News & Articles

Can you name this critter?

The Bush Heritage two-step Australian wildlife campaign has garnered great results – both in terms of lead acquisition and donor conversion. James Herlihy explains how it was achieved.

Before Al Gore even invented the internet (he didn’t really, it’s just a meme), fundraisers knew that, if done well, meaningful non-financial engagement can lead to richer supporter relationships and greater response. But translating that principle into new digital media – and ensuring the viability of this digital activity as an acquisition channel – is where fresh fundraising ground is being broken in 2016.

Bush Heritage’s wildlife survey campaign, which was produced with Pareto Fundraising, is one example of that ground being broken successfully – and I would like to share some key results and findings with you.

The centrepiece: a wildlife survey microsite

The survey microsite is the centrepiece of a two-step campaign involving primarily Facebook content (still the best digital acquisition channel for return on investment and volume) driving prospects to an enticing survey landing page featuring the little critter featured here (take the survey at wildlife-survey to see if you can name it!).

Once a participant completes the survey, they are entered into a phone conversion program, while also being fed into an email journey aiming to promote social sharing and deepen supporter engagement before being served financial asks.

The results for the three-month trial early in 2016 were easily convincing enough to roll out for a further five months, as Audrey Hii, Direct Marketing Team Leader at Bush Heritage, explains: “The wildlife survey is very engaging and therefore delivers highly qualified leads. We understand from our phone agency that the phone fundraisers enjoy calling survey participants as the conversations are really positive – evidenced by a strong contact rate of close to 50% with a healthy conversion rate of 8% and average gift of $23.

“The cost per acquisition is the lowest across all of our regular giving acquisition campaigns and the projected 12-month return on investment looks to be on par with the best performing campaigns within our face-to-face program.”

The keys to success

What makes this campaign successful? Based on this and other two-step campaigns we’ve run, the top three elements are: A topic of relevance and interest to wellaligned donor audiences Unique Australian wildlife is interesting, especially to thoughtful middle-agers to retirees (who benchmarking tells us are our most reliable donors).

Self-interest factors We hit this attribute on a couple of counts. First is the personal challenge implicit in the campaign’s ‘What do you know?’ proposition. We all love finding out more about ourselves, and the fact that the survey scores you and responds interactively to your answers creates a nice instant feedback loop – and makes it more of a conversation than a one-way response process. The other self-interest factor is, of course, the incentivisation in the form of a low value, high street shopping voucher.

Compelling execution With Bush Heritage’s brilliant photos and the weird and wonderful world of Australian wildlife, our creatives had some fun with this one. The tone of the exercise hit just the right balance of fun and intrigue, while positioning Bush Heritage’s conservation programs in the mind of the participant and starting to build supporter interest. The tone of the quiz also makes it amenable to social sharing and competition – and no-one minds getting a few more supporter leads for free!

Campaign challenges

Six months into any digital campaign, the limited size of the Australian population (which breaks down to far smaller qualified target audiences) makes itself felt. We have to constantly optimise both audiences and creative, trialling and incorporating fresh ideas to keep lead cost per acquisition from rising and maintain volumes through to the phone room.

Happily, the campaign is still delivering strongly, which means more supporters helping Bush Heritage keep its awesome conservation work running. And if we reach that point where audiences need a rest from this survey, we’re a step ahead with plans to refresh this activity – and ensure online engagement remains a strong ongoing acquisition stream for Bush Heritage into the future.


James Herlihy is the Digital Strategist at Pareto Fundraising. He has spent more than a decade campaigning with nonprofits and is the brains behind groundbreaking digital campaigns for dogs, dolphins, humans, rights, reefs and more.

This article was first published in Fundraising and Philanthropy Magazine 2017

Dearne Cameron Appointed Chief Executive Officer of Pareto Fundraising

Media Release

9 February 2017

Pareto Fundraising, a division of ASX listed IVE Group Ltd, has today announced the appointment of Dearne Cameron to the role of Chief Executive Officer.

Dearne will succeed one of Pareto’s co-founders, Paul Roberts, who will transition to the role of Senior Consultant, continuing to play a key role within the Pareto team as a mentor in the areas of data insights and fundraising strategy. Dearne will join us on 20th February.

Dearne brings with her 18 years’ experience from the not-for-profit sector complemented with extensive experience in the commercial sector where she also held a variety of Director and Advisory Board positions. Most recently Dearne joins us from CompliSpace Pty Ltd, where she was the Chief Operating Officer. Her not-for-profit experience includes General Manager and Director of Anglicare and Anglican Aid, a board member of House-With-No-Steps since 2011 and a Non-Executive Director for Make-A-Wish Australia for six years.

