One year on everything has changed.

A year ago, in any equation of risk versus reward, as fundraisers, we were able to choose reward, i.e. return on investment. We could build a strong business case on time to breakeven or life-time value.  That equation doesn’t balance any more.

A year ago, we prescribed the number of new donors to acquire through recruitment activities, with the sure knowledge that more activity meant a healthier database. However, the side effect of some of these fundraising practices has impacted on the health of our charities’ reputations.

A year ago, customer care meant delivering on a fundraising promise measured in percentage of communications delivered within a specific number of working days. We agreed performance on time to delivery, not quality of care.  Stewardship was seen as the responsibility of a disconnected supporter care team, not as the heart and influencer of all decisions.

One year on everything has changed.

The risk of poor donor relationships, unmanaged third party suppliers and opaque fundraising asks is high – in some cases so high that it trumps the monetary value of the fundraising outcome. In building investment business cases (or in justifying business as usual) not only are Fundraising Directors looking for a return but they are asking, will this enhance the brand reputation? Will this engage supporters? Or even more bluntly, will this put me on a tabloid front page?

The relative priority of stewardship and the supporter experience is rising quickly.  No longer can it be in the backroom.  Although its prominence has undoubtedly been accelerated by the events of the last year, this also mirrors a wider global trend and is a welcome and positive change.  Look at the likes of Tesco, John Lewis and British Airways where the Marketing Director role has been replaced by a Customer Director.  The customer experience is at the heart of all decision-making in these commercial businesses, and the supporter experience will increasingly be the central driving force for fundraising decisions.  The focus is on making sure the building blocks of compliance are in place, paving the way for a different future where relationship management drives the strategy.

THINK is working with a number of clients on both parts of this donor engagement management equation. We’re looking at a range of activities from third party contracts, modelling income with ‘opt in’, through to compliance with the Fundraising Code of Practice or a Fundraising Compliance Audit.

We have begun mystery shopping face-to-face fundraising with a dual aim of assessing the necessary compliance requirements, and delivering an engaging, persuasive, compassionate case.  A tricky balancing act, but vital these are delivered in equilibrium.

Alongside this we have seen continuing growth in the popularity of our Stewardship Tracker. Fundraisers are using this in depth tool to measure donor care and engagement.  Through multiple channels, the tracker follows what it really feels like to be a donor, whether the supporter has signed up to an event, made a cash donation or a regular gift.

With over twenty charities now taking part in the sixth year of operation, the tracker will also give fundraisers an evaluation of how they are viewed compared to others across the sector. So if you aim to be the ‘best of the best’ in terms of the supporter experience and donor care, you’ll easily know!

For more information on either fundraising compliance or on our mystery shopping and stewardship tracker, please contact our Central Office on +44 (0) 1280 824297 or . We’d be happy to discuss how we can help you keep up with the sector changes and ensure, one year on, that your donors are still giving with confidence.