Face to Face

Is Your House In Order?

If you saw the recent “Show Me the Money” story on Channel 7’s Sunday Night or heard influential 2GB radio journalist Ray Hadley a few days later, then you know the spotlight is once again on Australian fundraising – and not in a good way.

Pareto’s Benchmarking Report 2017 clearly shows that two decades of great growth in fundraising income has contracted.  And that the dependency on Face to Face Fundraising needs to be considered with the trends.

Our team have been working with both the FIA and PFRA to supply them with figures that show the value of long term donor relationships and the multiplication effect of the initial investment in fundraising that can be realised if we look beyond the first 12 months.

Lessons learned from Britain’s not-for-profit sector, tells us to prepare for the change and ensure Australian Charities have their house in order.

You may remember that 2015 was called the summer of charity discontent in Britain.

Months of fundraising criticism by the media, politicians and the public, including donors, resulted in a devastating loss of trust and public confidence in Britain’s charities.

Shocked by this national outrage, the UK government demanded an investigation.  Sir Stuart Etherington, chair of the review panel, said ‘… charity fundraising has never been more important … this is why it is particularly crucial that we get fundraising right.’

Part of getting fundraising right was the formation of the Commission on the Donor Experience. Their role? To produce an authoritative report on the fundamental ideas and strategies that will put the donor at the heart of fundraising – not fundraising targets.

Almost two years on, the Commission has released the first of its summaries.

The 6Ps: a blueprint for transforming fundraising for good is the first in a series of planned reports that aims to change forever the donor experience and the way that fundraising is done in Britain.

I urge you to download this report – with thanks to SOFII – and share it with everyone in your organisation.

The CDE’s first findings show you practical ways to help fundraisers everywhere deliver happy, satisfying and effective experiences for donors.

Please do contact me or your Pareto Account Director with any questions you may have.

Dearne Cameron

CEO Pareto Fundraising +61 (0)2 8823 5800

New Australian Donor Numbers Fall for First Time in Two Decades

The latest Pareto Benchmarking figures show that the number of new donors acquired by the 82 participating charities in 2016, was less than in 2015.

These charities include a majority of charities raising over $20m in 2016, and a good selection of medium sized fundraising organisations as well.


With more than 65% of all regular givers and appeal donors acquired by face to face or direct mail, whatever happens to these two channels influences the big picture more than anything else.



Direct mail grew solidly until last year despite postage costs increasing dramatically, the Australian dollar falling from 1:1 to 1:0.75 and Australians falling from being ‘the wealthiest people in the world’ to just pretty rich (on average!)

By the end of 2015, intense acquisition strategies from many charities, large budgets and our small population of people aged over 65 (the average age of a direct mail donor is around 73) led to many charities simply running out of new people to ask.

Unless charities have great mid, major and bequest donor strategies in place, direct mail has slipped from being a great acquisition tool to just an OK one.  Annoyingly we haven’t a ‘replacement’ channel working at scale to bring in the older demographic.


However, direct mail can’t be looked at on its own as its about the donors not the channel in isolation. The long term benefit is really in bequests.  Despite taking many years, the potential of direct mail with a good bequest program in place is extraordinary.

Just 5,000 new direct mail donors could be worth $5m with a good legacy marketing program.*

Unless you are an animal charity or responding to intense media covered disasters, my advice is to only invest in direct mail acquisition if you have plans in place for donor retention, upgrade (of mid value donors) and especially that bequest fundraising plan.

The other dominant channel is face to face, I have been predicting a peak in face to face volumes for about three years. I guess if you predict your football team will win every year, people forget all but the year you got it right!

Unfortunately I hung in there, and this time I was right. Fewer new monthly givers signed up through face to face in 2016 than 2015.

Despite all this, face to face is still miles ahead of any other channel for acquiring large volumes of monthly givers, and beats direct mail without bequest follow up on five year return on investment.



We have had good growth in online lead generation and phone calls, but the volumes are still comparatively small.  TV, radio, press ads and other channels are just a blip on total volumes, but very important to the few charities getting it right.

New monthly givers signed up by non face to face channels usually have better retention, but there simply aren’t that many of them.


So what does this mean for Australian charities?

