Don't smash and grab, but focus on long-term donors, says fundraising consultant

Daryl Upsall tells IoF conference that it is 'game over for quantity versus quality', and the race for volume is done

Daryl Upsall
Daryl Upsall

Fundraisers should move away from a "smash-and-grab" approach that races to recruit high numbers of donors and instead focus on high-quality, long-term donors, a fundraising consultant has said.

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising’s face-to-face donor conference in London this morning, Daryl Upsall said charities might have to be prepared to pay more for fundraising.

He warned that the UK was "below par" internationally when it came to face-to-face fundraising, both in terms of the monthly amounts given by donors and the amounts given over the lifetimes of donor relationships. He said British people were more hostile to face-to-face fundraising than people in other countries.

Upsall said one way to make face-to-face fundraising more acceptable to the public was to accept that "it is game over for quantity versus quality".

He said: "In the 20-odd years I’ve been involved in face-to-face fundraising, it’s always been a race for volume, and that’s been driven by the non-profits, not the agencies."

He said the overriding mentality was that finding donors cheaply was better than finding good donors, and charities had not been prepared to pay "the real price" of acquiring high-quality, long-term supporters.

Upsall called for charities and fundraisers to invest in the charity/fundraiser relationship, fundraiser training and fundraiser engagement with the cause.

"Let’s improve the conversation with donors and let’s bring them closer to the cause," he said. "Let’s focus on the long-term dialogue, not the short-term smash and grab. Let’s build donor journeys and let’s focus on lifetime value, not the first-year value."

He said one of the biggest mistakes non-profit organisations tended to make, particularly when moving into new markets or fundraising through new channels, was to view their returns through a one or two-year lens, when in reality investment was unlikely to pay off in less than three to five years.

"Let’s pay more, let’s incentivise quality, lifetime value and better quality donor recruitment," Upsall said.

And he called for charities to invest in donors’ long-term journeys. Even if high-quality donors were brought in, he said, they could drop out if they received miscommunications or no communication from charities.

He quoted an anonymous leading fundraiser who said the face-to-face fundraising sector had to "grow up" and had been "amateurish" in its behaviour in the past few years.

"These are damning words, and we need to learn from them," said Upsall. "So let’s invest in quality in all areas."

If you’re interested in fundraising, you can’t miss Third Sector’s Annual Fundraising Conference23 and 24 MayClick here for more information and to book at the Early Bird rate.

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