INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING: Member Viewpoint - Let's get to grips with direct marketing by discussing it together

Phil Robertshaw MInstF, director of external relations at the National Library for the Blind

The sector's expectations of its direct marketers has never been higher.

Income targets rise while expenditure budgets come under ever more intense scrutiny. New supporters are proving increasingly costly to attract and more challenging to retain. Government regulation looms ahead, technology tumbles forward and a media frenzy seems to get whipped up at the first sight of a tabard.

At the same time, we sit in our little boxes and try to make sense of it all on our own. Sure, we attend the odd conference and listen to the smart agency chaps telling us how it's done. But we spend precious little time together, as fellow practitioners, openly sharing experiences - warts and all - and learning from each other. This is particularly acute for those of us outside of London who work for smaller charities, which just ain't got whacking great agency budgets or 100,000-strong databases.

But wouldn't it be great to sit down with colleagues who face the same problems and look at the ways we all try to address them? How are we acquiring new donors - what's the payback over the short, medium and long term? How do we segment our donor bases and what retention/reactivation strategies do we have? How are we using email and the internet? What are the next forehead-slapping ideas just around the corner? Are there ways in which we can co-operate?

If that sort of informal discussion sounds good to you, how about an Institute of Fundraising Direct Marketing group? This would arrange, say, four day-long workshops during a year, held around the country. Sessions would be led by practitioners and address in a practical way the type of issues raised above. Although open to all practitioners, hopefully the greatest response would be from small to medium-sized charities. Go on, email membership@institute-of-fundraising.org.uk and let's start talking.

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