The rules of fundraising are changing


| 5 September 2017

Our good friends at the Good Agency had an installation at this year’s Fundraising Convention asking delegates what rules they would like to break. This is what some of you had to say.

The ‘rules’ of fundraising have been torn up. They’ve been torn up by regulation, by the culture we operate in and by a new breed of supporters.

Supporters who want to give on their terms and get something back for it in return.  Supporters who want to feel good and not just a source of money. Supporters who want a sense of power and agency, not a feeling of being taken for granted.

In this new world, we need a new approach and that’s why we asked fundraisers at 2017’s Institute of Fundraising convention to help us break the rules.

We were overwhelmed by the response and by the drive and passion of our fellow fundraisers to step up to the challenge in this time of change. We think what the failure of the rule book has taught us is that it’s not helpful to let habits turn into rules, and what we actually need, are principles. Reading through the hundreds of the responses we received there were three key principles that kept coming up again and again:

1.   We need to behave differently

We’ve been lazy, we found regular giving then we stopped trying to find new ways to give.  Instead we looked at new ways to get more of those regular gifts and if we upset a few people in the process with our methods, then it didn’t really matter, because regular gifts are what funds the work.

We are doing a good thing. 

So, it was good to see lots of new rules being suggested like “Be a Maverick” and “Get out of the comfort zone” But, in equal measure there were more tempered less ‘risky’ rules of “make data driven decisions” and “collaborate more”.  At GOOD, we think that this balanced approach is exactly what’s needed.  Innovation and being maverick has a place, but it’s tough to keep that up constantly.  We work with our clients to develop balanced fundraising strategies that mix good fundraising technique with product development and innovation, that build new ways to engage while keeping the engine running. 

As a rule of thumb, we work to 70:20:10 as a healthy balance where 70% of the fundraising programme is “business as usual”, 20% is looking to market trends and looking at what others are doing well and then at most 10% on truly new innovation.  Which might not seem a lot, but it’s harder than it seems. Achieving 10% truly new depends on the right mix of resource, cause, entrepreneurial spirit and market headroom. 

A great example of this is Macmillan, who we have invested in creating the environment and approach for new product development and who we had the recent pleasure of working with to develop their Murder Mystery event.


2.   We need to change the way we think about our supporters

Ditch the demographics!  We are definitely onboard with that.  In our quest to innovate, we’ve turned to demographics to segment our data and as a tool to drive new product development. 

Now don’t get us wrong, there is value in using demographics and it can be a useful tool, however it’s a blunt tool and the danger is you end up with lots of segments of data and develop products that only appeal to a limited number of people.  Or you disappear down a rabbit hole worrying desperately about out how to appeal to millennials.

We would argue that what is much more valuable is to think about is not what separates your audience, but what unites them?  What are the values that they share?  Where are the commonalities? For our clients like Plan International UK and PETA we see supporters who care about gender empowerment or veganism immediately have something to talk about, no matter what their age. 

Another thing that came up consistently was the idea of no longer classing supporters by whether they are “warm” or “cold”.  In an age of tightening over consent and who we have permission to contact, we will see an increasing number of supporters who will be interacting with us but who we can’t neatly fit into our supporter journeys as we don’t have their permission to do so. 

These “Warm in the Wild” (our warm supporters are out in the wild) are challenging us to think less about channel response and attributions, and more about making sure our personal connection to the values and beliefs of our audience are accessible and meet them where they are so that anyone who thinks they are a supporter can be one.  Oxfam’s legacy targeting on social, is a great example of using real supporters case studies to speak to supporters where they are.


3.   We need to be more human

“Make supporters part of the team”, “make them believe in you”, “power to the people”, “get out of their way”, “show impact”.

We’ve taken the liberty of grouping these all together as, well, let’s just be more human.  We live in a world where people are increasingly looking for ways to connect and feel a sense of belonging with people like them. We’re also living in a world where people are ever connected and demanding transparency

That means getting off our pedestal and allowing people more control, so funnily enough, permission and consent may actually force us to treat supporters more as humans and less as faceless piggy banks.  And it means being less organisational, we’re not buildings, we’re people.

And by showing we are human too we can connect with our supporters and give them the opportunity to get close, to see the work in action and, maybe, just maybe share some of the things we haven’t got quite right. Creating empathy by sharing the successes and the failures makes supporters feel part of your team. We are human after all, right?  

And if this all leaves you feeling a little bit scared, that’s good, we’ve been complacent for too long.  It’s time to make a change.

At GOOD Agency we are working with our clients to help supporters get back in equal measure to what they put in. We’re doing this by creating audience led fundraising programmes designed to generate income by engaging supporters in a way that speaks to their values and emotions. Programmes that are built on consent and supported by giving products and experiences that help raise money and make supporters feel the impact they have created in the world. Edging our way into a two way communication and that means giving back some control. Come and talk to us and we’ll hopefully make it all seem a bit less daunting!


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