Warwick Hay, Managing Director IVE Group, said “Dearne’s diverse range of experience across both the not-for-profit sector and the commercial sector will be an asset to the Pareto Fundraising business. Her passion for building strong relationships and helping charities achieve their fundraising goals will be invaluable to supporting our customers and helping them thrive.” Dearne commented, “I remember when Pareto started, I was amongst their first clients. During the last 15 years, Pareto has continued to deliver a growing and unprecedented expertise to the sector. I feel privileged to be part of the Pareto team, and I am looking forward to working with their many clients who are making an important difference through the services they provide.” Dearne studied at Macquarie University, Curtin University and Swinburne University and achieved an MBA, Master of Management, PGC Human Rights, BA Anthropology and Studies in Behavioral Studies and Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, a Fellow and Certified Practicing Marketer of the Australian Marketing Institute and a member of the Australian Anthropological Society.

For any enquiries please contact:
Paul Roberts
CEO and co-founder
Pareto Fundraising
M: +61 408 277 642.

About Pareto Group The Pareto Group of Companies is Australia and New Zealand’s largest fundraising strategy and data driven solutions company serving the not-for-profit sector. It has proven market-leading capability across analytics, direct mail, telemarketing and online channels. It is also internationally recognised and well-respected for its Benchmarking program, which provides whole of sector analytics, strategic consultancy and industry thought leadership.

About IVE Group Ltd IVE Group Ltd is an ASX listed vertically integrated marketing and print communications provider. IVE enables its customers to communicate more effectively with their customers by creating, managing, producing and distributing content across multiple channels. IVE has an unparalleled product and service offering in Australia and holds leading positions across multiple sectors. IVE approaches the market with a solution-focused strategy and consists of four operating divisions – Kalido (creative and marketing services), Blue Star Group, Pareto Group (fundraising specialists-NFP sector) and IVEO (managed solutions). IVE employs 1,300 talented and committed people across its operations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, China, Singapore and New Zealand. The Group services all major industry sectors including financial services, publishing, retail, healthcare, communications, property, clubs and associations, not-for- profit, utilities, manufacturing, education and government.

End of release

Forecasting the Future

Accurate budgeting and forecasting is becoming a must do for nonprofits, especially as their individual giving programs grow say Andy Tidy and Clarke Vincent…


Some of the most commonly asked budgeting questions in fundraising are, “If I do no acquisition, where will my income and donor base be in one, two or five years?” or “What do I need to invest in order to reach an income or donor volume of ‘x’ amount?”

Alongside these questions, accurate budgeting and forecasting is becoming more important as charities build large individual giving programs. Why? Because if a forecast is out by a relatively small percentage it can have a big impact on service delivery.

The key to accurate predictions is knowing the probability that a donor will or won’t do something. It’s nearly impossible to accurately predict what a single donor will do, but across a large enough group, it is possible to predict with relative accuracy.


Regular giving forecasting

For existing regular giving donors this is fairly straightforward. The main thing we need to know is the probability that the donor will not stop their direct debit (either intentionally or by failed payment). There is also a need to predict the propensity to upgrade and by how much, as well as the likelihood of skipping payments, but these have a relatively small influence compared to overall retention.

For regular giving programs with an acquisition strategy, where early donor attrition can often be as high as 50% over the first year of a donor giving, we typically also want to know expected recruitment volumes (including non-starter rates and first payment phasing), along with their subsequent retention, upgrade propensity and decline probability. These variables are essential for us to confidently manage the large budgets invested in regular giving acquisition and donor development.

It is imperative therefore to identify and understand the factors/variables that influence or correlate with retention of both new and existing donors. It is then possible to split the donors into segments defined by those variables and go on to forecast expected income based on the retention characteristics of each segment.

Typically, depending on the size of the file, existing donors will be split into 50 to 100 segments, with acquisition channel (for example, face-to-face, online lead conversion, DRTV etc) and tenure (months of giving) being the most significant. For new donors a smaller number of segments is used, with channel and age being the main drivers.

Each segment’s likely future behaviour can then be calculated by extrapolating the behaviours of previously observed similar segments. Applying an accurate prediction can also rely on an ability (somewhat an art) to forecast changes in the behaviour of a segment caused by anticipated future changes in external influencing factors such as market dynamics, charity fundraising and strategy development.

The segments are then ‘rolled’ back up into a whole group and their overall predicted behaviour can be used for accurate forecasting. For easy visual trend insight, they are often charted too. The two regular giving forecast charts show a no acquisition scenario where a charity is expected to see income shrink and an active acquisition scenario where the charity is recruiting enough donors to grow.


Regular giving forecast: five year (No acquisition)


Regular giving forecast: five year (Active acquisition)


Cash donor forecasting

Forecasting cash donor (single, one-time gift to an appeal) behaviour and fundraised income is inherently more difficult than for regular givers as cash donors have to make the decision to give each time. And depending on the outcome of each of these decisions, the expectation of their future behaviour changes.