We have a small population, our costs are higher than most other markets and our average donations much higher.

We have to really look after the donors we get.  I have mentioned mid value, major donors and bequests already – and they are key – but critically we need to increase our focus on donor love (donor care, supporter service, whatever you call it in your organization).

Here are my tips for all charities fundraising through individual gifts:

  • Be on top of your data.  Measuring campaigns is fine but you really need to be on top of tracking key indicator numbers, key performance indicators and running ongoing analysis to identify trends. And this is for your whole program, individual programs, donor segments and even some individual donors. Produce monthly reports, or even better dashboards, and make sure they are understood and the information is acted upon. It is important to make sure the quality of your data is managed effectively. It’s all well and good to make ‘fixes’ with an agency or mailhouse, but make sure you apply any fixes in your systems too, otherwise it may not be ‘fixed’ for the donors next interaction.
  • Acquire more donors.  If you are acquiring donors and modeling a break even within two years – don’t stop! In fact, if there is any more capacity you can use (e.g. lists or face to face go for it. Just make sure you check the compliance credentials of any suppliers).
  • Know your donor.  A true donor communication survey is key for donor care, major donor work, bequests and more.  It can even help with future direct campaign results!  Key to good donor care is to understand your donor and use a survey year after year.
  • Thank properly.  This doesn’t mean just send a receipt with a short thank you letter.  Every time we conduct mystery shopping, charities come up badly.  Donors deserve a beautiful thank you letter, telling them how their gift will help.  Then they should get a follow up telling how it DID help.  Hardly anyone does this, so, it is easy for your charity to have the best donor care around.
  • Ask properly.  Personalise copy.  Not just name and address, but donation amount, reflect their support, personalise paragraphs depending on their survey responses and previous donations. It is important any personalisation included relates to the donor, and isn’t just changing an adjective in the copy depending on their giving level. Take time to think about where the donor is in their giving journey, what they’ve told you and ensure your copy reflects this well.
  • Use the Pareto Principle. Donors who give larger than average gifts will likely give you more larger gifts.  You don’t have resources to spread equally, so prioritise those with the best potential to give more.  About half your donations will come from just five per cent of your donors.  Use the survey and look at previous giving to work out who they are.
  • Meet donors. The best fundraising happens face to face, but any full time major donor fundraiser who spends more time NOT meeting donors is either under supported or in the wrong job.  There are usually around 220 working days for a full time person.  A full time bequest or major donor fundraiser should be spending 180-200 of those visiting donors.  ALL fundraisers would be speaking to donors. Making thank you calls, checking in on how the fundraising you do feels for your donors. Aiming to understand more and more about your donors. If you have not spoken to a single donor in the last month, pick up the phone now
  • Hold staff and suppliers accountable.  Make sure they know what is expected and make sure good KPIs are in place and understood. Ensure suppliers are compliant with regulations.
  • Try some new stuff. Finally, and only if you have made sure you are doing all the above!  Budget for R&D with no income expected. And please – on behalf of the whole sector – let us know how you get on!

If you want to be part of Pareto Benchmarking next year please email Jesse Zarb.

* 5,000 direct mail donors, average age 73, average bequest in Australia $59,273.  Benchmarking shows 0.4% of all such donors have become bequestors, with more advanced bequest programs achieving 2%. $1.2m-$5.9m.

Face to face and direct mail – when will the good times end?

By Sean Triner

I just came back from a visit to the UK where I met up with my wonderful financial mentor, Martin Richardson. He was CFO at Action Research (now Action Medical Research) when I worked there back in ’95-’97. Back then Action Research was a pioneer – they were APPCO’s (then working with Caring Together) first ever charity clients making them face to face pioneers.

Martin is still CFO and it was good to catch up, but it was sad to reflect on what happened over the fifteen years between ’98 and ’13. Basically, the first few years of face to face were fantastic – and then other charities jumped on band wagon and results declined. Attrition went up, costs went up and ROI began to decline. So towards the end of the century they stopped.

Throughout the noughties Action Research invested cautiously in face to face donors – but lots of other UK charities did decided to throw lots of money at it.  It wasn’t that face to face didn’t work anymore, it was just that Action Research were a victim of their own success.  By being first, they got some great results and some great donors.  Face to face and direct mail were still great in 2000-2010, just not as good as 1995-2000.

