Turning donors into fans
In many of the focus groups that I run for different charities I’ve tended to spot three broad types of supporters: acquaintances, friends and fans. Acquaintances tend to have a passing knowledge of the charity, are relatively warm to the charity but probably give to many organisations at a similar level. They are also relatively easily won and relatively easily lost.
Friends are our standard committed donor, giving fairly regularly and regarding the charity as one of their favourites. More loyal than an acquaintance, they are nonetheless more fickle than a fan.
Fans regard the charity as a central part of their life: they may not even like the charity that much, but they are passionate about the cause and devote a lot of time, energy and money to the cause.
These fans behave much like football fans. Anybody who is or knows football fans knows how passionate a fan is to their team – even if they despair about the team, or the manager or any other aspect of their club. Yet however much they are tried, they remain loyal – tribally so on occasions.
I’ve met such fans in some charities, but not enough of them. Fans are often seen as ‘difficult’ by the powers that be, demanding time and attention without necessarily yielding rapid financial results. This is a mistake because these fans are the people who should form the backbone of any community fundraising, or indeed, any direct marketing or digital fundraising strategy.
So how do we get more fans? How do we convert our acquaintances and friends into fans? The analogy with a football team might be worth pursuing in this context.
What turns fans on?
- They want to be part of something, part of a crowd of like-minded people. Digital communications enable us to create these crowds.
- They want to share the highs and the lows. Football fans get almost as much of a charge from their team’s failures as from their successes. After all, even Manchester United has its fair share of failures – it loses more cup finals than it wins (or even semi-finals!). We tend to only share the highs, seldom the lows. We need to take our supporters with us through both the highs and the lows.
- Fans like to come to big days and share in the experience. The chants, the Mexican waves, are all part of the experience. Do we spend enough time giving our supporters those rallying calls, the one-liners or the viral engagement activities (our Mexican waves)?
- Fans want heroes. They want to follow their heroes through what they do and how they feel. Our heroes might be a dog or a nurse, but do we enable our supporters to follow these heroes closely? Again digital communication enables us to do that.
There are so many opportunities for developing our fans. Should our supporter journey be from acquaintance, to friend, to fan? It might help us build up that central core of support so essential to our long-term viability.