Charities are in a challenging time. They continue to see a rise in demand for their services but experience uncertainty in their funding streams, from government cutbacks and in smaller donations from their individual donor bases. As they focus on new fundraising strategy, Charlotte Pearce, CEO and Founder of Inkpact, offers suggestions on how charities can capture the attention of new, potential donors.
Since the credit crunch in 2008, PwC, the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Finance Group have collaborated on a yearly survey, “Managing the New Normal”, to assess the impact that the economic downturn and slow-growth recovery have had on the UK charities sector. The survey notes the ways charities have adapted to meeting increased demand for services as their financial support changes.
In March 2015, 70% of charities said they experienced an increase in demand for services in the previous 12 months, but nearly one-third (30%) felt their charities had insufficient resources to meet this demand.
With resources stretched to the limit and more uncertainty around existing funding sources, charities now have their fundraising strategy and tactics clearly in focus:
- 75% of respondents in the survey said they plan to explore new fundraising options in the next 12 months
- Over half said they expect to increase fundraising in current areas of focus, and almost 40% said that they had started fundraising in new areas
- Challenges to fundraising success come from a limited pool of potential donors and changes in donor behaviour; but the biggest challenge comes from competition from other charities
- Respondents intend to improve funding by moving away from individual committed giving programmes towards major donor, trust, legacy and corporate funders as they improve investment programmes
How does a charity make a successful transition in their fundraising efforts, when they need to open doors to new sources of financial support?
Successful brands make connections with their customers by establishing an emotional connection with them. Charities who are successful in fundraising do this, too. Everything they do works towards building trust with donors. Some charities build connections in their programmes for individual donors but it also is an important strategy to employ as charities reach out to major donors, trust, legacy and corporate funders. However, charities must research their target audience and use this insight to determine how they can best make and build these connections.
These new donor groups are potentially harder to reach than individual donors and they require more “high-touch” management. Whilst charities should expect a bigger reward for their efforts, they need to treat these new, potential fundraising sources as high-value contacts, much like a high-value retailer would treat a good customer or a business would treat their best clients.
How do charities make the best impression without overstretching their budgets?
It is especially hard to open doors in new relationships, posing additional challenges to charities on stretched resources.
In an article on Thirdsector.co.uk from 9 September 2014, Esther Foreman, the founding director of the Social Change Agency, recommended that charities “think of a human angle and build it into the campaign.” She also urged charities to bring back handwritten letters to communicate with MPs. “MPs are more impressed by one handwritten letter,” she said.
MPs aren’t the only people to be impressed by handwritten letters. Using handwritten letters and notes is an effective tactic that works equally well with the public as it does in business communication and, now, in fundraising. Handwritten letters make an effective way for charities to introduce themselves to new potential donors, whether they are major donors (for individual major and legacy gifts), trusts or corporates.
Anonymous, bland emails don’t catch anyone’s attention.
A handwritten letter is rarely ignored. Everyone is always curious what it has to say, so it is always opened and the message is always read. The same can’t be said about emails, where open rates vary from 12% on up, nor can it be said about standard direct mail, which has an open rate of about 44% in the most recent research from Royal Mail. Whilst a handwritten letter conveys much – including the investment in time and care that it has taken to write the letter – it isn’t costly to produce so it makes a very smart addition to fundraising campaigns. Whilst a handwritten letter can’t guarantee that the charity will get the meeting with the potential donor, it will almost always mean that the donor will have read the message and be ready to speak when the charity calls to follow-up.
Handwritten letters can be used throughout the relationship with donors as good communication vehicles to follow up meetings and say thanks for financial or in-kind support. Handwritten letters are simple and cost-effective yet extremely powerful, helping to bolster reputation and reflect positively on the charity.
Why not give handwritten letters a try the next time you need to reach out to a new potential donor and see what happens?
Creating strong relationships with new donors are the essence of fundraising campaigns. Please do get in touch with us if you’d like more information on how our handwritten notes and letters might help you achieve new goals.
Charlotte Pearce Continue reading…