As Martin says “If you have a fundraising method that has a much better return than traditional investments – do as much of it as possible until you find something better or the returns decay back to traditional investment level”.

Martin carries on “Increased competition, market saturation and increased costs have all eroded the ROI and whilst not as good as it once was it is still our first choice for recruiting new regular givers.  What we are all looking for is that next great method so smaller and medium sized charities can be first to market like Action Research was with payroll and then door to door.”

It would appear that the last few years in Australia have provided a new, better or at least comparable return technology: direct mail.

Benchmarking across 70 odd charities from the two nations confirms just how dominant these channels have been. Face to face can take credit for most regular givers across the sector, and direct mail the ‘one off donors’.


New Cash Recruits


New RG recruits


If a charity has a good regular giving upgrade program, is good at converting some of its direct mail donors to regular giving, and follows up for bequests and major donors then we see the two programs yield comparable returns for the charity.

Like many things, a balance of the two is usually the best solution for mid and large sized charities (and small charities who want to be mid or large sized).

Direct mail – especially using premiums or incentives – is great in the short term (cash flow) and long term (bequests and major donors) whilst face to face is great in the medium term (solid, ongoing income growth with low risks).

As you can see from the charts, the best year for both methods was last year, with direct mail growing exponentially in the past few years and face to face linearly. That exponential growth is pretty much all premium direct mail acquisition. Of course, direct mail doesn’t work every time, or for everyone, but across the sector it has done very well recently.

Over the years, I have attended many conferences to hear ‘face to face has had its day’ or is ‘reaching saturation point’. It is true to say that things are tougher now: face to face is more expensive, has (in general) worse retention rates and only slightly better average donations. But it is still the best way to get large volumes of regular givers.

And after just two – three years, premium direct mail is getting the same feedback – and it is tough out there; with response rates expected to decline and average donations eventually to come down. But it is still the best way to get large volumes of cash donors.

SMS giving, online giving, Facebook acquisition all have their place but none are yet providing the results of those two traditional media – face to face and direct mail.

If you are thinking about starting one of them; I am sorry to tell you it would have been a little bit better a couple of years ago, but pleased to say – well done, because it will probably be much tougher in five years.

If you read this far, you probably work for a charity, which means you do good. Saving lives, saving trees, changing society, protecting animals. I hope that the need to help makes you impatient, because you should be.

Have realistic expectations, and appreciate the concept that net income over the next few years is your most important goal.

Get more donors now, because the next lot will likely cost you more and not be as valuable.





Australians gave more to charity in 2011 than ever before

By Sean Triner

The latest Pareto Benchmarking figures – derived from looking at actual transactions across 45 charities in Australia and New Zealand – revealed that Australians gave more money to charity in 2011 than ever before. Double checking annual reports of the largest fundraising organisations not in benchmarking confirms it was a good year.

Regular giving (automatic debits) has grown enormously over the past ten years. In fact, for professional fundraising organisations such as Cancer Council NSW and WWF regular giving accounts for more income than ‘one-off’ donations.













As you can see from the chart above, across the group, around a third of individual gifts came from bequests, a third from regular giving and a third from occasional donations such as those sent in response to direct mail.

Direct mail had been pretty flat over the last few years, but has begun a new resurgence in growth as new creative approaches lift response rates from around 1% to over 4% for many charities. This is from sending letters to people who had not previously donated to the charity.

We expect this growth to accelerate as more and more charities have recently succeeded with their early tests. However, it can take a long time for them to accelerate their programs so the growth will most likely be reflected in 2013 data (to be presented in 2014).

Face to face (people on the street, knocking door to door and asking for monthly pledges) goes from strength to strength, with these 45 charities acquiring more donors through face to face last year than any previous. The only thing holding back further growth in this area is capacity from the face to face providers – they are mostly full up.

But it is not all rosy on the face to face front – one charity in the group lost 60% of its new face to face donors within one year. The average is around 45% but the best manages to keep most of its donors, with only 36% attrition.

