The theme of this year's IFC conference is ‘Asking the Right Questions’.
As someone who spends most of his time working with UK charities I don’t think there has ever been a better time to pause, breathe and think about the things we can do to drive real change in the way we inspire and move the public to take action for the causes we have the privilege to represent.
For a very long time fundraisers in the UK have been in optimisation mode. Monthly giving by Direct Debit was our goal and all roads have led to the optimisation of the channels and tactics that have delivered monthly givers at scale and for as little outlay as possible.
But now is the time to change. This doesn’t mean that monthly giving isn’t important. But we do need to diversify the methods by which we recruit and retain donors. And we need to offer donors more choice in how they support us than a low value monthly gift.
A major part of my day finds me thinking up how we do this, specifically how we use digital techniques to do this.
Coming up with ideas is the relatively easy bit: we all exist in a digital world and can all be inspired by the emergence of new technologies to help us come up with new methods to deliver better advocacy and fundraising programmes.
But there is a problem, the problem is that there is so much happening in technology and digital. There’s so much going on that we need a framework or method to make sure we make the right decisions on where to invest our energy and budgets.
So we should focus our decisions on which ideas to develop based on the answers to questions in three key areas:
Technology. What does technology enable?
Does the technology exist to do the thing we want to do? It’s possible to develop anything if you have the time and money. But building from the ground up is expensive and fraught with danger. Before we build anything we need to be sure that there aren’t already platforms or products in existence which we can fuse together to deliver our idea. I honestly believe that the organisations that invest time and resources here will be at the forefront of redefining the fundraising model.
Behaviour. What are people actually doing?
This is the biggie. An idea that is built around a fancy piece of technology that doesn’t have mass appeal or mass adoption won’t drive mass response. It is that simple. And a piece of technology that requires people to do something that sits outside of their existing behaviours has to deliver real value to us and meet an identified audience need if we are to consider it. There are too many ‘cool’ ideas that end up being launched and then die quietly. To get traction, our ideas have to born out of and be built upon existing behaviour.
And while we are here. Not very many people want another login to another closed platform. We all have too many passwords to remember and the only people who will bother are your most engaged. Strive to personalise the experience of people supporting you, but don’t hide it away.
Impact. What will deliver the biggest impact?
I worry this question doesn’t get asked enough. Will this idea deliver impact at the level we want or need? And for clarity I mean impact as defined by you, so that’s money, actions, likes, shares, whatever it is you know you need to do. Will your idea deliver it?
So, by all means develop your Virtual Reality fused with Android Pay idea. But don’t be surprised if those who don’t use Android Pay don’t get involved.
So ask the right questions!
It really is about asking the right questions about the areas that have the biggest potential to transform our future success. If you have an idea that utilises existing technology, is based on what your target audience are already doing and can deliver impact you need you’ve hit the sweet spot - it’s the idea to pursue.