So what did we find out?

Getting it right digitally: in both Canada and the UK, making one off donations or setting up a direct debit on line were regarded as the most positive initial interaction.  This is encouraging as we move increasingly into a digital world.  However it is critical that we don’t let performance slide in other channels as without a doubt mail, telephone and face to face are very much alive and kicking.  Online interactions will always have the advantage of automation, immediacy and efficiency  – how can these attributes be replicated in processing donations received through other channels?  Many of you will be using third party suppliers for this and strong contract management is needed to ensure that Service Level Agreements for response times are met in these areas.  Consider reviewing and tightening your response times and monitor performance closely. 

Enquiries: This was highlighted as the weakest area of interactions we looked at, with challenges in both countries.  A key observation was that responses to general enquiries sent by post received unacceptably slow responses or in some cases were not answered at all.   What if one of these enquiries was from a wealthy individual looking to donate a large gift? They could have been put off by their experience and decided to consider another cause for support instead.

Some 13.8 billion letters were sent in 2012 and whilst this is predicted to decrease by between 4 – 5% annually over the next 8 years, that will still be an average of 37 mail items per household per annum.  So mail is far from dead as a channel and the way we respond to letters should be as fast as we do to emails.  And some modicum of personalisation is important in all letters.  How many of you have a strong letter writer in your Supporter Care team?  Not many, I bet, with an overreliance on standard templates. How could someone with a real skill in this area transform your email and letter responses?

Complaints: In this key area of supporter care, the UK falls short against our Canadian counterparts.  The weaknesses include length of time to respond, failing to listen to the issue and providing a standard answer, only partly answering the question and for telephone complaints the skills of the call handlers.

 Losing just one donor could be a catalyst of lost income. The White House Offices of Consumer Affairs suggests that every dissatisfied customer will tell on average between 9-15 people about their experience.  We sometimes forget that supporters are people just like us? How do you feel when you get a negative experience when you shop? I bet you tend to stop spending your money there and tell all of your friends the next time you get together for drinks.

Surely its time now for UK charities to really step up their game in this area?  It’s just not acceptable to allow second best in this key area of supporter interaction.  Think about the very best experience you’ve had of a complaint being resolved.  Now how do you replicate that in your charity? Empowering front line staff to resolve the majority of complaints without upward referral is one way to speed up the process.  And of course training in house staff in handling difficult calls and ensuring telephone agencies are on the ball in this area are other key areas to focus on.

 Handling enquiries about leaving a legacy: We know securing legacies is firmly back on the UK charity agenda and we are delighted to report that in this area the UK rules supreme.  The key elements that supporters like are better signposting to specialist individuals to handle the enquiries, personalised responses and high quality information which was received quickly, usually in less than ten working days.  Not much to ask for and not rocket science! We’re hoping that our Canada counterparts look to implement these small changes to their legacy programmes so that their results improve in this area.  In the meantime, how does your charity measure up?

Building a relationship: As consultants, we’ve been asking charities for years to really focus on retention of donors.  So it’s sad to see that in both the UK and Canada, this is still an area where performance is weak.  Our results show that during the course of the first year of engagement, supporter satisfaction diminishes. The aspects with the biggest difference in supporter impressions is the understanding of what the donations will be spent on.

70% of UK supporters agreed with this compared to only 56% of those in Canada.  UK supporters felt more involved in the charities with 48% compared to 36% agreeing with this.  Only half of the mystery shoppers in both countries would recommend the charity to others.  Year one of a donor’s relationship with you is key and by having well thought through Supporter Journeys for this initial period and beyond will help you to engage supporters and motivate them to be loyal and advocate for the organisations.

On balance, our results show the UK as securing the game – but only just.  And that may be because our surveyed UK charities have been focusing on this area for a number of years as opposed to the Canadian ones who have only been involved since 2014. It seems that even small adjustments to your stewardship programme, can make all the difference in your overall supporter journey and experience.

The 2015/2016 UK Stewardship Tracker begins in October and we are currently accepting applications to become members.

There’s limited time to join so don’t hesitate and please contact us on 01280 824297 for more information on shining the light on your stewardship programme.