When branding gets in the way of engaging supporters

Speech bubblesA guest blog by Esther Preston.

As a qualified direct marketer I believe in building true attitudinal loyalty with supporters. What I mean is, that supporters are both inspired and understand the difference their support makes, to the point they are happy to tell their friends about it and encourage them to support you too.

This is normally achieved through carefully thought out consistent communications to build trust in our charity brand. The use of key messages to make it easier for people to digest what our cause is about, and a shopping list to let people know the difference their donation can make are two commonly used communications for building engagement. However, we all know as fundraisers that it is the real life stories that move our supporters and connect people with our charities. I only have to look at our Facebook page to see that any time we post a patient story, the number of likes, shares and comments go through the roof. It is particularly relevant for a hospice because many supporters have themselves experienced our services.

With this in mind I was inspired by a presentation by Catherine Miles and Sam Butler from Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity, at the recent Institute of Fundraising National Convention. It was titled ‘Empowering supporters to run their own digital/social fundraising campaigns’. It challenged my views on the importance of accurate brand and key messages in favour of emotive supporter generated video content that lacks any branding or information about the charity.

The first video we watched was about Jessica, a supporter who was training for the London Marathon.

It is a great example of a social fundraising campaign as she makes you want to support Anthony Nolan because she does – and she is really likeable.

The second video was Lucas Ruddy’ journey (do not watch without a tissue to hand).

I will be honest that at the end of the video I still didn’t know anything about the Anthony Nolan charity but if there had been a donate button I would have clicked it. Why? Well, I don’t give the charity because I understand the process of how they achieve their results, I give because of the result. In this case the family saying that Lucas was alive because of Anthony Nolan did it for me. I felt instantly connected to the charity and, importantly, it made me want to find out what the charity does.

I think we can sometimes be too precious about our brand and wanting to let people know what our charity does but if we don’t make that emotional connection first, then the best brand in the world won’t compensate. On the other hand, encouraging supporters to generate their own content that makes the emotional connection but doesn’t meet brand guidelines won’t do your brand any harm. That is as long as your own website has a clear brand and message to develop a person’s connection to your cause.

Esther Preston is director of fundraising and marketing at Ashgate Hospicecare, Chesterfield.

‘Always make new mistakes’ Esther Dyson

FailureSometime ago I went to an event run by The Crowd about celebrating failure. I wrote a separate blog about it here.

I was part of a round table discussion on sharing failure. You can see the full discussion here. We left with more questions than answers and I’ve summarized my 3 key take-outs below.

Bravery – we must find a way to be braver about sharing failure in the first place, both with our internal teams and external audiences. But when is the best time? And what is the best way? Do we market them to all audiences as near misses, or half-successes, or are we absolutely blunt and face criticism head on and learn a lesson in resilience?

Ambition and aspiration – our scope for failure is somewhat dependent on our level of our ambition in the first place.  Is it better to fall short of an audacious goal or succeed at mediocrity? If we only aim for success we end up in a society that only breeds mediocrity. How do we get better at actually aiming to fail and doing it fast to minimise risk and maximize learning? Developing a different attitude and culture for failure starts with education. Sir Ken Robinson talks about this here.

Being clear on what success looks like – its relatively easy to take a failed project and retrofit success to it; for example ‘the fundraising campaign didn’t raise any money, but it did create lots of awareness’ (sound familiar?) – I’d argue that if the goal was to raise x amount of money and it didn’t – it was a failure. And let’s not get bogged down with the failure bit, but let’s be ruthless in understanding why it failed (without necessarily blaming anyone) so that next time, if you agree there should be a next time, the project has a much higher chance of being a success. And the awareness raising – congratulations because that was an excellent added extra, but let’s be really honest, if a project didn’t achieve it’s objective it failed.

It’s all very well to say we must learn from failure, but the topic of sharing and learning from failure is really difficult because we are programmed to succeed. But as Woody Allen said “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative”

I’d love to know your thoughts and if you can, please be brave and share examples of failure here, or your tactics for sharing and learning in order that we can all achieve more.

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