Focus: Fundraising - Expert view - John Samuel, managing director, AltaContact

In fundraising, if you ask, you stand a chance of getting. Sustrans has proved this with two asks resulting in an important get for the charity.

Its questioning of the application of the Telephone Preference Service turned out to be correct in that it found that TPS-registered telephone numbers can be called where there is a clearly defined relationship between a charity and its donors. For Sustrans, contacting by telephone some 25 per cent fewer donors was likely to mean less successful mail contact and a higher percentage of donors remaining on standing-order payments.

There was good sense in opening the call to TPS-registered donors by acknowledging this - potential objections were thus nipped in the bud.

The rest of the campaign was classical in its approach to the task of converting standing-order payers to direct debit and, where possible, taking advantage of the call to increase the donation.

The success rate for the conversion is probably higher than many charities achieve. However, it would be interesting to know more about the average age of the Sustrans donor - one suspects it would be substantially lower than that of many charities, and younger donors give better results when asked to convert to direct debit. By using paperless, direct conversation, Sustrans saved substantially on administration costs. This is certainly a lesson to be followed.

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