Fundraising For Humans

I remember volunteering for Childline.

Kids would phone, text or e-mail with all sorts of questions and stories – from horrific cases of abuse to completely nonsensical banter.

Many calls were pranks…groups of kids phoning up to tease us, mock us and attempt to get a rise out of us. No matter what they said we would take it seriously and continue the conversation. “What’s your name?” “Mr. Poo Poo Head” “How are you Mr. Poo Poo Head?”

Before I was trained in I thought these pranks were a tragic waste of time and resources. Little messers wasting time and hogging the line while some ‘real’ call struggled to connect.

And then I learned how important these calls were. A group of pranksters might contain one kid with a serious issue. She sees the service is real…any issue is taken seriously…that someone is there for her when she’s next by herself. Whether or not the pranksters consciously knew they were doing it, they were testing us.

As fundraisers we get tested every day. An inquiry. A response. An on-line comment. Every interaction – subconsciously or not – shapes the perception of your organisation and has a very real impact on decisions down the line. You’re being tested. And your fundraising results depend on the results of that test.

It’s the reason I send a thank you letter for every donation, no matter how small. Yes, even for that 20 cent someone posted in the other day. This is the start of a relationship and I want that donor to know I love them on day 1 as much as I will when they’re still with me 40 years later.

You might disagree – your own organisation might have a policy: ‘No thank yous for gifts under €20’. At a recent seminar someone asked if they were right to eliminate all thank you letters as the hundreds and hundreds they were sending out were just wasting time.

Yes they’re wasting time if they’re crap. But a good thank you letter, a free tour of your organisation, a phone call simply to update – these can all be income generators (without asking for money) if they’re done well. Why would your organisation spend hundreds of Euro trying to bring in a first time donor while not even bothering to spend two minutes warmly thanking a donor that’s already arrived?

Whenever I start working with a new client I’ll mystery shop them. You might have witnessed one of my ‘live’ mystery shop calls. Sometimes it’s just an e-mail asking a quick question.

About 50% of charities don’t reply.

That’s a little scary. And it becomes really scary if you happen to agree with what I’m saying: every call is a fundraising call and every e-mail is a fundraising e-mail. Every interaction is fundraising…even when you’re not asking for money.

One of the greatest skills a fundraiser can possess is empathy. Of course empathy for your beneficiaries. But empathy for your donors and the general public. What do they want from this interaction?

If they ask a question, presumably they want an answer?

Well, I have an incredible cheat that not many people know which, when implemented, can cause your fundraising to skyrocket: Just be human.

People crave humanity.

And while you might have seen headlines about the future of bots, the death of traditional media, and The Singularity, all of these are superseded by the fact that we are humans. Brought in to the world by a human, raised by humans, taught by humans, loved by humans. Until all of that changes human contact will trump everything. Technology will make it easier…but don’t lose the humanity.

That’s more difficult than it sounds…whenever we sit in front of computer and start typing a funny thing happens: we become robots, we lose emotion, we start writing words we would never say.

And our fundraising suffers because it.

Stay human in every interaction you have with every member of the public. Really check yourself. Don’t slip in to the robotic you…let your human self shine through. I’ve never unsubscribed from a human, only from an organisation. I donate to humans.

Write human. Act human. Be human.

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