It doesn’t mean a cash income forecast can’t be done, it is just that the forecast will not typically be able to be predicted with as much confidence at a granular level. The principles are the same as for regular giving – we need to identify the factors/variables that predict an appeal response and how much they will give – typically these will be based on recency, frequency and value.

Each time a donor makes a donation it potentially changes these characteristics, so the process becomes an iterative one, therefore each year of the forecast is dependent on what we expected the donors to do the previous year.



Forecast cash direct mail income by year (No acquisition)



Forecast cash direct mail income by year (Active acquisition)


These charts show the difference in forecast income for a direct mail program from doing no acquisition vs acquiring donors consistently over the next five years. It becomes a fairly simple process to manipulate the donor recruitment volumes to achieve steady income or hit growth targets.

An income forecast model can then be enhanced with inputs such as budgets and costings to help model different scenarios for the long-term return of your integrated fundraising program.

Predicting the future can be fun, enlightening and very useful but all forecasts should carry caveats about their limitations and accuracy. The key to improved accuracy is to compare predictions and actuals over time, try to understand the key factors and causes of variations, and make corrections.

Most experienced stakeholders will understand that forecasts should be treated as a useful indication rather than a promise of results. If stakeholders wish to lock-in or guarantee minimum results (for example, to be able to make commitments about future service provision) then it is wise to provide different scenarios that represent different combinations of variables (for example, based on last year’s retention rates, based on retention rates 1% lower than the previous year etc).


What about unknown unknowns?

Some fundraising programs become harder to forecast as they mature, or ‘max’ out, as it becomes harder to find and engage new supporters. While it is possible to more accurately predict the income to be received from retained/existing donors, predictions about the long-term future behaviour of donors yet to be acquired is fraught with more variables and risk. There is, however, a considered approach that can be applied to building longer term models of multi-year donor acquisition programs and I will outline an approach to do this successfully in a future article.


Clarke loves talking about data and has made a career out of doing so for more than fifteen years in the direct marketing industry. He has been our Head of Marketing and Business Development since February 2009.  Andy  started his career in the UK in 1993 working as an analyst for two large charities. In 2003 Andy began working for Pareto Fundraising where he has been the driving force behind Pareto Fundraising’s international reputation for data-driven fundraising excellence.


This article was first written by Clarke and Andy and was first published in the October/ November edition of F&P Magazine.



Establishing a regular giving program is a big challenge for any charity. F&P asked Fiona McPhee how she recommends getting donors over the line and keeping them on board for the long term.

According to fundraising expert and blogger Jeff Brooks, about a third of individual income to professional fundraising charities in Australia comes from regular giving. Pareto’s Fundraising Benchmarking 2016 report, which studied the data from 48 different charities, supports his argument – confirming how an ongoing commitment from donors is crucial for a charity’s longevity and stability.

In your opinion, what defines a high-performing regular giving program?

This is one that has well managed customer service and attrition. The biggest challenge in regular giving is the fact that donors stop. They sign up to a monthly donation then at some point in that journey their giving stops, with most new donors bowing out within the first year.

So organisations with low attrition tend to have high-performing programs. The average first-year attrition for starters (those who make at least one gift) is 40% across all channels.

How can a charity reduce the loss of donors within the first year?

Declines management is number one for me in terms of managing attrition, and that basically means if I process your monthly donation and you don’t have enough money in your account or the account is closed, the charity gets a decline back.

Declines management is crucial – you can recover a very large percentage of those declines throughout the year if the right administration and customer service processes are in place.

Many organsations have been able to bring their attrition down by 5% or 10%, simply by assessing and addressing these processes, which makes a huge impact on their income and their retention.

Another way is to have a strong donor save program in place. Charities have to put the effort into training, into developing KPIs and into monitoring their donor save programs so they give themselves the best chance of keeping their regular givers on board. Whether it’s offering them the chance to reduce the monthly amount or even put it on hold for a while, having a strategy in place and a trained team ready to address donor savings is critical.

What’s one of the biggest challenges charities are facing with regular giving?

Supplier capacity and retention for faceto- face recruitment – you might have the budget to invest, but engaging and retaining a suitable supplier and getting the recruitment volume you are after is a real challenge in today’s market.

Marketing automation is another challenge for a lot of charities, but some of them are really trying to crack it. The very good ones are targeting a variety of demographics through a combination of email, SMS, phone and printed material – they’re covering all bases. This is a well-planned strategy but, of course, cost comes into it too.

I think the cost of marketing automation versus the benefit of it is a real barrier at the moment too. However, we can certainly see lower attrition rates in that first period for those who put the effort in.

What kinds of strategies should charities have in place for ongoing retention?

One strategy is upgrade programs, which includes contacting donors and asking them to increase the value of their giving. Again, the high-performing charities have a multifaceted program. It’s not just a one-shot, single-phone campaign at one point in the year. They’re looking at what the different channel opportunities are and the different ways that they can offer upgrades.

