Response One reveals its findings from 2 years’ worth of research into donor communications
Communications planning – the battle between frequency, efficiency & ethics
Since 2014 Response One have been trying to understand the true impact of charity communications on donors. We launched our secret-giving programme by donating £10 to 25 of the UK’s largest charities*, and monitoring all subsequent postal, email & SMS communications.
With close to 1,000 communications recorded and every creative logged and evaluated, the findings of the research demonstrate the increasingly complex challenge that charities face in their need to solicit further donor engagement, whilst maintaining the highest regard for social responsibility.
Charities need to communicate with their donors to help their fundraising efforts. It’s how they go about it that this study sought to understand.
The infographic below demonstrates that, of the 25 charities donated to, all have varying strategies in communicating with a first-time donor, some contacting individuals more than once a week, with others communicating less than once a year.
(Right click image, open in new tab or click here for large view)
As a donor giving to just one of these charities, the subsequent communication strategy may seem acceptable, however, we know from our analysis of the charity sector that a donor will often give to several organisations, so it’s easy to see how instances of over-communication have occurred in recent times. It’s well documented that charity donors often have a very similar demographic profile therefore charities are competing with each other in a very concentrated market. The generous nature of these donors, coupled with the limited headroom, means that inevitably these individuals are going to be subject to multiple communications as the charities are all fighting for their share of wallet. This research demonstrates just some of the challenges that charities face, with the need to operate in a commercial environment, whilst being mindful of the potential impact on the donors themselves.
This was evidenced by the study which showed that 33% of charities asked for another cash donation within 8 weeks. In one instance, we were asked to become a legator within 9 weeks. Is this strategy likely to elicit the required response, or would it create a negative view of the charity by asking for too much too soon? And is this a sign that some charities are not effectively mapping their communication strategies internally?
From this research a number of fundamental questions arise:
- Do charities have a clear understanding of their communication strategy across their organisation?
- Are charities thinking about the true impact of their communications strategy in the wider market context and any effect it may have on their organisation’s reputation?
- Are charities considering the financial implications of the frequency of their communications and effectively measuring long-term donor value versus short-term gain?
The NFP sector is a sector unlike no other; charities need to survive in a commercial world, but have to operate within a highly moral framework. The pressure to achieve a balanced communications strategy, whilst hitting targets, is more important now than ever and we feel that these findings will go a long way in helping charities to shape their communications strategy for the benefit of both the charity and the donor.
Response One will reveal our thoughts on the answers above when we publish the full study in due course.
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