Is segmentation our blind spot?

Is segmentation our blind spot?

Guest Bloggers | 7 September 2018

Undoubtedly, we have seen some amazing charity campaigns and appeals achieve epic results and exceed everyone’s expectations. We marvel over the results and, as fundraisers, we’re encouraged to attempt to unpick them. Inevitably we’re trying to learn from them to achieve fundraising success within our own charity.


These successes were achieved by pushing the boundaries, thinking differently and being smart. Learnings may inform us to have a different perspective but retrospect doesn’t represent the now – so is this enough? Or does each charity have its own niche?


Our supporters see through us

In the broadest sense, we have used segmentation to group together supporters to track, understand and pre-empt performance in the way that works for us. Their behaviour matters to us so significantly, that we invest in databases, create propensity models and improve processes to compare segment performance, dissect it and improve it. Repeat.  


Fear not – the blinkers are being lifted

We’ve awoken to realising that all we have implemented is adding to our blind spot. As important as metrics may be, many charities are starting to invest in truly recognising and appreciating our supporters. 

Projects such as Commission on the Donor Experience – now a pioneering IoF Special Interest Group – and new courses such as, Kim Van Niekerk’s Stewardship Course form part of an exciting movement towards modernising fundraising practice. Can we become #Proudfundraisers if we’re not already?

We’re moving away from categorising people by how they engage with us (such as ‘donor’ and ‘campaigner’) and using the term ‘supporter’. People’s lifetime value now includes loyalty that incorporates non-financial actions, engagements and event attendance. It’s great to see that a person’s engagement is as equally valuable as a financial action.


Rebuilding trust and relationships

As much as we are trying to show supporters that they can trust us, we are now learning to trust them. Things like GDPR pushed us to ask questions that once terrified us and yet we’ve seen supporters appreciate us for providing them with choice – thank you supporters!


So, what does this mean for segmentation?

Segmentation plays a critical role in fundraising and across the entire organisation. It’s the basis of which we send our communications, campaigns and fundraising appeals. So, we do need to give this more attention than we currently give it credit for.

Segmentation can harness more complex differences than demographics, characteristics and behaviours. It can use the array of touchpoints within the organisation (campaigns, appeals, volunteers, feedback, referral, etc.) to build deeper relationships. In doing so, it enables us to go above and beyond providing supporters with an ‘experience’ as it moves towards establishing something much more complex: a meaningful relationship.

Utilising the expertise of our own staff, at different levels, provides greater insight to deliver a relevant and bespoke approach. Bringing people together can help to unify approaches and simplify internal processes in practical ways.

By nurturing the uniqueness of the charity, the deeper learning of why supporters are interested will enrich a more fluid and flexible approach to communicating with supporters.


Who judges what is meaningful?

Every supporter can offer something when asked open questions. But what most charities have to offer stifles what ‘meaningful’ means.

If organisations changed the environment and led by asking our supporters, ‘what will work for you?’, and then ask, ‘how can we achieve that for them?', and, ‘what does that look like for us?’, would this lead to quality relationships with our supporters?


Is there a catch?

Of course! We know that it is 10 times more expensive to reduce attrition rates the longer a supporter is with the charity (as explained by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay in Building Donor Loyalty). So this will come at a cost as we strive to learn how to nourish our existing supporters. It is critical to believe that by investing in quality stewardship the long-term impact will be mutually beneficial.

The requirements of integration, resilience and transparency will inevitably mean acquiring the attitude that learning from lessons is part of the pathway to success! Are organisations willing to invest the time, money and resources to make this happen and achieve long-lasting results?


Annie Perez, Individual Giving Officer at MQ: Transforming Mental Health and speaker at the upcoming Supporter Journey Conference



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