Channel diversification for upgrade programs is another good idea. This involves moving beyond just calling or mailing donors. Some charities are looking at how they can use SMS and email to supplement – it’s about getting coverage, so actually trying to get through to every single donor and give them the opportunity to increase their giving as opposed to just touching base on the phone once a year.

How can a charity hope to establish a successful regular giving program?

The first thing it needs to look at is its product or its proposition for regular giving. You’ve got to have a reason for someone to commit to you on an ongoing basis.

That could differ from charity to charity. For example, an organisation that collects money in response to emergencies needs to think about why someone who’s used to giving in response to a really tangible, current emergency should commit to an ongoing monthly donation. It’s also critical that the back-end systems are in place, so that the donor’s transaction process and service experience is as smooth as possible.

Having a long-term budget and commitment in place is also critical. Regular giving tends to not break even and the acquisition of new regular givers can take more than 12 months, depending on the channel, yet a lot of charities run on a 12-month budget.

Setting expectations that regular giving has an excellent, long-term return on investment is often the first step towards ensuring the organisation is committed to investing. You’ve got to stick with it in order to reap the rewards. From that perspective, you’re better off establishing a three-to-five-year return on investment view of regular giving.

What advice would you give to a charity looking to establish a regular giving program?

Start with the expectation that you will need to diversify and evolve the program – it’s not a ‘set and forget’ activity. Based on how things have trended in recent years, expecting what’s working today to be working the same in three years’ time is risky.

From a diversification perspective, there are several different channels options, and each requires a different approach and delivers different types of donors. However, in the market right now, face-to-face accounts for more than 75% of the income for regular giving, so that’s a real focus area. But it comes with massive challenges in that there is less supply than there is demand.

For me, the organisations that are doing really well are using that as their base, but testing to diversify channels. They are looking at other opportunities. They are trying to develop other avenues into regular giving that certainly don’t have the same volumes, but are giving them some stability and sort of future proofing in the event that anything changes.

When you look at the Pareto Fundraising Benchmarking program, you certainly see that those charities that are generating the most income have multiple channels feeding their program.

Fiona McPhee is Strategy Director for Pareto Fundraising, helping charities in Australia and New Zealand like St John Ambulance Australia to develop their individual giving programs.

This article was first published in Fundraising and Philanthropy Magazine 2016

Mild-mannered Donor or Impassioned Activist?

They’re both out to help change the world. Mary Anne Plummer asks whether we’re giving them enough opportunities to do it.

Ever been advised not to call your donors ‘donors’ to their face? It’s something I’ve been told frequently over the years. I thought it was about potential confusion with organ or blood donation, or squeamishness about categorising people as a funding source.

They’re valid reasons. Another is that people supporting your organisation don’t necessarily see themselves as a ‘donor’. Or ‘event participant’ or ‘activist’. As one told me recently, “I support causes in the way it suits me at the time, and when I feel my actions are going to change something.”

This got me wondering. Are fundraisers missing opportunities to make more difference because we assume donors are only ‘donors’? And what actions could/should not-for-profits be asking for, to get the most value from people who care about our causes?

The British Labour Party (BLP) campaign team has provided this unexpected insight into the first question: “Taking an engagement action made our supporters at least 60% more likely to become donors.” What? 60% more likely to become donors?

That impressive figure, and a few more besides, came from a combined Blue State Digital/BLP presentation at IFC2015. It was called Win or Go Home: What charities can learn from political campaigns.

Specifically, BLP’s digital campaign team sent everyday Brits very easy, non-financial asks like, “Tell us if you intend to vote”, “Which of these three statements about today’s Britain do you most agree with?” and “What issues are most important to your family in this election?”

This basic profiling was used to improve the relevance of subsequent communications, which aimed to appeal to the masses after a loss in gifts from the big end of town. Slightly harder requests were then made to respondents, such as: “Give us more information/feedback”, “Make a donation”, “Help out with the campaign in practical ways.”

BLP may have ultimately been smashed in the election. But its supporter e-mail list grew by 601%, membership swelled to its highest level since 2003, and 1,100% more was raised in small online donations than in the 2010 elections.

Take outs

  • Be careful not to silo prospects into ‘most likely to act this way’ categories.
  • Collect and use data along the way.
  • If you give prospects multiple ways to make a difference and do it well, many of them will eventually give you money.

How can charities use non-financial asks to acquire donors?
Jeremy Bennett, the supporter Acquisition Program Manager at Amnesty International Australia, says a model that works well online for Amnesty is first asking people for a lowcommitment action, and in a second step, requesting a donation.

“We can acquire leads relatively cheaply that way,” he says. “It can give us a lower cost per acquisition for regular givers than some other methods, and we’ve seen lower attrition rates in the first year for donors we’ve acquired.”

