When I talk about supporters below, I’m talking about supporters who give by direct debit, I realise of course that not all supporters give in this way!
Supporter retention seems to be a very popular topic at the moment. So it should be as there is massive change happening in this area which needs urgent attention.
Recruiting supporters who give by direct debit is tough and getting tougher. But critically the sources of new supporters are changing. Direct mail, DRTV, inserts and door drop no longer dominate in terms of volume. Charities I’ve been working with over the last few years recruit well over 50% of their new supporters from more recently developed techniques such as face to face, door to door or telephone fundraising.
This swing towards these newer recruitment sources is accompanied by an increase in annual attrition rates, hardly surprising when year one attrition from some of these sources can be as high as 70%! Annual attrition rates for the whole file that were 10% a few years ago are now 12% and projected to become 14%. You can see where this is going of course.
We need to rapidly review our welcome and retention programmes to ensure they are fit for purpose and working for the new audiences these new sources generate.
Supporters from these new (mainly younger) sources want more from their relationships with charities than their parents and grandparents did. Committed giver doesn’t seem to be a term that fits their behaviour. They don’t view themselves as committed at all – it feels like they view the first couple of months of giving as a trial period.
I was involved in some research which demonstrated this to be the case. Telephone recruited donors were asked “when you first started giving how long did you expect to give for?”
12% said less than a year.
28% said about a year.
So at the point of recruitment 40% of these new supporters weren’t expecting a long term relationship! This sums up the challenge we face.
The same research showed that the post acquisition experience wasn’t making them feel appreciated. The feeling of appreciation dropped by over 20% compared to recruitment after they had been giving for just three months.
So what was so good about the acquisition experience? Well, they spoke face to face or on the phone to a passionate fundraiser who had a very compelling case as to why they should support that charity. The fundraiser smiled, encouraged, waved their hands around, thanked and made the potential supporter believe that they were doing the best thing ever by joining the cause. But, after they signed up, they received static, broadcast style communications that didn’t enable conversation or engagement.
So what should we do?
- Change our mentality. The winback process shouldn’t start after the supporter has lapsed, it needs to start the moment the supporter engages with us. Every communication should have a retention focus.
- Match the passion of the acquisition moment in the subsequent welcome process and initial supporter journey, no point exciting them at recruitment and then boring them afterwards.
- Talk to people in the media that they consume. Yes, that means the telephone, online, email and SMS.
- Bring content alive with video, images and audio to remind them of what they wanted to be a part of.
- Introduce a face and voice to their gift. If they think about cancelling we want to make it a personal not impersonal act.
- Ask them to do other things, small things to begin with like signing a petition or passing on a message to their friends and family. We want them to feel like they are part of a wider community and are doing something good.
- And finally, take an interest in them. Ask them about themselves, make the content you share with them relevant to what they’ve told you and act on their feedback.
Let me know what other things you think are important in keeping hold of supporters from these newer recruitment sources.