Charities spend a huge amount of time crafting the most appropriate asks of their supporters. They balance the views of supporter care with their fundraising team, test and analyse different campaigns and send out the proposition, crossing their fingers it will work.
Sometimes it does, but other times it really doesn’t. Red Cross Australia was recently forced to ask supporters to stop donating items it simply couldn’t use to its crisis appeals. Chainsaws, handbags and high heels had all been received by the charity which found that the cost of sorting through donations was significantly exceeding the value of these goods, it showed in a recent report,
The items received demonstrated that the appeal had failed to educate donors sufficiently that they were able to make an appropriate decision about the nature of their donation.
A sector wide challenge
The Australian Red Cross has made it clear that money is the best kind of donation, as it crosses international boundaries much more easily and cheaply than food or people. That is one solution, but it avoids the more pertinent issue which is that donors should have a better idea of the issues surrounding the causes they want to help.
One way this could be tackled is by opening up the communication channels between front line staff who know what beneficiaries need, and the fundraisers who can pass on information about these needs to the supporters.
One leader in the field for empowering donors to find out more about what is actually needed by the people they want to help is the Trussell Trust, which allows local foodbank volunteers to update their websites and apps with information about the items that are most urgently needed. Donors can open the app to get a current shopping list of the most urgent items for their local food bank.
This hyperlocal approach may not be for everyone, but this model could be used to educate donors about specific need as and when they want to find out more.
The success of this approach has been due to the clear lines of communications open between front line volunteers and donors. The Trussell Trust has used digital technology to make this possible, but other charities could just as easily make sure their programme workers and front line staff are involved in developing fundraising asks and marketing campaigns to make sure this information is shared with donors.
This would mean that supporters would be able to make informed decisions about where the greatest need is, and hopefully become more engaged in your fundraising asks. So maybe take a risk and tell your supporters exactly what you need, when you need it and you might just end up with the right audience for you.
If you want to improve your supporter engagement strategy then get in touch with Copper. We have worked with a wide range of national and international charities and would love to hear about what is causing bumps in the road for your organisation.
Digital project manager