Great Ormond Street Hospital hired telephone fundraising agency PTF in March to upgrade the donations of 2,000 people who were recruited through DRTV and face-to-face fundraising the year before. About 45 per cent agreed to increase the value of their donations, raising average monthly donations from £6.58 to £12.21.
Great Ormond Street provides medical care, carries out research into childhood illnesses and trains children's nurses and doctors. It has worked with agency Professional Telephone Fundraising for some years to foster its relationships with donors after recruitment campaigns. In February, it ran a campaign aimed at donors who had been recruited through DRTV and face-to-face campaigns. It hoped that 42 per cent of call recipients would increase the value of their monthly donations, and that average donations would increase by 70 per cent.
In June 2004, PTF ran a similar campaign aimed at people who had responded to direct mail appeals. As a result, 29 per cent agreed to upgrade their donations.
Half of Great Ormond Street Hospital's fundraising income comes from cash donations, the rest from its 30,000 regular givers. The charity sends out four warm appeals a year to an average of 100,000 individual donors, plus four cold appeals, and broadcasts two DRTV appeals. It also recruits donors through face-to-face fundraising.
How it worked
Professional Telephone Fundraising targeted donors who were recruited by face-to-face and previous DRTV appeals and who had made 12 or more monthly payments. The agency's phone operators contacted 2,069 individuals.
They followed a call guide that thanked the donor and gave an update on the charity's work. The conversation then moved on to asking for a gift upgrade and a Gift Aid declaration.
Average donations increased by 85 per cent, from £6.58 to £12.21 a month.
About 45 per cent of supporters agreed to increase the value of their donation. Most of them did so over the phone, with just 1 per cent asking for a direct debit form by post. Seventeen per cent of those who refused to upgrade their donation agreed to sign up to Gift Aid for their current donation. The cost per response was £13.21, including VAT.
Catherine Lundy, head of donor marketing and legacy development at the hospital, said increasing the value of the charity's committed individual donors is a key part of its fundraising strategy. "We raise more money through upgrading donations than recruiting people in the street or through DRTV, because return on investment is lower," she said.
EXPERT VIEW - Ashley Rose, client service director, Pure
It is true that face-to-face supporters are prone to lapsing. As fundraisers, we know the key is trying to develop the ones that don't and cost-effectively reactivating ones that do.
These donors are not mail responsive, which is worrying when recruitment costs are so high. It would be great to think that a low-cost media such as mail could bring income through postal upgrades. It can't, and that's why the phone is important. It may be the only communication these donors interact with at all.
The campaign results are impressive, but creatively PTF hasn't strayed from the traditional problem/solution/ask format used by most phone agencies.
A creative break with tradition can achieve the same results, and if it doesn't you learn a great deal along the way. Great Ormond Street's work is well branded and held in high esteem by the public, providing an ideal backdrop to any phone campaign. An upgrade campaign provides an ideal opportunity to explore new fundraising avenues and learn from these valued donors. It deserves some fresh thought.
Personal experience of first-time upgrades has shown that leaving the upgrade until month 12 may be too late. Why not upgrade earlier - after nine months, say - before people review their annual commitments? The upgrade percentage will stay the same, but a one-to-one conversation with a donor could make them think twice.