Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top tips on well-executed Supporter Surveys.

I recently had the opportunity to write an article for the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand's Newz and Viewz Magazine, and I wanted to share it with you.

Top tips on well-executed Supporter Surveys

As a fundraiser, I am a huge fan of the supporter survey. You might run a survey already, probably for the bequest prospecting potential they provide, but are you getting the most out of the overall opportunity?
A supporter survey is a powerful way to open the lines of communication with your supporters, and to show that you welcome, and value, their opinions. They help us to communicate better with our donors by helping us understand more about who they are and why they support us.
In order to make sure you are getting the most out of your supporter survey, there are a few things you should consider:


The language used in the introduction to the survey is incredibly important. It should make the donor feel valued, express how important they are to you, and explain why their vies matter. As most surveys are sent to existing supporters, you don't need to explain what you do. Instead, explain why you are sending the survey and why it is important and helpful that the donor responds.
It is also a good idea to include language to knock down any barriers to completion - let the reader know the survey won't take long (research shows that 12 minutes is the most you can expect to hold anyone's attention).


Section headings should be short, concise, and represnt the questions within that section. You will only really need 3-4 section headings at most, and headings should always make the supporter feel like this survey is about them. This entire piece is all about the donor, and their relationship with you, this is your opportunity to engage with them.


Start your survey with questions that are easy to respond to. The supporter shouldn't have to think too hard, otherwise they may give up on the survey before they even start. This could be asking donorstheir views and opinions on certain areas of your work, or questions to uncover what they know about the services you provide. As the survey progresses, these should move naturally into questions designed to understand what areas of your work or cause are most important to the donor.
As one of the primary aims of a supporter survey is often to move donors towards considering a bequest question, the next set of questions should warm the donor up to it. Remind them about the amazing services / programmes you offer and the incredible impact that they are helping to make possible. And most importantly, they should get them to think about why they started supporting you in the first place.
Research shows that reminding donors why they first supported you can have a positive effect on the number of people who indicate that they would like more information on leaving a gift in their will.
The wording of the bequest question is as important as its placement within the survey. It needs to be warm and emotive, and explain why bequests are so important to your organisation. It should put the donor at ease by encouraging them to look after their family and loved ones first. We know that concern for family can be a barrier, and believe it is best to address this upfront and reassure donors that they can still provide for their family too.
Like with the bequest question, the wording of other prospecting questions you may have chosen to include (eg. monthly giving, major giving, volunteering) should focus less on the benefit to the organisation, and more on the benefit to your beneficiaries.

Measurable Metrics

In addition to understanding supporter motivations, there are some valuable measures that can be considered which will help you understand how satisfied donors are in their relationship with you. We often include Satisfaction and Donor Commitment scoring questions in the surveys we help our charity partners develop, and have found they can add value as an enhancement to your targeting models, especially for certain groups of donors.


A supporter survey is the perfect opportunity to enter into two-way communications with your donors. Satisfaction with your service is a critical impacting factor on retention and opening up two-way communication can increase satisfaction levels. Ask if they have any feedback, or alternatively, a personal story to share. This is an incredible way to deepen your relationship with your donors, but you HAVE to be prepared to read them all, and follow up as required.

Response Mechanism

Your survey is really just one large response mechanism. Our testing has shown many donors who respond are happy to include a financial gift as well. The inclusion of an opportunity to give does not suppress response to the survey. My recommendation is always to include an opportunity for supporters to donate as part of the survey. It should be a part of the survey, and like in all your appeals, should include an affirmative statement.
As you work through your supporter survey, really think about each question you include, and ask yourself:
  1. Is this helping the donor feel closer to us, the cause and beneficiaries?
  2. How will it help us communicate better with supporters and grow our programmes?
A well-executed survey will pay dividends to your fundraising programme from financial, donor satisfaction, and retention perspectives.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Why I love the Ration Challenge

I have just finished 7 days of the Act For Peace Ration Challenge.  And despite the fact that the pain of it all is still very real, it's not too early to say I loved it. 

It shouldn't come as any surprise that I am a fan of events.  And I really believe that The Ration Challenge is one of the best fundraising event challenges out there right now.  Let me tell you why.