Also, in the case of leads from online surveys, he adds that: “We get a bit of information on the supporter and the area of our work that’s motivated them.” Amnesty can then use this to craft a better experience for supporters.

But what if – unlike Amnesty – you don’t have an obvious activism charter, or your organisation is small, unknown or new? Of course it’s harder, however there are still plenty of non-financial actions your charity can ask prospects to take (see box for ideas).

It’s all about choosing the right first step for the person, your organisation and your cause, whether you’re saving animals or doing medical research. Not surprisingly, the richer and more rewarding and aligned you make the journey from that earliest engagement, the more likely your supporters are to become donors.

Take outs

  • Make it easy for people to connect with you at the first touch.
  • Make subsequent communications relevant to your prospect, consistent and rewarding.
  • Convert to donations when you both know each other a little better.

Can non-financial actions make people better donors?
Fundraisers try hard to retain donors and increase the value of their gifts. Could asking them to take a non-financial action help achieve these goals too?

Kerin Welford, the Fundraising Manager at Assistance Dogs Australia, says that while her organisation would never ask donors to sign petitions or write protest letters, she has seen success from a survey mail pack which asked them for their opinions and included a soft financial ask.

“We received higher than expected donations and achieved an ROI of 2.65,” she says. “And a small percentage of those who take non-financial actions go on to become more involved. We’ve had volunteers who have become major donors and confirmed bequestors, for example.”

So if your charity isn’t already doing surveys with a donation ask, this could be worth trying. Ditto opportunities for donors to personally connect with your mission in a way that’s not just financial, such as through invitations to special events, site visits or field trips. You could try asking high value supporters to call and discuss a specific issue with someone high up (or better still, someone interesting!) in your organisation.

Not only will getting to know your supporters provide you with valuable insights and feedback you can use to enhance your donor service. These improvements, and every occasion that donors interact with you, will help to deepen their loyalty and the likelihood they’ll keep giving.

People who give money also tend to be generous with their actions, says Amnesty’s Jeremy Bennett, who notes that “our financial supporters tend to be better activists; they take more actions, on average, than our activists … They’re looking for other things to do to help.”

Take outs

  • Test and track combinations of financial and non-financial asks. It will help shape the best way to engage supporters for a greater overall outcome.
  • ‘Like’ to ‘will leave bequest’ is a massive leap. So break it down into little steps.


Non-financial engagement ideas

There are plenty of ways to engage warm and cold audiences in ‘activism’ even if this isn’t part of your mission:

  • Survey (one of the best I’ve seen had one question)
  • Petition
  • Contact a politician (local, state, national) or other authority
  • Contact the media
  • Volunteering request/opportunity
  • Mass event participation
  • Boycott a company/event
  • Change behaviour
  • Hand raiser
  • Bounce-back/message of support
  • Open form feedback
  • Invitation to limited-numbers event
  • Competition
  • Giveaway/premium
  • Share a message with friends (e.g. Facebook or other social group)
  • Anything else people will do and ideally you can track – be creative!

Mary Anne Plummer is Creative Director at Pareto Fundraising, helping charities including Assistance Dogs Australia to create powerful fundraising communications. Before that she spent nine years writing copy for the corporate sector at some of Australia’s best known advertising agencies

This article was first published in Fundraising and Philanthropy Magazine 2017

Is face to face fundraising really worth it?

Before I start I should make two confessions:

1) I am biased – my companies analyse data, help donor retention programs, acquisition, legacies and major donors and regular giving conversions by phone, mail and online, mostly in NZ and Australia.  I don’t ‘do face to face’

2) I am not very good at face to face fundraising. The photo below is of me, as fundraising director at Mind (a mental health charity in the UK) giving it a go in London in the late 90s.  I was not very good.  The guy I am chatting to was French, and we couldn’t get foreigners to sign up.  But we had a good chat.

Having said that, I will be as unbiased as I can, just concentrating on the data.

What data? Every year, loads of charities* get together to share information so that they can understand the market and maximise efficiency.  This is an amazing collaboration.  They do not share any data that could compromise individuals privacy, but they are able to look at millions of transactions.

We look at a decade of data – and the volumes are huge.  This is truly how people behave, not how they say they behave.

First thing first – statistically speaking, with the exception of media friendly disasters (tsunamis, floods, fires, earthquakes and other tragic events), people don’t give without being asked.  They say they intend to, but they just don’t.  If fundraising charities didn’t ask, they would save an absolute fortune on salaries, post, creative fees, print, TV ads, phone calls… but would save even more as they blink out of existence.  The good they do wouldn’t be done.

One of the greatest fundraising channels in the history of fundraising is ‘face to face’.  By this I mean those dudes that knock on your door or chat to you on the street or the shopping mall and ask for a regular gift.

Face to face has achieved something that no other channel has – getting younger people to donate in strategic numbers.  By younger, I mean under 60. Most donors are over 60 – but face to face has an average age of signups less than 40.  This is remarkable, and the volumes have been huge.

