The Central 21st Century Fundraising Quest

Over the last fifteen years the momentum has been growing around the quest for a truly holistic view of the donor capable of driving an integrated marketing approach; drawing together a comprehensive view of a supporter’s transactions, behaviours and motivations. Many commercial suppliers have promoted their data and software products on delivering this ‘holy grail’ of fundraising, but the reality is that I have yet to identify a charity that has achieved this view of its supporters, perhaps with the exception of a tiny number of small enlightened charities with very manageable supporter databases or structures.

It has never been more important to adopt the philosophy of donor share rather than market share, focusing on quality not quantity and ensuring a strong focus on donor retention, stewardship and quite simply love! So it makes sense that the quest is accelerating to secure a 360 degree view of the donor, but is this so unrealistic as to be destructive in our relationship and marketing planning? The answer has to be no, but perhaps we need to break down our quest into a series of achievable steps that will perhaps one day bring us closer to completing the holistic view.

Time to remind ourselves of the breakdown of the 360 degree view:

60 degrees: Money – the life blood of our operations

120 degrees: Time – volunteering and its many contemporary forms; the foundations of the charitable sector

180 degrees: Gifts-in-kind – for use, resale, trade or auction

240 degrees: Voice – the modern need to build a movement of support and give people the chance to contribute and share their passion and views

300 degrees: Influence – central to fundraising success over hundreds of years the simple concept of asking other to influence, reach out, connect or share with others. Possibly more important than ever in the digital space where networks and connections are central to everything

360 degrees: Lifestyle Change – a person making choices in their everyday life that reflects their values and aligns to the values/mission of a charity, cause or belief.

Thinking in achievable steps means thinking about the structure of an organisation, often the central barrier to achieving our quest. A central direct marketing team will have basic data, transactional data and interaction data, but has it got the capacity to build on the interactional data and perhaps add time, linked to community, events or retail volunteering records? Is a donor’s digital/on-line connection and interaction linked to the main database perhaps capturing voice where a donor has expressed support for a campaign or advocacy challenge? Either of these two ‘additions’ moves a charity from 60 to 120 or even 180 degree view.

For many years some of the largest campaigning charities have maintained separate databases for ‘donors’ and ‘campaigners’, believing that they must be thought of and serviced separately. The evidence has been around for years that this is not the case, and the opposite applies, the more engagement people have the more loyal and valuable they are. Again internal ‘silos’ get in the way along with budgeting systems that force people to protect ‘their’ supporters or donors. It is hard to believe that after many years of learning and hard evidence some charities have still not moved to a single database that provides the best possible chance of achieving integration.

In the UK gifts-in-kind are a critical support stream for many charities, especially with the need to supply so many charity shops and sales. Charities continue to test many options to capture data of people who donate through these routes and indeed those who purchase on the other side of the equation, but do we recognise the importance of this type of transaction and do we place enough resource, creativity and emphasis on capturing, linking and analysing the data?

Like many aspects of the quest for the 360 degree view, some of the six elements are more critical with some key segments of donors. High Net-worth Individual (HNWI) would not be possible without a strong focus on influence and multiplying every ounce of passion and inspiration achieved through one donor to at least one more, if not one hundred more. The potential pool of HNWIs has never been larger but the key to success is ensuring that every gift of money is balanced by a willingness to invest influence. In fact I always say that a cash gift in isolation from a HNWI without influence really means that the fundraiser has only achieved seventy per cent of the potential gift at best; perhaps a different if not harsh way of looking at this support, but a vital outlook if you are still seeking to get closer to the 360 degree view.

Euromonitor in 2010 identified caring consumerism as one of the top emerging trends with individuals across Europe, the process of an individual integrating their personal values and beliefs into their lifestyle choices.  So many causes now have strong programmes asking people to change their purchasing decisions and to take responsibility for the different aspects of their lives that may impact on the planet and its people, but do we consistently ask people if they have acted and then link these responses to a growing holistic view of the supporter? Lifestyle change is at least 60 degrees of our view and for many charities even more significant in relation to the value for their mission. As I compose these thoughts at 39,000 feet I have just switched my snack selection from a Mars bar to a KitKat, why? Because KitKat works with Fairtrade on ‘The Cocoa plan’ to “ensure a better future for cocoa farmers” ( A small, painless action, but one that is now natural in many people’s daily decisions.

If you are the elusive charity (‘please step forward!’) that feels it has achieved the 360 degree view and you wonder what this blog is all about, your next challenge is capturing every piece of donor behaviour and acting on the insights it gives you. Chuck Longfield from Blackbaud often reports the story of the donor ringing to change their address details as a clear ‘scream’ from the donor of how much they truly ‘love you’ as one of their top charities, why else would they take the trouble to call? This in turn sends a clear signal of someone who is eleven times, yes eleven times!, more likely to leave you a legacy and generally be responsive to legacy marketing.

The evidence is out there, the more contact, the more engagement and the more listening a charity does the greater the value of a donor over their lifetime. Lifetime value and share of wallet can only be achieved if we constantly strive to get closer to 360 degrees for each individual supporter we have contact with, at whatever level; the question is how close can you get and will you ever really get there completely in your lifetime!

Categories: General Fundraising, High Net Worth Individuals, Individual Giving

Resource Type: Blog

Posted by Beccy Murrell

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