For me, it starts with an amazing premise.  Over the course of one week, participants pledge to eat only the same rations that a Syrian refugee living in a refugee camp in Jordon would receive.  By doing so, participants will experience just one small part of the daily struggle of refugees, and by raising money they are making an actionable difference in their lives.

Then, it is a great experience, from the easy registration, to the welcome call I received within 24 hours of registering online to let me know that the team at Act for Peace was there to answer any questions and support me along the way.

The registration process itself was simple, and I was encouraged to donate to myself as soon as I set up my page - which I did.  I was also encouraged to record a short thank you video which would be automatically played to my friends and family when they made a donation.  I know not everyone will have taken the time to do so, I was the only one on my team that did, but I thought it was a really great engagement piece, both for me as the participant, but also to my sponsors.

Not long after I registered, I received my ration pack.  That in itself was eye opening.  I couldn't believe how small it was, and how little food it contained.  It had a post-it-note encouraging me to upload a photo of myself with the pack to social media, and the kit itself, as well as it's meagre contents, were all perfectly branded so it really did feel like it could have come straight from Jordan.

It also included my event guide - containing all the rules, as well as recipes, tips and inspiring stories of some of the people we would be helping. And it explained the rewards system.  And it is brilliant.

Participants can earn extras by sponsoring themselves, starting  a team, or hitting a variety of fundraising levels.  And let me tell you... you cannot appreciate how valuable those extras are, until your challenge has started.  The rewards are simple... 8 tea bags, 70g of protein, 170g of vegetables. But what a difference they can make.  These rewards aren't supplied by Act for Peace - participants pick them up themselves, and I for one have never been so motivated to ensure I raised enough to get everything I could to help me get through the week.

Leading up to the event, Act for Peace sent regular, but not excessive communication by way of emails, texts and even another phone call.  They responded quickly and efficiently to questions my team sent through, and encouraged participants to join in the ration challenge community.  They helped inspire a sense of excitement in the build up to the event - and brought people together through an online event page.

When they had raised half a million dollars, about 2 weeks before the challenge kicked off, they did an extra food drop in Jordon.  The event manager contact their partners on the ground to tell them the good news, and then flew to the refugee camp to assist with the distribution.  And she took all of us with her.  We had the chance to send through messages to be delivered in the camps, and the broadcast the distribution live, in real time, for us to witness.  There were technical challenges, and unreliable audio - but that just added to the authenticity of it all.  The event hadn't even kicked off yet, and I felt like the money I was raising was making a real, and tangible difference.  And it was the most convinced I have ever been of the impact we were having.  And I went out and raised more money.

The challenge itself was harder than I imagined in so many ways.  But I felt connected to the 8,000 other people who were doing it with me. When we shared on social media, Act for Peace responded, and there was daily encouragement and gratitude every single day.  I had a team at the office, and the experience brought us all closer together as we started to get a small sense of just one of the daily struggles for a refugee family.  My toolkit, which I used every day included interesting recipes that I could make from my rations, paired with stories of hope and impact which gave me the incentive I needed to move forward.

At the end of the challenge, I, along with so many others, reflected on what I had experienced, vowed to do more for refugees, and felt immense pride for the difference that we had made. 

Act for Peace have managed to build a community of people, who, through this event, are inspired, motivated, and wanting to do more - and I can't wait to see what they ask me to do next.  I'm hoping it's a request for a monthly gift, or at the very least, a cash donation to support their work. 

While the Ration Challenge is officially over for 2016, you can still donate until the end of July.  Just $23 can provide food rations for a refugee for an entire month, and $67 can pay for a hygiene parcel that will keep a family happy and healthy.  You can donate here.

Or, why not try the event yourself.  You can pre-register for 2017, and you can take part from anywhere in the world.  Will you join me next year?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Finding your top event prospects

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend EventRaise - a fantastic day dedicated to event fundraising - an area I am really excited about.

So often we hear that event participants aren't worth cultivating.  That they aren't really connected to our cause, but that they are interested in the challenge.  One of the things that really struck me at EventRaise is that while that might be true for many event participants, there are event donors who are well worth the time and energy to cultivate.  We just need to identify who that group is.

