Think face-to-face: think mobile

It really does make sense when you think about it. Using mobile as the key device to keep in touch with donors recruited on the street.

Think about it.

The average age of F2F recruits around the world is usually late 20’s, early to mid 30’s.

Almost 60% of Aussies own a smartphone, and around 18% a tablet device. These figures replicated in most developed fundraising nations. Overlay this with age and our key F2F recruits one of the most smartphone/tablet active groups, around 80% of them actively using a mobile device.

Most F2F donors are on the phone (or pretending they are) prior to being approached. Which means they’re “on the go”, as in mobile. Not sitting still.

And let’s face it: a mobile device makes it really easy these days to share content. Great content. At your fingertips.

So why therefore are we stuck in the mid 90’s when it comes to our attitude toward caring for donors recruited on the street?

We know they’re young, transient and mobile savvy, yet we continue to send them long letters and boring newsletters which are all about us. Not them.

Square peg, round hole.

And most importantly, this approach doesn’t work. Average Year 1 attrition rates have been increasing year on year and currently sit around 45% in Australia (in other countries where F2F is a key driver of growth this waivers between 30% and 60% in Year 1).

Enter Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Fed up with skyrocketing attrition rates, the team there decided it was time to flip things on their head.

And so for the last eleven months we’ve implemented a new way to look after the wonderful folks who sign up on the street to support people and their families living with cerebral palsy.

The three things we had in mind when we developed the program were that it needed to be:

  • Easy
  • Mobile
  • Rich and regular content

Easy. One of the biggest challenges (excuses) I hear about the lack of a well thought through communications plan for F2F donors is “we don’t have the time/resources to develop it”.

We ‘get it’, but we just can’t do it.

So when we suggested to the team at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance that they wipe their hands of the day-to-day management of the retention program, they jumped at it.

So we worked with them to develop all of the content but the physical distribution is in essence, automated. Donor comes on file, data loaded into the platform we built (as often as daily), and presto. A full years worth of rich, local, relevant and regular content is coming your way.

Normally, the hard work is the repetition and (lack of) automation. We solved that by building an online platform that “spits out” all of the communications in a programmatic way. It’s so easy it seems too good to be true. Problem one solved.

Mobile. Remember, these people are mobile. So when we mapped out how we wanted to share stuff, front of mind was that every single piece of content had to be viewable as a minimum on someone’s smartphone or tablet. All content is optimised for mobile, with all critical information shared above the ‘fold’ in the page.

Regular givers will receive emails, text messages, video’s, podcasts, surveys and donor care updates all through that clever little device that most of them were using when approached by the canvasser on the street.

When they’re on the bus on the way home they can check out Rachel’s story or listen to the podcast talking about the organizations cut through research into cerebral palsy and how important long term funding is (through the voice of a parent with CP). See examples below.


They can read about how respite care can literally change a life or share with their friends some big-ticket advocacy work happening right now to improve the rights of those living with disability.

Again, all on a device that fits in the palm of their hand.

Rich and regular content. Forget about dull updates with photos of CEO’s holding a big cheque. At the heart of every piece of content developed is a real story. Stories about the people living with cerebral palsy, about their families, and the really small things that make such a difference.

Ensuring the donor is the hero. Relating every success, accomplishment and smiling face back to you: the donor.

We mix it up to give donors the chance to look, touch, listen and feel.  A series of magic moments told by video, photos, audio (podcasts), some simple touches (text messages), the opportunity to get involved (surveys and campaigning) and lots of personal feedback. All with one simple message at the core: thank you for making this happen.









Knowing the key trigger points are specifically in the first 3 months post recruitment, and in an effort to offset any feeling of buyer remorse, the first few weeks and months are critical. Initially we’re in touch at least once a week. After the first few months we scale back slightly to appear in supporters inbox every few weeks.

So what?

We’re several months into this radical shift in looking after f2f donors. Here’s the impact the new approach is having.

  • Average month 1 attrition has fallen from 12% to 6.5%
  • Average month 3 attrition has fallen from 21% to 12%
  • Average month 6 attrition has fallen from 31% to 20%

That’s a significant reduction for an organisation recruiting thousands of new regular givers a year. We’re now looking at a Year 1 attrition rate of around 30%, a big reduction from the 45% average Year 1 result. The upshot is the ‘saving’ of several hundred thousand dollars from donors retained that would not otherwise have been.

Ultimately that means Cerebral Palsy Alliance breaking even on their F2F investment within 8 months (previously it took between 15 and 18 months to breakeven). Not bad for any direct response acquisition.

The final word

This approach isn’t perfect, but as well as constantly evolving, it goes a long way to providing the ‘peace of mind’ that donors crave.

The technology isn’t overly complicated, but the logic is sound and the stories real.

All designed to ensure the lifeblood of the organization, our donors, know exactly how damned important they are.

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