Like any high impact marketing product, face to face is not without controversy.  It is, literally, in your face. Constantly reminding you of the inequities of our society.  Also, there are occasional reports of rude or pushy canvassers – though these are rare now, given that they are pretty much summarily dismissed if they get complaints. Most canvassers passionately believe in the cause, and love the idea that they are able to make a living, fund their travel or whatever – and do good at the same time.  Some canvassers may work for several charities over a period of time, exposing them to different causes.

But it is expensive – travel, salaries, materials, databases, follow up systems, SMSs, email, videos, welcome packs, welcome videos, admin processes and systems, stamps… none of these are free.

A while back we looked at ‘in house’ v ‘outsourced’; on the face of it, it looked like in house would be cheaper and have more passionate canvassers.  The study found that in some cases, that was true but on balance, over five years, there was little in the overall net result for the charity whether it was in house or out of house.  Given the challenges of setting up in house (different pay structures, space, getting and retaining direct sales management expertise etc) most charities actually out source.

Like any marketing, expensive doesn’t mean bad – the most important thing for a company is “What is our profit margin?”  Charities don’t call it that, but they need ‘profit’ because this funds their good work.

But does it work?

Firstly – what is ‘working’?  For me, it has to make a net return in a reasonable time frame and not cause damage to the  brand of the charity.  These are relatively easy to measure.

Net return is obvious.  But damage to brand is harder – in my view, looking at a charity’s impact (the work it does) and its overall income – beyond face to face, and over many years – are the best objective measures.

Also, ‘working’ would be influenced by how well it ‘works’ compared to other methodologies, such as digital, mail, phone, outdoor, TV, radio etc.

So, let’s start with volume.  Of 230,000 donors acquired in 2012 by the charities in the study a whopping 90% were through face to face. And face to face provided the largest growth too.  Gulp.  In the chart below ‘RG’ is regular givers – ie people who sign onto an automatic debit, usually monthly.

This is so great, that if you are serious about growing regular giving, you kind of have to do face to face.

But do these donors stay with you?

Looking at 2006 to 2011 recruits of new donors we see that, after one year, more than half are still giving – about 57% of new regular donors to all the charities doing face to face, were still giving 12 months later (the ‘attrition’ – number of people who stop giving – is about 43%, hence retention is 57%).

Imagine if you worked in a company where you get people to give you a monthly debit in return for, well, nothing (except a good feeling), and over half were still giving a year later.

You can see as volumes increased over these years, attrition has increased the increase is in line with what you would expect from larger volumes.

Remarkably, of the people who lasted a year, only 15-17% would drop out in year two and 5-10% per year afterwards- within the realms of ‘natural attrition’

But how does this attrition compare to other methods?  Well, because only a small proportion of the donors acquired in 2011 were from sources other than face to face, it is best to group them together to compare against face to face.

You may have noticed I have written face to face in red.  Now I am going to introduce non face to face donors.  When reading, the word ‘non’ can somehow disappear, so I am going to highlight that phrase blue.  This will help I promise.

What we see is that 79% of the non face to face donors were still giving in year two – much  more than the face to face acquired donors at 57%.  You may notice that subsequent years have little difference between face to face and non face to face.

It seems obvious – non face to face is better than face to face! Yaay!

Before you charity fundraisers drop plans for face to face and come rushing to me for help with non face to face acquisition, let’s take a breath first and explore some more.

Firstly, why does face to face have worse attrition?

Any trained direct marketer will tell you that if you increase volumes of customers, you tend to decrease average positive indicators dramatically, so that will account for much of it, but there are also other factors.

I can’t produce data about those signing up because they feel guilty, those who simply can’t say no face to face, those who fancied the canvasser or those that got in trouble when they got home and their partner kicked their arse.

But I can produce some data which explains some of this difference.

First is volume – higher volume, worse attrition.

Second is age.  I am sorry to tell you this, but generally speaking younger people don’t give,  Like I said earlier, face to face has got younger people giving in strategic numbers for the first time ever.  But when they do give, they are not as ‘loyal’ as older donors.

Breaking down face to face donors by age, we see about 130,000 of the 2011 recruits were under 44, and less than 50,000 over 44.  But those younger people were much more likely to stop giving.You can pretty much ignore the attrition of the 75+ donors, there are only a few hundred of them, so not statistically useful.

You can see half of the 90,000 under 34 year olds stopped giving after 12 months, but the truly remarkable thing is that a huge volume (45,000) Australian young people have entered into an ongoing relationship supporting a charity in 2012, after supporting it in 2011.  This had simply never happened until face to face was introduced around 2000.  How much better is the world going to be when these donors actually get to donor age!?

Ok, you believe me – face to face works in terms of number of sign ups.  But we need money, not just sign ups, and you probably still prefer those lower attrition non face to face donors.