Martin Paul of More Strategic shared some incredibly valuable information from some research he has been doing into 5 mutli-charity fundraising events - events where participants can select from a number of charities or even choose their own to fundraise for. 

These 5 multi-charity fundraising events had a total of 170,423 donors.  That is a huge number of people to try and cultivate.  And if you think most of them won't give again, your right.  There is tons of evidence to support that.  So where should we focus our efforts?

There are two key times when participants self identify as being really great prospects.  The first is during the fundraising period for the event.  Donors who increase their fundraising target are self selecting themselves as people who are in it to raise money and who are the most engaged in what you are doing.  This is the group of individuals, and it will only be a small percentage of participants, who are worth focusing your attention and resources on.

While everyone who participates in your event is lovely, and we are grateful for each and every one, you and your organisation cannot afford to nurture every participant.  So start with this group, see what additional tools you can give them to help them raise more money, and develop and grow your relationship with them.

Post event, you will also want to identify the relationships that you should be focusing your time, energy and attention on.  When doing your post event analysis, it is likely that you will find that most of the income came from a small number of participants (many of whom are likely to have been the ones you already know - who pushed themselves by raising their fundraising targets during the campaign).  Martin's findings from the 5 multi-charity fundraising events was that 30% of the income came from just 5% of participants. So can't follow up with everyone?  Start here.  These are the people who are most likely to continue to support your work long after the event, and to sign up again next year.

What have you tried to engage your event participants?  And where do you start?

I love events. My team when we hit the half way mark at Oxfam Trailwalker in 2014.

Friday, April 22, 2016

My favourite mid value pack

Recently Sean Triner asked me about the best mid-value pack I had ever seen.  You can read all about my favourite pack on his blog

If you want to learn more about more about mid value donors, be sure to register for Sean's FREE webinar Tuesday 26 April 2016/Wednesday 27 April 2016.  He and Roger Craver will be chatting all things major donors - including sending direct mail to this wonderful group of people.  You can register here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

4 basic principles for direct mail letters

Writing a letter.  It feels, instinctively, like something that should be fairly easy to do.  Writing is one of the first things we learn to do when we start school, and from then, we never stop.  And while letter writing itself may be a bit of a lost art form, we all write emails, reports, papers, or notes daily. 

But there is a real science to writing a direct mail letter.  It needs to be a carefully constructed communication that takes the reader on an emotional journey.  It needs to tell a story that makes the donor feel something.  It must be engaging, and offer a problem as well as provide an easy way for the donor to play a part in the solution. 

The letter structure is arguably as important to the success of the letter, as the story itself.  Here is a reminder of four basic principles for structuring your direct mail letters.

1. The start of the letter beneath the salutation must immediately engage the donor’s emotions and contain a call to action. It should continue on from any header paragraphs.

2. There are a series of asks, which describe how specific needs must be met – whether through equipment or action – throughout the letter, but reiterated again right at the end of the letter. The end of the letter is the best place to include your ask string. The donor has read this far, so are obviously keen, and this is where we should tell them what their gift can do, and offer opportunity to give more than they might normally

3. The call to action at the end of the appeal must be strong and urgent – with specific instructions on how to respond (the mechanics).

4. The PS should repeat the basic message of the appeal and the main case story – and also give specific instructions on how to get your gift to the charity.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Event Donors - Finding the right language

I should probably be open by saying I love events.  Despite the fact that I know they are hard work, that they carry a lot of hidden costs, particularly in staff time, and they don't traditionally generate long term donors - I love them.  I think there is so much potential and opportunity within the peer-2-peer fundraising and event space, and I'm really excited about what is happening here.

One of the biggest criticisms I hear about events is that participants, and even more so, donors to those participants, don't go on to give again.  They don't necessarily have any connection to your cause, and they aren't really supporting you... They are participating because of their own desire to complete the challenge, or they are donating to their friend who asked them too - the cause is irrelevant.

I believe there is opportunity here - we just haven't cracked it.  And this blog post doesn't contain the answers to this problem, but it is something I'll be exploring - and I'd LOVE to hear what challenges, and what successes you've found.

