should be all the evidence we need that neither way is working.

The charities in this latest round of headlines obviously didn’t know their donors’ preferences, again either because they didn’t think to ask them, or because they assumed they knew them. On the other hand, charities that have cracked the code to these three questions, and built their entire proposition around them are delivering far greater value to supporters and deriving much greater value from them (e.g. 70% increase in revenue per donor, increased first three months’ retention in face to face from 60% to 80% etc.)

Last week’s FPS announcement means we’ve been spared the big re-set button we all feared. Now we need to build a better button!

We will never get the press off our backs, and more importantly, never see the growth our causes need us to make, until we press re-set on the methods, metrics and most of all mindset that got us into this mess.


Charlie Hulme is Managing Director of DonorVoice


Photo: Reset button by MyImages Micha on

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