The chart below shows the massive rise in income from 2003 to 2012.  For all you digital types who think digital can save the world – I think you are right, but not yet.  In fact, not for a very long time – look how much it has grown after tons of effort from the charities.  Online does work, but not on a large scale across many charities.  Yet.  (Happy to chat about some of our amazing online fundraising successes – but they are extraordinary, whereas face to face success is the norm).

Clearly, the big income driver is face to face.  And of the 70 charities in the study, not all engaged in face to face.

Another way of looking at the quality of a relationship with a donors is to look at the proportion of people who stick with their payments but actually increase their contributions.

The chart below shows that face to face donors are about as likely to upgrade over the years as any other method.  Phone is better, but if you consider that upgrading is best done on the phone, you can imagine the contact rate of people acquired by the phone is much better too; we know they are phone responsive.  If anything, it is remarkable the direct mail and face to face are so close to phone acquired donors upgrade rates.

Online upgrades look good, but it is just a big handful of donors comparatively speaking.

So face to face gets the volume, has good retention (but not as good as other regular giving acquisition methods), has good upgrade rates and provides lots of gross income.  But what about the net?

We know that the five year value of face to face donors varies by charity but averages around $760.  The average five year value of non face to face donors, mostly due to better retention, is over $900 –  a big difference.  Again, non face to face does better.

Average acquisition costs are estimated to be around $300 for face to face donors, and $350 non face to face, so non face to face seems to win again (yaay!) but the inconvenient truth is simply the volume – no matter how much money you throw at non face to face, you simply can’t get volumes to compete with face to face. Yet.

Either are bloody good – that is lots of extra revenue for the charity that would otherwise not exist, and that, after all, is the goal of the fundraiser.

Of course, the accomplished marketer knows they need a balanced portfolio, and this is the correct approach.

But what of brand damage?  Seriously – Greenpeace, Heart Foundation, Amnesty, World Vision, WWF, Red Cross, UNHCR, Oxfam, Cancer Council NSW…. damaged brands? Come on, get real! Most have been doing this for many years with no negative impact on brand, donor relationships or their ability to do good.

Is face to face fundraising worth it for your charity?  Yes, but only if have good, tight automated admin, a need for money, good communication systems and a great monthly proposition.

State of the Donation 2016

As presented by Sean Triner at the FIA Conference 2016

How unity helped power a $1.3 million appeal

Benny appeal 1

Caption: St John New Zealand’s 2015 annual appeal netted $1.3 million, telling the story of a real-life young mum Haylee, who was revived after her heart stopped. The pack included a drawing by her children and husband; and warm, natural images like the one above of Haylee with her daughter Olivia and below, of them thanking paramedics.

St John New Zealand’s Northern Region saw net income triple year-on-year for a 2013 tax appeal that focused on a real patient’s story – a toddler, Benny, who’d been saved from drowning. Behind the campaign (covered in the August/September 2014 issue of F&P) was a new data-led, donor-centric and emotive approach developed in partnership with the consultancy, Pareto Fundraising, showing donors the genuine need they were fulfilling.

The Benny campaign marked a significant leap for St John New Zealand, which provides emergency ambulance and community services. And its success has sparked ongoing transformation.

It has been the catalyst for the 130-year-old organisation’s three regions to adopt one unified and nationally led strategy instead of fundraising separately. Just one sign of the effectiveness of this change is that St John New Zealand raised $2.2 million in total from its 2015 annual appeal – a great achievement anywhere in Australasia.

Sharing the Benny campaign

Following the success of the Northern Region’s new direction, St John New Zealand’s other regions were keen to trial the Benny campaign in their areas. So they tested it at Christmas – in 2013 for the Central Region and 2014 for the South Island.

Each region personalised and localised the content, and weighed up the risks. The results of the Northern Region helped allay concerns about how a more conversational and heartfelt tone of voice would impact public and donor perceptions of the St John brand.

Still, stakeholders – including those responsible for executive leadership and governance – needed information and assurance on the risks involved. This was supported through regular communication between fundraising managers, sharing experiences and talking through stakeholder questions.

Developing a nation-wide fundraising plan

Over 2013 and 2014 the regions collaborated on a national fundraising plan, assisted by Pareto Fundraising, placing donors centre-stage.

This started out as three regional plans and a national plan, aligning where possible. Then last year a single national strategy was created, with the four main stakeholders clarifying the roles and responsibilities for a deeper fundraising program.

Regions drove new strategies and activity, capitalising on their local presence to achieve growth, for example by managing bequestor conversion and stewardship. Meanwhile the national office provided support, governance and critical projects: such as developing an integrated database to centralise data management and analytics; and managing the bequest program’s proposition, promotion and prospecting.

The national strategy also outlined the structure and objectives that now inform regional plans, with goals that include celebrating donors as heroes and embracing them through quality relationships.

