In my previous blog (about the broken charity fundraising model and the potential for Digital
to fix it) I pointed to models of online engagement (Airbnb, Uber, ebay) which give people flexibility, build brands with their audiences and offer a seamless user experience (one where you don’t really notice what you are doing to get to the end of the process, it just happens!).
A few people noted that the underlying point is that we, as charities, are not treating our donors well: we are too focused on what we need from supporters and not offering them what they want from us. We are not talking to people on their own terms and where they are in the journey with our brand or with our issue.
How do we engage our supporters better?
To engage supporters on their own terms, we need a range of different types of cross-organisational (i.e. not siloed) engagement offers which require more or less effort from a supporter. That way they can engage on the level that suits their lifestyle and personal brand.
Some charities have started looking at improving supporter communications in this way.
Lifeboats (RNLI) has decided to ask people to opt-in to be contacted for different types of comms. What RNLI is doing is brave and brilliant – ask people what they want and then send them exactly that. That really is relationship development and is more engaging long-term.
But this change is going to be felt by the organisation – RNLI did a number of financial projections and the worst case scenario could lead to the loss of up to 60-70% of contacts and £30-35 million (more at the beginning of this programme). This type of change will undoubtedly have a transformational impact on RNLI.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) asked its supporters how they would like to hear from the organisation and let them write their responses in a text box. The feedback has been positive and revealing (you can hear their Director of Engagement talk about it here – relevant bit is at 23m 53s).
There is no time to wait
In 2016 the new EU-wide General Data Protection Regulation kicks in with two years grace for implementation. The focus of the new data rules is on giving people more choice around how they are communicated to and on providing more transparency on what companies and organisations do with people’s data.
The legislation is being negotiated as we speak but some things are already clear:
- individual needs to opt in into comms (no opt-outs)
- they should opt-in for each individual channel (SMS, phone, email)
- organisations need to be able to clearly explain when someone opted in for what (challenge w legacy data, so we’ll have to re-opt in old contacts)
This might lead to best practice of asking people what kind of content they’d like to receive, enabling easy unsubscribes/management of subscription.
Charities will just have to change, starting with how they engage their supporters.