Same, same. But different.

Published by Jonathon Grapsas on

I’m likely preaching to the converted here. A group of fundraisers reading an international fundraising blog may not feel there are seismic shifts in the way people behave in different countries.

And they’d be right for the most part.

I started my fundraising career in the UK. Spent chunks of time back in my native Australia, where I am now. Sandwiched with a stint in Canada. From quite early on I lived by the ethos that in direct marketing and fundraising people behaved fundamentally in the same way, irrespective of geography and language. Certainly in the developed world where my experience lays.

For the purposes of this post I’m going to separate behaviour and response. Whilst they might seem like one in the same thing, in this instance it helps to illustrate where there are cultural similarities and differences.

By behaviour I’m referring to the way individuals act. The things they’re moved by. Emotions and feelings that make people tick.

By response I’m talking about the channels or devices they’re replying to, or using to respond via.

Here’s a current example to illustrate my point.

Slide17[1]We’re just wrapping up a mobile (SMS) prospecting campaign with our wonderful friends at RSPCA Queensland and RSPCA New South Wales.

The purpose of the campaign was two fold.

1 To help members of the public be better prepared in an emergency situation with their pet, by providing useful emergency advice.

2 Recruit new monthly supporters for the RSPCA by converting the interest of the above prospect group into financial support. Done so primarily via telephone conversion with some SMS/email follow up.

For context, here’s some images of the advert used in various spots. Mostly on trains, in public washrooms, and in Facebook ads.

Slide22[1]This was the first campaign of its type we’ve run, and one of the very first of its kind in Australia. We partnered on this initiative with the awesome team at Open Fundraising in the UK to bring not only their strategic nous on mobile giving, but also their creative excellence.

The campaign has been a resounding success.

It has delivered vital pet emergency information for thousands of Aussies (almost 10k). We’ve recruited nearly twice the level of new monthly supporters anticipated (currently over 600). At a cost per acquisition less than that to recruit a new monthly supporter on the street (face-to-face). At volumes that would suggest significant rollout potential.

All as part of a first time ‘trial’.

So what’s different, and what’s the same?

 We projected the likely outcome of this campaign on what our colleagues in the UK had experienced.

Some things stacked up, some didn’t.

In essence, people are moved by the same emotional forces, whether you live in Bristol or Brisbane.

The stories that melt your heart. The issues that gnaw away at you. The solutions that offer hope.

Same. Same. Same.

We wanted to see how pet owners would feel if placed in a position where they couldn’t help their furry friends. Would they know what to do if their life was on the line?

The sentiment we espoused was: would you know what to do in an emergency?

Yes, the nuances of a pet emergency may be different for a Labrador in Bristol than in Brisbane. Choking versus snakebite. Poisoning versus paralysis ticks.

But the paralysing fear of not knowing what to do when your pet is in danger knows no boundaries.

Human behaviour is same, same, same.

When it comes to response vehicles, the goal posts shift a little.

Slide20[1]Take public transport, specifically trains, as an example. If you live in London there’s a fairly good chance you catch the underground to work, every single day. Millions of people commuting to and from their workplace, five days a week. The majority of Londoners use the underground system, meaning that advertising within trains has a high chance of success. People using the same route each day. Reasonably affluent (they are currently employed), a long journey each day (with lots of dwell time).

In Australia, things are a little different. Because of the landscape, the geographic spread of our capital cities, and the infrequency and unreliable nature of our transit systems, most people drive to work.

Whilst we generated thousands of responses via our train advertising, the responses and gift values delivered on the telephone calls was lower than what we originally projected (i.e. lower than our British counterparts). They performed well, but not as strongly as other channels, and slightly below what we’d projected. In short, train users here are less affluent than in some other markets.

So when it comes to how people respond, demographics play a role. Infrastructure and transports systems play a role.  Adoption of technology plays a role.

It really can be quite different.

Ultimately, this endeavour was a subtle reminder that when it comes to fundraising across borders, ‘everything is different, but everything is the same’.


Jonathon Grapsas

Jonathon is the founder and director at flat earth direct, an agency dedicated to fundraising and campaigning for good causes. Jonathon has spent the last decade working with charities all around the world. Initially in the UK, and more recently in Canada and his native Australia. An influential blogger, writer and speaker, Jonathon's spends most of time now helping charities reach out to people online.


Roewen Wishart · August 10, 2015 at 12:59

Great case study, and illustrates power of an international network (we regularly have similar stories about fundraising cross-collaboration within INGOs).

And congratulations to all concerned on getting all the unglamorous but essential details of the conversion journey working right.

I wonder whether the reputedly lesser saturation of Australians by phone contact was a favourable factor?

Jonathon Grapsas · August 11, 2015 at 00:11

Thanks Roewen for the feedback. -:)

Agree with all your points below. Regards your question on the phone, don’t think this was a factor. Certainly the fact there was an exchange of something valuable (providing the peg emergency guide) played a key role in boosting response.

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