Supporter care is one of the biggest marketing challenges
As those who work for Cancer Research UK, CLIC Sargent, SolarAid, RNLI, Samaritans and The Scout Association (who I work with) can testify, the definition of true supporter/donor care is much debated within the voluntary sector and many organisations place varying degrees of emphasis on its importance. And yet it remains one of the biggest marketing challenges in the sector.
For example, thanking donors shouldn’t be formulaic or predictable within the context of fundraising communication. Yet how important is it in terms of the overall fundraising effort?
In my view, it’s extremely important as it costs a charity a lot less to retain existing donors, supporters and volunteers rather than expend precious resources, time and energy in recruiting new ones.
In the private sector, it costs seven times as much to acquire new customers and clients as it does to retain existing ones.
So what’s going wrong or rather what are the most commonly made mistakes that contribute to supporter/donor attrition within the voluntary sector?
These are my Top 10 most commonly made mistakes that can be so easily addressed in order to make a tangible difference to supporter care within the voluntary sector:
#1: Lack of focus. The voluntary sector isn’t alone in needing to have a sharper focus on its vision and purpose. This requires strong leadership and not burying the fundraising department under the weight of key performance indicators (KPIs) so this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is dependent on leadership where the CEO needs to be able to articulate a clear vision and sense of direction of where the organisation should be going.
#2: Assuming you know who your members and supporters are. Making assumptions is a dangerous thing especially if those assumptions are based on out-of-date data. The key is frequent, timely and appropriate communications with supporters, donors and members in a language that they prefer and recognise.
#3: Linear thinking. I was fortunate in my career to have worked with Dr Edward de Bono who demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that lateral thinking can be so much more powerful in helping to understand and solve problems.
#4: Only looking at the world from your point of view (POV). One symptom or warning sign to look out for is anyone within the organisation who thinks they’re “right” and that others are “wrong”. Life isn’t in black and white and neither should those who work within an organisation fail to see the world from another person’s perspective.
#5: Not integrating marketing and communications. I call this silo thinking. It’s also a symptom of people not sharing, working together and collaborating. They could be too busy trying to achieve KPIs of course and miss seeing the bigger picture.
#6: Being stuck in “transmit mode”. In my latest book, High Impact Marketing That Gets Results, I return to this theme and provide tools for how we can move to a much more effective way of marketing and communication that puts us into “receive” mode.
#7: Living in the past. Great organisations have a powerful story to tell. They have a strong culture and even tradition. Apple’s founder Steve Jobs once said you can’t join the dots up by looking forward; you can only join the dots up by looking back. However, you couldn’t accuse him of being stuck in a time warp as he was busy reinventing the future based on what he understood of the past. So we need to live in the present.
#8: Thinking that all you need are more marketing outputs. More programmes. More fundraising activities. More stuff? Start to shift your thinking towards outcomes rather than outputs. Start to think about doing a lot less but doing it much better.
#9: Forgetting to learn from your members, supporters and donors. One of the most valuable resources – perhaps the most valuable – are those who support our aims, objectives and live our values. There’s no reason to assume we know better than they do. Collaborate.
#10: Failing to learn from our own previous mistakes! As Sir Winston Churchill once said: “All great men make mistakes. Napoleon forgot Blücher, I forgot Goschen.”