This weekend was the two year anniversary since I undertook one of the greatest challenges of my life, as an event participant.  I walked 100km in support of Oxfam as part of Oxfam Trailwalker.  It was the hardest, and most amazing thing I have ever done, and I have so much respect for anyone who has, or who will, participate.  It is an event I am unlikely to do again (although you never say never), so I know Oxfam has the challenge of trying to keep me engaged and ultimately to convert me from participant to donor. 

Last year, I had a colleague who was crazy enough to sign up.  And so I donated to her.  It would have been the last donation I made to Oxfam - which means I now sit on their database as an event donor... that group of people that no one knows what to do with.

Well, and with full credit to them, this year I received an email from them reminding me of the contribution I made to my friend last year, and asking if I would encourage and support another team with a donation.  I thought it was a great effort.  I have no idea if it generated a response, but I really thought it was a clever, relatable way to communicate with this group.

I would have loved to have seen them take that one step further though - and to email me as an event participant.  Two years have passed, and I remember the pain, the exhaustion and the tears like it was yesterday.  I'll never forget how hard it was to keep going, and I'll never forget how much the encouragement from our friends and family helped and how responsible I felt to the dozens of amazing people who had donated to our team.  I had to keep going... for myself, for my team, and for our donors. 

An email reminding me of how it felt to be out on the trail... reminding me of the physical and mental exhaustion... reminding me of the importance of the group of people supporting me and encouraging me along the way... and asking me to be that encouragement and support for another team who needs the strength to keep going - that absolutely would have motivated me to give.

I think as we look at how to best cultivate this extraordinary group of people... both participants and donors... we really consider what will best motivate and inspire them.  They are different to the traditional donor that makes up most of our databases, but if we can speak to them in the right language I think they can be come just valuable to our organisations.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

One Photo Can Change the World

It's been nearly six weeks since the powerful image of Aylan Kurdi made the news.  This incredible image showed his small lifeless body, which had been washed up on a beach in Turkey.  It was an image that stopped us all in our tracks. 

This heart wrenching image tells a tragic story.  His parents, who had fled from the conflict in their home in Syria, had been struggling to make ends meet in Turkey.  They decided to risk everything to give their children a better chance at life.  They took their two young sons on a midnight dinghy ride from Turkey to Greece.  But the powerful waves were too strong and swamped the boat, tossing its passengers into the sea a mile offshore.  Aylan, his brother, his mother, all lost their lives that night.

Their story is not a new one.  More than 3,000 refugees have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe already this year.   Many have drowned.  Some of been crushed by stampedes, others asphyxiated by boat engine fumes. And this has been going on for years.  And for years the media have published photos of Syrian refugees - dead, wounded, and distressed.  But none of them have moved us the way this one has. This photo broke through the clutter - and it hit people not in the head - but in the heart.  It is impossible to say why this one photo has had such an impact - it is not the first image of an innocent young victim of this crisis - but it is an image that has changed the world.

In the wake of this photo, the world is reacting.  The New York times is reporting that in America donations for refugees are surging, and nations are demanding more from their leaders.  More financial support, but also by opening their boarders to accept more refugees.  Donations in the UK have been pouring in, when at the end of August it was being reported that trust in charity was at an 8 year low.

As a sector - its our job to bring these real stories to the world. It is our responsibility to tell the stories of individuals, like Aylan, and so many others, and to give people the opportunity to respond.  While the impact of this photo seems unrepeatable, I don't believe that it is.  I have been incredibly moved by the stories of refugees that have been shared over the past few weeks not by the news, not by charities supporting refugees, but by Brandon, the amazing photographer who is Humans of New York.  Humans of New York went to Europe to see the Refugee Crisis firsthand, and the stories and images he shared are some of the most powerful I have ever seen. 

Please - if your cause works with refugees - share the stories of the victims of this crisis.  The real, horrible stories.  The ones that once herd, people can't forget.  The ones that disrupt someone's day.  The ones that will inspire action. 

And no matter what cause you fundraise for - remember the impact of a single image, and the powerful way a photo can  tell a complex story.