Australian and New Zealand charities can join Pareto Benchmarking for free – email bm@paretofundraising.com

When will face to face reach saturation point?

By Sean Triner

Face to face, or direct dialogue*, which is used to acquire monthly donors has added millions onto charity disposable income in New Zealand Australia in just one decade. In 2001 it hardly existed in Australia.

Every year my company, Pareto, coordinates a data comparison project on behalf of a few dozen charities. Last year 41 charities compared their data and found that around a third of their income from individuals now came from regular giving (automatic debits from their bank accounts or credit cards)… RG is the light blue on the chart below…

  …and of that 30% or so of their income F2F has been the biggest driver…(F2F is the orange-ish bit).  

You can see that F2F was still driving the growth, and had actually grown by more in 2009-2010 than 2008-2009. But I still keep hearing people worried about ‘saturation’ – sometimes to the extent that it puts them off investing in this area.

Clearly it is not saturated yet across the market. However, some charities have done so well that the number they acquire each year is about the same as the number they lose to attrition so they have no net increase. For them, they need to look at alternatives if they want to continue to grow.

The latest benchmarking round of comparative data is due April/May this year and seeing if F2Fs rate of growth grew again in 2010-2011 will be fascinating. I will let you know.

* By face to face I mean the process of stopping people in the streets, shopping malls, door to door and at events and asking them to sign up for an ongoing debit from the credit card or bank account. It is huge in Europe, having taken off big time in the mid 90s in the UK and accounts for the majority of new donors acquired in emerging fundraising markets like Hong Kong, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. Canada is into it too, but the US is a late entrant, with proportionally less F2F activity. Almost certainly the biggest growth potential in the world is in the USA. If you are US fundraiser and don’t know about it – find out more!

Fundraising needs you! Help get a fair review

By Sean Triner

First published by Fundraising and Philanthropy Magazine in September 2011

Fundraising transparency is to be put under the microscope by the Not-for-Profit Sector Reform Council. Sean Triner urges all fundraisers and nonprofit leaders to take action to ensure the council is well informed about the areas it is reviewing.

This is the most important agitator I have ever written. Our ability to fundraise using the most effective techniques available to us could be under threat. A group of 12 people have been appointed by the federal government to review the nonprofit sector and make far-reaching recommendations.

They are the Not-for-Profit Sector Reform Council. I assumed that fundraisers knew about this group, but at a recent meeting of fundraisers I realised how many people simply didn’t know about them.

Why do we fundraise? To help the poor, the disadvantaged, the environment, and the abused. We fundraise to make the world a better place. We fundraisers are facilitators. We give people who care the opportunity to create change.

I am sure that the members of the reform council believe in the same things. But we all need to act together to help make sure they know what is important in the world of fundraising, and to ensure that any changes to legislation do not hamper our ability to serve our beneficiaries.

Transparency on the agenda

Part of the group’s remit is “improved transparency and accountability of the sector.” Few would oppose improved transparency and accountability. But experience shows that when politicians or the media start talking about transparency and accountability, their own lack of understanding can lead to rules which can grind some highly effective fundraising methods to a halt.

Even many professional fundraisers still don’t grasp the complexity of fundraising from all techniques – it is nigh on impossible to understand them all. But the Not-for-Profit Sector Reform Council will have the power to recommend changes to legislation which could damage some of the most effective, but least understood, fundraising techniques such as face-to-face and telemarketing.

Can you imagine the impact on your organisation – now and into the future – if face-to-face, direct mail, telemarketing, lotteries and even online fundraising were restricted?

Within the group, only one, Anne Robinson, directly represents a nonprofit listed in the top 50 fundraising organisations (according to Givewell’s Top 50 report). Robinson is the chair of World Vision, which is great, but she is not a professional fundraiser and will need our help.

The reform council’s remit goes well beyond fundraising, but if these good people are about to review the sector, then we need to make sure that they have all the evidence and knowledge about fundraising that we can give them.

Problem with cost of fundraising ratios

The problem with transparency is in the complexity of fundraising, and in the end it always boils down to ‘cost of fundraising’ ratios, as this is the easiest thing for the layperson to understand. But even that is really difficult to explain, and it is hard to compare different nonprofits and different types of fundraising using this method.

