Panning for gold

Identifying those crucial supporter insights that underpin all great new fundraising products

Welcome to the IFC Series 2013!

In preparing for our Innovation Masterclass at the IFC, Andrew Bathgate of Good Innovation, Rob Cummins of ActionAid UK and myself were clear about one thing – At the core of all great innovation is a genuine consumer insight – which is why we have focussed the masterclass on this part of the process.

The best fundraising concepts meet the genuine needs of our supporters. Therefore, if you are looking to create new fundraising products it is essential as a first step to identify the consumer insight you are going to address.   At this point many people I meet say, “but I haven’t got the time, the opportunity, or a process to do that”.  And.. most importantly… “what will give me confidence that I have a valid insight to use as a springboard?”

Well, it takes good detective work, listening skills and some practice – as do all the essential things in life. We all need to find the time to innovate in a competitive marketplace and defining those insights is THE most important thing – ideas only flow from them. With a wealth of Innovation experience, in Andrew’s words we know that:

  • “New fundraising products that solve a supporter problem or an unmet supporter need are much more likely to succeed”.
  • “Ideas based on good insight are more likely to be differentiated from their competition and to sustain competitive advantage”.

And every fundraiser should find the time to talk with the donors (campaigners, volunteers and other supporters) – so here’s a wonderful excuse to focus on doing just that! The added benefit is that there’s nothing as motivating as talking to your supporters and everyone loves to give their opinion. However, what we need to do is be asking questions that get to the things left unsaid – the ‘why’ they do things rather than the ‘what’ they did.

Understanding the ‘what’ is still valid and before we start talking to supporters we can look for insights in the business data available. What people have done in the past tells us what they might do again – but it doesn’t tell us why they did it (or as importantly why others didn’t). Too often as fundraisers we don’t explore past the ‘what they did’ and experience tells us that growth comes more readily from understanding the ‘why’.

It is also important to add in insights from the market. Concepts that are already working to engage the public for others could also work in our setting as well if we can adapt the learnings.

Then we get to identifying supporter insights: It isn’t easy, but practice makes perfect and here’s some handy tips to get you started from Andrew and myself:

  1. Accurately define your supporter segment – who are you really targeting? Are they defined by the fundraising product they bought before? Very few people see themselves as ‘regular givers’ and no-one would want to see themselves as ‘lapsed’ – so are these really supporter segments?
  2. Get to know them – start by observing what supporters actually do, e.g. by trawling the data you may already have on the group you want to fully understand.
  3. Fill in the gaps in your knowledge – talk and listen to supporters, take the time to get to know them, understand what’s truly important to them, how does giving fit into their lives, what other things are more important to them, when is your cause front of mind? etc.
  4. Analyse what you’ve read, seen, heard because what the supporter says is not always what they mean. Get underneath the words to the meaning. Identify recurrent themes. Continue to prompt them and delve deeper, ask questions like ‘So what?’, ‘Why is this important?’, ‘What do you mean by that?’
  5. Express your insight in a simple sentence – once you think you’ve got to the nugget of the insight try to write it in language the supporter you’re targeting would use.
  6. Give it time – like most good ideas, an insight may start as a ‘hunch’ – sleep on it, talk to colleagues, come back to it in a week – give yourself time to reflect. Then try re-crafting the sentence you’ve written.

And most importantly, don’t let your own beliefs and values get in the way of a good insight, always keep an open mind. Listening is – as always – the most important skill.

In this way – with a little time and practice, you can define those great insights that will help you create fundraising success!
The insights you glean will also be useful to others inside your organization. As Fundraisers, it is vital to create a greater understanding of what makes our supporters tick, so share those insights with your project and service people, volunteers, Executive Director and the Board as well.

And, enjoy talking to your supporters

Gavin is the third IFC speaker to contribute to the IFC Series 2013.

Check out HERE where you can see Gavin present at the IFC.

101fundraising is proud to once again be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress 2013!

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