Donor communications were increased from four a year to nine, giving people extra opportunities to engage with St John. This necessitated a shift in thinking and raised new questions about donor fatigue, brand risk and sustaining the return on investment.

But Pareto Fundraising could show that organisations which participated in its annual benchmarking project and sent more donor communications, also experienced higher retention rates, more gifts per donor and, in general, stronger income growth. And the consultancy’s analysis revealed that 35% of St John donors were shared with other charities and in some instances were giving them 5%-20% more!

Going beyond appeals

Bequests and major gift strategies were also reviewed. A nation-wide strategy for middle donors (those who gave a single gift of $1000-$5000) was implemented, with one bequest strategy (instead of three) incorporating learnings from each region. The successful regular giving product, ‘Team Green’, was introduced. Unlike cash appeals that raise money for equipment, Team Green’s donors support frontline officers, and specialised communications make their relationship about people and bring them ‘into the team’.

First step to truly national fundraising

St John’s annual appeal in 2014 was the first time the organisation’s new direct mail fundraising strategies and tactics were applied in a simultaneous nation-wide campaign integrating direct mail, e-mail, digital advertising, a dedicated website landing page, social media, TV and radio.

The single call to action was to donate now to “help St John continue saving the lives of New Zealanders like baby Israel”, and the urgent proposition was “power St John by helping buy equipment” – i.e. 12 new ambulances. While insights about donor behaviour meant targeting could be improved, this multi-channel approach increased response rates and the average gift (see Table A).

The 2015 annual appeal built on these gains, as donors had been taken on a planned journey over the previous year. Experiences, timing and topics across the range of services requiring funding were pre-selected for different donor types.

Donors were connected with various beneficiaries, integrating personalisation relevant to their region, donor type (using a segmentation hierarchy that varied by campaign type, e.g. cash/regular giving/donor survey) and relationship history – based on how recently they’d given, how many times and how much.

The power of one

The organisation’s structure, internal engagement, planning and budgets are still being refined. But a single fundraising strategy now delivered both regionally and nationally is encouraging donors to give longer and give more (see Table B). This unity is one key to St John’s ongoing success. Another is continuing to improve how donors are celebrated, embraced and honoured as generous heroes who help resource life-saving work.

Table A: Annual appeal results – warm direct mail


  2013 2014 2015
Net income $927,205 $1,182,944 $1,328,172
Response rate 10.2% 11.6% 19.2%
Average gift $46.53 $47.59 $56.53



Table B: St John New Zealand’s individual giving income

Year 2012/2013 2014/2015
Income from cash and regular giving $7 million $10 million
Second gift rate – cash donor within 12 months 25% 32%
Cash donor annual retention rate 45% 60%


Fiona McPhee and Glen Hill

Fiona McPhee is Strategy Director for Pareto Fundraising, helping charities in Australia and New Zealand like St John to develop their individual giving programs. Glen Hill is St John’s new national Head of Fundraising having previously held this role at St John Northern Region.

This article was written by Liz Henderson, Editor at Fundraising and Philanthropy Magazine. First published in the February/ March edition of F&P Magazine.

Announcement from the CEO of Pareto Phone, Bruce Cotton

This announcement is made following an update sent by Rob Edwards, CEO of the FIA. The update was addressing the protection of vulnerable Australians and the role that all telemarketers have to play in this. If you have not received this letter you can view a copy of the CEO Update from FIA here on the Pareto website.


Dear Fundraiser

I want to let you know that Pareto Phone have been working closely with the FIA over recent weeks in providing information on our current telemarketing practices as well as our market data on the importance of the channel in helping Australian charities to fundraise in order to fulfil your mission. This is obviously an extremely important issue for all of us and we believe that our current processes, but, perhaps more importantly, Pareto Phone’s management culture is fully aligned to the protection of vulnerable donors and the delivery of high quality donor care.

In our opinion, the start point for avoiding risks in this area is to ensure that smart data suppressions are being applied to all Campaigns, and, at Pareto Phone, this includes our own “do not call” list which we have built-up over previous Campaigns when talking to your supporters and your prospects. As importantly, we focus considerable specialist resource on training and quality monitoring our telefundraisers which includes the recording of all calls. We also recognise that occasionally a call that we make isn’t up to the standards that we set and, so, we assess, record and feedback on the very small number of complaints that we receive so that we can learn from our mistakes and identify any trends or specifics that require action. We believe that these processes are essential to ensuring that we can deliver the best possible standards of donor care for your supporters.

The protection of vulnerable donors goes to the heart of what Pareto Phone believes in and we will continue to engage in this consultative process putting the case forward for the self-regulation of the industry within the existing legal frameworks. We do agree with Rohan Buettel that further legislation and, specifically, the reversal of the DNCR exemption would, indeed, be a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

If Rob’s update or my e-mail raises any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Regards Bruce Cotton CEO, Pareto Phone

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