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What promise will you make to donors?

“The charity I give most money to communicates with me by email because that is what I asked for. They keep me informed regularly but they’re not in my face asking for money all the time”.
These are the words of a charity donor who recently participated in a focus group for the Commission on the Donor Experience. We wanted to better understand the type of relationships supporters currently enjoyed (or not as was the case for some) with charities.
The group results showed that donors want and expect to be valued and respected by the charities that they support. They also want to better understand their role in making a difference.
For example, what made it good for the 90% of respondents who had an example of a ‘best experience’, was being thanked sincerely; being respected when they said no; and understanding the difference they had made. Meanwhile, the 87% that had an example of a ‘worst experience’ cited examples of being harassed and pestered; being asked to give more than they can afford; and/or guilt at not being able to give more.
We want every experience that a donor has with a charity to be a positive one. This is why we are calling on you to think seriously about the promise you can make to your supporters.
What public commitment will you make to the way you treat your donors?
As our colleague Roger Lawson says, a donor promise shouldn’t be a stand-alone document, or a page hidden on a website. Nor should it be something that is created quickly on a fundraising away day and then forgotten about.
The donor promise should be driven by the charity’s values and principles, which in turn, should be translated into principles of how you will treat donors. These need to be owned by the whole charity – not just fundraising – and should drive strategy and behaviours. In addition, it should be written in plain English, and readily and easily accessible for all to see and understand.
So what should a donor promise look like? There is no one answer but some suggestions include:
– All supporters will be treated equally at all times with care, consideration, integrity and respect. There will be no coercion, pressure or undue persuasion and the donor’s right to say no will be cheerfully and immediately accepted.
– We will provide consistently inspirational and effective communications to spread the joy and sense of fulfilment and achievement that can come from giving to a great cause. And we’ll offer donors the chance to choose what they hear about from us, how often and when.
Fundraisers can also take inspiration from others.
Send a Cow, for example, includes the names of its supporter team, which contributes to making the promise seem personal and sincere.
MSF is another – simple but effective, with a focus on how donors contribute to an “imperfect but strong” movement putting supporters directly at the centre of their work.
And at Oxfam, it makes it clear from the outset that its supporters are at the heart of its work and that it is they who make the charity’s work possible.
We would love to know what promise you will make to donors. Share your examples in the comment boxes below. And for more inspiration check out our report.
Richard Spencer is director of the Commission on the Donor Experience



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