What I learned at the Individual Giving Conference

A notepad and pen

Guest Bloggers | 9 January 2019

Nicola Sinclair attended the Individual Giving Conference and reported back on the messages and advice that she picked up.

Back in November I went to the Institute of Fundraising’s Individual Giving Conference. I hadn’t attended this event before so wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would it be a room full of people crunching data and comparing sizes of files? How technical would it get? I’ve been to quite a few IoF Conferences and each time I’m struck by how lucky we are that within the fundraising profession we openly share information, tips and best practice. This conference was no different; and there wasn’t a segmentation formula in sight!

‘Donors expect us to meet their needs and values’

As we know Individual Giving, more than any other fundraising discipline, has been under increased criticism and scrutiny over the last few years and as such many organisations have been looking at their practices and re-evaluating their relationships with donors. As Charlotte Forrest and Lesley Pinder stated in their session, “Lessons in supporter experience from the corporate sector”, we are in an “experience economy” where donors expect us to meet their needs and values, and quickly. And why shouldn’t they? They are after all entrusting us with their money to make a change that they believe in. If we can’t do this then they will find another charity who can.

So how have the organisations who presented met the needs and values of their donors? They asked questions, listened, put themselves in the donors’ position and most importantly of all, they got to know their donors. All the presentations from the day shared one important message; how we do things is as important as what we do.

‘Don’t Disappear’

Surprisingly, the session about GDPR was really engaging. I know, as soon as I read that on the programme I was wondering how long it would be before I reached for my phone to check my work email! But it was a really interesting session.

Charlotte Hudson and Sam Hughes showed us how Freedom from Torture used the values of the organisation to contact their supporters through their “Don’t Disappear” campaign to ask for consent and to re-engage lapsed donors. They even asked donors how long they would expect to be on a database until they were asked again for consent. Not only did they increase their email consent but the ROI on their newsletter and raffle mailing went up from 2.8 to 4.0. That’s huge! By mailing only people who want to engage, not only did they save money on printing a smaller quantity, but donors felt listened to and therefore gave. Win:win!

‘Get to know your donors’

Every session I heard reiterated the same message, get to know your donors, love them and personalise as much as you can.
Another favourite quote from the day was about innovation and testing “it doesn’t mean it isn’t working, it’s just different learning”.

Ilona Reynolds and Matt Brabon showed us the Terrance Higgins Trust “Be Proud. Be Sexy. Be Safe.” campaign. They tested 128 audience and image combinations for social media promotions and trialled different methods within their welcome journey.

Jennie York from Barnardo’s gave a really honest session about “being relevant in a multi-cultural society” where, rather thought-provokingly, she questioned whether Christmas campaigns ignored the needs of our donors who have different beliefs? This prompted Barnardo’s to trial a campaign during Ramadan. Jennie was honest about what they had learned and what they do differently next time.

I was glad to hear that both charities had tried something new and were changing their approach based on these learnings. Innovation is just that, trying something and learning what did and didn’t work and being brave enough to try something again, maybe this time with a few tweaks.

As we heard: “Change has never been this fast and will never be this slow again” so we need to be able to have the freedom and courage to try something new and learn. Otherwise we will get left behind and ultimately it will be our beneficiaries who will suffer.

My biggest takeaways

As I was waiting for my flight home I reflected on my biggest takeaways from the day and here they are:

1. Donors are awesome

2. We need to get to know them, what they like and what works for them

3. We need to communicate on the platform and in the language they prefer

4. Donor experience/supporter journey is key. If we don’t love our donors someone else will

Perhaps not specific to just IG fundraisers as all the above apply to all fundraisers in every discipline. But as Mark Philips summed up in his session “happy donors are the best strategy”. Preach.

Find out about the IoF conferences taking place in 2019 here.

Nicola Sinclair, Chair of the IoF Standards Board Scotland & Head of Client Services at Revolutionise.



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