Take face-to-face. It is constantly attacked by the media and politicians, yet is difficult to comprehend.

Ironically, face-to-face’s increased transparency makes it an easy target. Most programs work on a ‘pay per donor’ basis. This reduces risk to nonprofits and makes any face-to-face campaign incredibly transparent. With other forms of acquisition, this ‘cost per donor’ is hidden.

For example, with a direct mail acquisition campaign organisations must produce creative, buy print and lists, then pay for postage. One nonprofit may produce the creative in house, paying for the service within its salary and office overheads budget. Another may outsource to get professional copywriters to do the work. These two organisations’ costs are impossible to compare before they have even mailed the pack.

Once mailed, the nonprofit waits for results. It may then follow up all new, non-regular donors with a phone call or additional mailing to ask for a regular gift. It may use internal resources (again, paid by salary and overhead) or outsource to a specialist phone agency.

At the end of this process, the organisation will have some new regular givers. But trying to compare the performance of these two different processes is next to impossible. Usually, over five years, the direct mail and phone method will get a better return on investment.

But the face-to-face method will get more donors and therefore more net income. Of course, you should be able to do both.

It is not appropriate to judge a nonprofit raising $5 million at a cost of $2 million (delivering $3 million on services) as ‘worse’ than one raising $1 million at a cost of $100,000 ($900,000 on services). Yet, using cost of fundraising as a measure would do just that.

The next problem with measuring cost of fundraising is the unfairness of the measure. Large organisations have a natural advantage, and if they have an established bequest program, already have lots of donors or a nice endowment, then their cost of fundraising will look much better than many smaller organisations that have less resources and no economy of scale.

Finally, even nonprofits with similar resources are impossible to compare. It really is cheaper, for example, to acquire new donors for an animal or kids cause than an organisation dealing with a less ‘palatable’ mission like the rehabilitation of young offenders.

We need to make sure that the Not-for-Profit Sector Reform Council know about these complex issues.

So, what can we do about it?

A group of fundraisers from organisations that engage in face-to-face fundraising have a regular meeting every couple of months. They call themselves the F2F Working Group.

Nonprofits represented in this group include the Heart Foundation, Médecins Sans Frontières, Greenpeace, ACF, Amnesty International, Mission Australia, Childfund and dozens more. They are especially worried about potential legislation regarding face-to-face, but appreciate that the reform council will be looking at many other factors.

At the moment, we don’t even know what is or isn’t on the table as the purpose and remit of the council is very wide. That is why we fundraisers need to pull together.

Please, will you help?

The Fundraising Institute of Australia (FIA) is helping. FIA staff told us at a recent F2F Working Group that they are in touch with the council’s chair. As chairman of the FIA, Leo Orland is leading that liaison and met with the council in early September.

But the FIA can’t do this alone. It doesn’t have access to phone and face-to-face data, FIA staff are not in day-to-day contact with donors and measuring ROIs and CPAs. It has different pressures and needs our help. We are lucky that the FIA chairman is an accomplished fundraiser, but he will need our support.

Please keep abreast of FIA emails and updates and subscribe to updates from the F2F Working Group by emailing Paul Tavatgis (paul@cornucopia.com.au). Paul is currently coordinating the group’s communications and will add you to the circulation list.

Maybe there will be no new legislation. Maybe they will just harmonise the regulations – taking a national set of rules from what already exists across our states and territories. We all want harmonisation, so that is something we have in common. But if they pick the toughest rules on each area from the toughest legislation already in existence, then our ability to help our beneficiaries will be stunted.

We fundraisers need to make sure that the council has the facts. We need your help. We need to make sure that we are in dialogue with this influential group, whose recommendations will have such a dramatic effect on our lives.

As well as a potential threat to your organisation, your action or inaction could be the single most important career move you ever make. Please, help now.

What can you do?

