This blog is a bit of a rant
About 12 years ago I was stopped by a street fundraiser, who asked me to sign up for a Direct Debit. The charity that they were fundraising for will remain nameless. However I had volunteered for them in the past so I was only to pleased to be asked to donate. I agreed to give £3 a month, which now seems like nothing, but at the time as a recent graduate with a whacking great student loan to pay off and a low paid temp job it was a reasonable commitment. It was something that I had to think about before I signed up.
I left my exchange with the street fundraiser feeling good about what I had done. I liked the charity already. I had a great experience volunteering with them and was pleased to be asked for a donation.
A few weeks later I received some information from the charity with a copy of my Direct Debit agreement. I was asked for my mailing frequency preferences and I asked not to receive regular correspondence. So for a while I wasn’t bothered that I didn’t receive anything. After all it is what I requested.
I did get a Christmas card from their celebrity patron for the first few years of my support. Nice touch. Then about 5 years ago I thought it was weird that I hadn’t received anything at all for ages. Not even a celebrity Christmas card. So I called the supporter care department and told them in case my details needed updating. I spoke to someone who said they would check my record and that I would now get occasional updates.
5 years later I still receive nothing. £3 goes out of my bank account every month and I have no idea what it is spent on or the difference it makes. If any.
Over the years I have given almost £500 to this charity with no thank you that I can remember. But more importantly than that, no one has told me how my on-going contribution has made a difference and no one has given me the opportunity to give or do more.
I could give much more than £3 a month now (I’m almost embarrassed that I give so little). I’m no longer a recent graduate. I have paid off my student loan. I have been in employment for 12 years. My ability to give has increased but no one has asked me.
In addition to my 12 years of donations, I have a real affinity to the cause. I volunteered with them every week for over a year. No one has ever asked me as an ex-volunteer if I would like to support their work in other ways – like giving a donation.
Why has no one asked me? Are the services the charity provides not urgent, important and life changing?
I suspect that no one has asked me as an ex-volunteer, either because the data no longer exists, or because there are disagreements internally about who ‘owns’ the data.
I’ve had many conversations with custodians of data in charities on the difficulties of and reasons not to ask campaigners to volunteer, volunteers to donate and donors to campaign. (and many more combinations of cross team and department working that you can think of that would be too hard or a ‘bad’ idea)
Fundraising is tougher than ever, yet many charities are missing these fundamental opportunities to increase income and support.
As fundraisers our jobs are to build and broker relationships with all sorts of supporters in order to make the most difference to the cause that you fundraise for. So however difficult it is, you have to find a way to get over internal politics and interrogate your databases to make sure that you are thanking your supporters, sharing with them the difference they are making and offering them opportunities to do more.
Anyway writing this blog has made me so cross I’m going to cancel my paltry £3 direct debit. I’ll tell you about my experience of that next time.
Sally Cameron · January 17, 2013 at 17:54
I too gave to this organisation and had the same experience. I cancelled my donation and sadly I still didn’t here from them! I am pleased to report that the charity who then benefitted from the increase in their donation have thanked and update me appropriately. Lesson to be learned?
Adrian Salmon · January 17, 2013 at 18:39
Great post Lucy! Saw it just in time to mention it in a talk I was giving this afternoon! :-)
Lucy · January 17, 2013 at 23:16
Glad it was helpful Adrian. Hope that your talk went well :)
Redina Kolaneci · February 6, 2013 at 18:59
Well dear Lucy… the thing is I went to a charity like the one you are describing just a few weeks ago and here is what is going on on the other side of the fence.
The IT guys do whatever each department wants in terms of data coding and departments don’t really talk to each other. Some of the big software providers have got in with a new products… more flashing lights and segmantomatic funfare … So, this new magical tool will help them with donor CRM and segmentation but wait … they don’t really have any clear donor journeys and what really matters in this ‘new age’ of segmentation is matching the ask to the last gift…
And, the DM team is busy getting the next appeal out, while two agencies are working out there – one to acquire new donors, the other to upgrade via phone calls… the financial bottom lines for one year look good… next year who knows?
Donor care – that is a department run by interns, get those thank you letters out and answer those calls for database changes…
Silos reign… directors spend their time in endless meetings, strategies sit in shelves, everyone is stressed and chasing tagets and Lucy donor is complaining… the million dollar question is: who can straighten this stuff out? No really, who?