I’ll keep waiting for the phone to ring

tumblr_lrvsgyDJNw1qjxfnsA guest blog by Ashley Rowthorn

10 years ago I set up a monthly standing order payment to charity supporting street children in Latin America.

I was a few years out of University and had started working as a fundraiser, so while I wasn’t flush with money, I wanted to make a regular financial commitment to charity.

I had this charity in mind after attending an event one year with my wife. Her parents were donors and had been invited to a celebration event at Westminster Hall. They couldn’t go, so we snapped up their tickets and set off for a day trip to London.

I was impressed with the charity. They were fairly small, but were making a tangible difference to some very vulnerable children, by getting them off the street, into new homes and giving them an education. I wanted to sponsor a child, knowing that my contribution would matter.

So I did. And it felt really good.

The charity in question phoned me up to thank me for my donation. It was personal and genuine, and I was made to feel that my gift was important to them.

Our relationship started off really well. They sent regular updates about the children they were supporting, first by mail, then by email after I asked them to save their stamps.

Then things kind of faded. I’m not sure why – I hadn’t cancelled my giving, or changed my details, but the conversation seemed to fizzle out.

I admit I didn’t notice for a long time. As a typical regular donor my giving is fairly passive and I’m not very responsive to communications. But it doesn’t mean I don’t care anymore.

The thing that irks me the most, isn’t the lack of updates, it’s something far more important.

It’s that since that phone call more than 10 years ago, they’ve never once asked me to increase my giving.

Since I set up my standing order, inflation has eroded the value of my gift by 30%. I’m giving the same monthly amount as I did in 2005, but the charity have less to spend on helping vulnerable kids.

What’s more striking is our household income has more than tripled, but I’m giving the same amount as I could afford straight out of University with a mountain of student debt to pay off.

Yes I should do something about this, but the charity, and specifically their fundraisers have a job to do that they seem to have forgotten. They need to motivate me to give.

I’ve no doubt they’ve probably analysed the data and decided that since I haven’t donated in response to any of their previous requests then I’m probably not worth spending any more money on. Hence the silence.

But they’re missing an important point – I never donated that way in the first place. My relationship is as a regular donor and they should be talking to me as such. Instead they’re treating me as a piece of data and not as the individual I am.

I’ve no doubt if they picked up the phone and asked me to increase my monthly gift, I would. Because I care about the work they do and the children who they help.

I’ll keep waiting for the phone to ring.

Ashley is a legacy fundraising consultant at Legacy Voice and Remember a Charity council member. Specialising in helping charities have amazing legacy conversations.

Twitter: @AshleyRowthorn

Website: www.legacyvoice.co.uk

9 Comments on “I’ll keep waiting for the phone to ring

  1. This is such an obvious point to be made ref. inflation and the current value of the gift of what one is donating. The impact value of the difference it would make.

    Also ref. GiftAid as example. So if not already part of their charity donation set up – would that not have been a Sign/Road Post point for and to be included in their OP/Marketing strategy that would have meant they contacted for authorisation?

    Great post.

    Thank you!

  2. Hmmmm, even if they hadn’t ever asked for a larger donation, they are risking that you might cancel your donation because you’re not getting updates on their work or by the sound of it, even being thanked. Very poor donor management.

    • The funny thing is, they did ask me to leave a legacy! But all by mail. I think it’s strange that my contact with them has been by phone, but they’ve never reciprocated. Maybe they think mail is cheaper, or more convenient to them.

      • I suspect that this is not an unusual situation as different fundraising teams have different fundraising plans and techniques formed about what they want and need, rather than what would be best for the supporter. If other readers have experienced similar situations – or a have an example of where a charity has done a brilliant job, please do share. Lucy

  3. This is really interesting as I have quite a different view as a donor which is not to say I don’t like hearing about a charity’s work- I certainly like to receive that kind of update and like you, don’t feel I receive enough of these when I donate. What I don’t like is being asked for more directly, or indeed being recontacted by charities I’ve donated to in the past. I know everyone’s different but I prefer any giving I do to be proactive and in fact think I’m perversely less likely to give if I feel I’ve been prompted!

    Admittedly I’ve mainly received paper follow ups (which I feel is also not the greenest approach) but i wouldn’t especially be keen to receive a phone call either.

    So, I guess I’m hitting on one of the key challenges for fundraisers – we’re all different so it’s perhaps about really trying to track what a donor’s preferences are and being sensitive to these – tough but probably worth it in the long run.

    • I think you are right Nicola, each donor is an individual and if charities can find out and understand more about their donors, it will be beneficial for the relationship between the charity and the donor in the long run. Thanks for commenting.

    • Indeed – and to your earlier point, the fine balance is understanding donors and giving them the information they want to know, and asking when the time is right for the donor in a suitable way…Thanks for sharing.

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