Pay fundraisers by donor satisfaction, report says

Relationship Fundraising, from the Rogare think tank, says the sector should develop metrics that measure commitment, trust and satisfaction levels of donors, and pay fundraisers accordingly

The report
The report

Charities should pay their fundraisers according to how satisfied they make their donors feel, according to a new report from Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy.

The report, Relationship Fundraising: where do we go from here?, published today, says fundraisers should eschew the current system of having their performance evaluated by means of short-term monetary metrics in favour of developing metrics that measure the commitment, trust and satisfaction levels of their donors.

Trustees should then remunerate them according to how satisfied their donors are rather than whether they meet or exceed their annual income targets, it says.

"Reorienting around longer-term metrics would make a massive difference to the way in which we practise our fundraising," said Adrian Sargeant, director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy and one of the report’s authors. "It would mean fundraising would not just be about short-term revenue maximisation but about making sure we give donors a good experience."

Sargeant said several charities had started measuring donor satisfaction – such as the NSPCC, the British Heart Foundation and the RSPCA – but he did not know of any charities that paid their fundraisers according to their performance in this area.

Sargeant said such a remuneration policy would lead fundraisers to invest more time and resources in their fundraising and reduce the likelihood of donors becoming irritated or distressed by excessive numbers of requests from the sector. He warned, however, that unless satisfaction-based metrics became standard practice, short-term targets would continue to motivate fundraisers and practices would not change.

The report was based on two literature reviews and a survey of 41 senior fundraisers about direction that relationship fundraising – an approach to raising money that puts the donor, rather than the charity, at the centre of fundraising activity – will take in the coming years.

It was co-authored by Sargeant, Ian MacQuillin, director of Rogare, and Jen Shang, a professor of philanthropic psychology at Plymouth University.

It says that fundraisers should help donors feel as if the charity they support is a part of their identity. Citing academic theory from the field of social psychology, the report argues that fundraisers should capitalise on humans’ "need to belong" by making donors feel as if they are part of a unique, distinctive group.

"Once people think they belong to a group, such as a Greenpeace supporter, a child sponsor, an ActionAider, they differentiate themselves from others into an ‘in-group’ and an ‘out-group’," it says. "Fostering a sense of group identity, however artificial that might initially appear to be, could bolster longevity in relationships."

The report also urges fundraisers to engage in "genuine two-way symmetric communications" with donors.

An important aspect of such communication, it says, is "self-disclosure", whereby donors are encouraged to give feedback to charities.

The report says that while many charities use donor surveys that ask donors to engage in cognitive self-disclosure (sharing their thoughts and ideas), very few fundraisers elicit feedback about donors’ feelings – known as affective self-disclosure – except during telemarketing calls. Asking donors for more information on how they feel about a charity could lead to more donors believing their feelings are cared for, the report says.

For more, see Refreshing your relationships with donors.

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