Stephen Pidgeon: Use campaigns to build up loyalty

Campaigning is not used widely enough to engage supporters, says our columnist

Stephen Pidgeon
Stephen Pidgeon

I've just come across a revealing research report called The Next Generation of Canadian Giving. Canada is interesting because it's the country most like the UK in its consumer fundraising.

The report is based on more than 1,500 interviews split across the four generations - classic Civics, Boomers and X and Y generations - and reminds us how poor we Brits are at finding out what our supporters feel about our communications. Hot air is wasted at conferences and charity strategy meetings because few charities actually research their donors' views.

The key finding from the report is that if you're not using coordinated multiple media channels, then you're mad. And the need for coordination means all the media must be controlled by the fundraising department: the days of having social media, web or email under the flag of communications rather than fundraising are over.

It was found that 71 per cent of both X and Y generations (in effect, 20 to 45-year-olds) would welcome mail from a charity known to them - a higher percentage even than Civics (people over 65). Email is the least welcome medium for all four generations - but still popular and effective.

Online giving is common across all generations, and all claim they are most likely to learn about the cause first from mainstream media - TV, newspapers and radio. This is in stark contrast to the message from most conferences that youngsters deal only in new media.

One interesting finding is that advocacy plays an important role in engaging all generations (except Civics), with one in four thinking it's important. This is in line with nfpSynergy's Charity Awareness Monitor of March 2011, in which respondents were asked to say how much of various job functions could be attributed to activities such as administration, fundraising or 'the cause'.

"A person campaigning to change the law" - advocacy, in other words - was deemed to be 41 per cent to do with 'the cause', one of the highest rankings. The role of charity chief executive, by contrast, came out as 74 per cent admin, negligible for fundraising and even less to do with 'the cause'.

Campaigning is not used widely enough to engage supporters. Many charities campaign, but mostly to achieve a campaign end, not as a means to build loyalty, which it undoubtedly does. Charities should be more innovative about creating campaigns for supporters to get behind, with the success of the campaign subordinate to the major impact on supporters' commitment.

So get into a battle on a matter of principle and ask your supporters to back you. The outcome will be less important than the increased commitment they will feel from joining the fight.

Stephen Pidgeon is a trustee of the Institute of Fundraising, a consultant and teacher

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