There are six actions you can take right now:

  • Don’t leave it to someone else. These legislative things tend to be boring for fundraisers, so we are often guilty of leaving it all to people within our organisation who are not fundraisers. Don’t.
  • Make sure your boss, your chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chair and board understand the importance of the Not-for-Profit Sector Reform Council. It could be a brilliant government run initiative, but without action and understanding it will not produce what you need for the future of your beneficiaries. You, and your bosses, cannot ignore this.
  • Ask your suppliers if they know about this. What are they doing about it?
  • When submissions are requested make sure that you get them in.
  • Email Paul@cornucopia.com.au to make sure that you are on the mailing list. Although it was originally convened around face-to-face, the implications of inaction go much further.
  • Check out more information on the Not-for-Profit Sector Reform Council here:http://www.dpmc.gov.au/nonprofit_reform_council.cfm

New Donor Diagnostics

By Andy Tidy

Wouldn’t it be nice if when you recruited a new donor, you knew how much they would be worth in the long term? All donors are not equal, and they don’t behave as if they are, so identifying their differences and adjusting the program they receive accordingly, is the key to maximising net income and achieving the best long term return on investment.

The question that needs to be addressed is ‘what are the metrics that need to be monitored that will allow you to see as early as possible how valuable a donor, or a group of donors, will be and how they should be treated?’ Depending on your recruitment mix, these will vary.

Regular Giving Recruitment

For regular giving recruitment, the key performance indicator that needs to be monitored is attrition. Three month, six month and twelve month attrition will identify any issues there may be in the short and medium term. For a long term view, it needs to be measured over two, three or four or more years. Attrition is usually represented as a percentage of recruited donors but there are other ways of looking at the impact attrition has.

The average number of payments made by donors who stop giving is a useful comparator. For example, if the attrition of your regular giving recruits is heavily skewed to the first few months, then you will get fewer payments per lapsed donor than if the attrition is more evenly spread out over the year. This will have the effect of increasing the amount of “lost income” – defined as the difference between the expected income from a regular giving recruit (12 times the monthly value) and the actual amount received. The lost income amount provides a tangible financial value to the attrition.

Upgrade likelihood is another metric that will contribute to long term value, monitoring the proportion of active donors that have upgraded, and the value of the upgrade allows you to monitor the contribution your upgrade program makes.

The last element you need to consider for RG recruits is their propensity to make additional contributions. This is usually in the form of a response to a cash appeal. The recruitment channel is usually the main determinant of whether a regular giving recruit will also make cash gifts, but there can also be variation by list source, payment type, age and other variables.

Once these metrics have been calculated, the next step is to look into any underlying variables that influence them. These will include channel, age, payment method, agency (if Face to Face), DM list and gender. Monitoring and slicing by these factors will allow you to pick up any sub groups that are over or under performing, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

Cash Recruitment

When we look at a cash recruitment program, the metrics that need to consider are different.

Second gift rate is usually the first that is measured. As per attrition for regular givers, this can be looked at after three, six and twelve months. What needs to be measured, along with the second gift rate, is the value of the second gift as this will be a key factor in the long term value of the new recruits. Donors that upgrade on their second gift are flagging to you that they have the potential to donate more – looking at the asks these donors receive will help maximise their long term value.

Along with second gift rates and value, the number of subsequent gifts per year will be a driver of long term income. Those recruits that respond to multiple appeals in the year following acquisition will go on to be some of you best donors. The proportion of new cash donors that convert to regular giving will vary depending on your strategy – testing of the best approach is ideal if you have enough recruits.

Ongoing Costs

The final element in any assessment of the long term return from acquisition is costs. The recruitment cost is fixed at the time of acquisition, but the ongoing costs can be controlled. By looking at the performance of the new recruits using some of the metrics outlined above, it is possible to quickly ascertain which donors justify the extra expenditure – such as donor care – and which groups of donors need to be cost managed.

Cost management of donors is particularly important if the recruitment contains large volumes of low value one off recruits. These donors need to be given the opportunity to make additional gifts, but by keeping an eye on their net contribution we can make sure that the program as a whole is not compromised by their poor return. In the same way, monitoring the return from upgrade, additional cash asks and reactivations to regular givers will ensure the net return is maximised.

Creating reports to look at the performance indicators above, when combined with campaign analysis of the initial acquisition, will allow decisions about acquisition and donor development strategies to be made promptly and therefore profitably.

If you need assistance with recruitment analysis and planning, we’d love to help you out. Give us a bell on 02 8823 5800 or email us at canyouhelp@paretofundraising.com.

Downgrading: when asking for less results in getting more

By Jonathon Grapsas

For years some of my colleagues and I have been banging on about the need to seriously consider actively downgrading regular, monthly donors.

Are you going mad, Jonathon?

Possibly, but not on this one. The rationale is simple. There are certain groups of regular givers for whom we know, statistically, they are likely to stop their ongoing giving. Their characteristics have predetermined that they’ll fall out of love with us really quickly and hence cancel their gift.

I’m talking about ‘younger’ face to face recruited donors. By younger I’m talking under say 25 (may vary by client).

We look at data for F2F donors every day. Whenever we run the data through some geeky data modeling, its spits out the same result every time. Younger donors are more likely to stop their giving in the first 3 months than ‘older donors’. There are other criteria that dictate attrition levels, like payment type and housing type, but hands down every time age is the most significant variable.

So for me its always been simple. If we know statistically that a group is likely to cancel, would we not be better off tackling this head on rather than sitting back waiting for the inevitable?

Well, I was incredibly excited a couple of weeks ago when a Canadian client shared they have been doing exactly this. And guess what, it’s working.

Of course, by working you need to ensure that the drop off in income from either doing nothing and the lower average gifts is offset by more supporters staying on board.

Let’s do the math.

Scenario A. I have 1,000 donors giving me $20 a month ($240 a year). The data shows me that I’ll likely lose (because of the make up of the data) 300 in the first 3 months. So my $240k in annual income is, in crass terms likely to be around $168k if we do nothing.

Situation B. What if we took the 300 “likely” cancellations and asked them to consider dropping down to $10 a month? Assume of those 300 two thirds of them say yes, the other 100 we can’t reach of decide to cancel anyway. We now have 700 donors @ $20 per month and 200 donors @ $10 per month. That means my annual income is now $192k, a far better result than sitting on our hands and doing nothing.

There are a few things to consider here:

– Do it on the phone. Make sure the call is intended as a donor care one, not an administrative one. Thank, check in, share, acknowledge. Then discuss their giving level and how comfortable they are.

– Test the timing of this. Likely done best around month 1 after sign up, but play around with this. See what works for you.

– Just because someone may agree to lower their financial commitment, don’t forget them. F2F recruited donors need to feel the love, albeit in a slightly different manner. They don’t behave like donors from ‘traditional’ media. Long letters and dry newsletters are a waste of time. Punchy, shareable and relevant content all the way.

If you do this, let me know how you get on.

When asking for less means getting more. Sometimes direct response just doesn’t make sense.

What’s in a name?

By Sean Triner

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”

William Shakespeare, through Romeo and Juliet, may have had a point. But actually, a common knowledge is useful, especially in teaching.

I presented two sessions at AFP last week, to a mostly American audience and spoke about two things – what we in Australia call regular giving and a method of recruiting them, called face to face.

By regular givers, I mean someone who has money debited automatically again and again in an agreed time period, usually monthly.

By face to face, I mean the act of speaking with someone, in person, and asking them for such an automatic donation.

These two names don’t really work.

To many fundraisers, a regular giver is, understandably, someone who gives – um – regularly. This could include people who donate every Christmas. So regular givers is not the right term. The Canadian approach is to call them monthly givers, but this doesn’t quite work either, since some are quarterly and some are fortnightly.

As for face to face, many fundraisers have, for decades, referred to the act of asking major donors for money, in person, as face to face. So this confuses people. Even if you define what you are talking about, people need to train their minds to the crossed meaning, which reduces the impact of the point of the teaching.

My proposed solution is to grab the best descriptions that exist and make them universal (for English speakers anyway – I don’t know where to start with Chinese or Spanish equivalents).

I recommend for monthly donors / regular donors / automatic debitors we take on the American descriptor: “Sustainer”. It makes sense, isn’t a re-branding of the word and is not ambiguous.

For face to face / street fundraising / chugging we should go with the old British descriptor: “Direct dialogue”. I won’t even complain about the inevitable American misspelling (dialog) which is more environmentally friendly anyway. (Think about it).

Anyone want to help me with the re-branding campaign?