About 12 years ago I was stopped by a street fundraiser, who asked me to sign up for a Direct Debit. The charity that they were fundraising for will remain nameless. However I had volunteered for them in the past so I was only to pleased to be asked to donate. I agreed to give £3 a month, which now seems like nothing, but at the time as a recent graduate with a whacking great student loan to pay off and a low paid temp job it was a reasonable commitment. It was something that I had to think about before I signed up.
I left my exchange with the street fundraiser feeling good about what I had done. I liked the charity already. I had a great experience volunteering with them and was pleased to be asked for a donation.
A few weeks later I received some information from the charity with a copy of my Direct Debit agreement. I was asked for my mailing frequency preferences and I asked not to receive regular correspondence. So for a while I wasn’t bothered that I didn’t receive anything. After all it is what I requested.
I did get a Christmas card from their celebrity patron for the first few years of my support. Nice touch. Then about 5 years ago I thought it was weird that I hadn’t received anything at all for ages. Not even a celebrity Christmas card. So I called the supporter care department and told them in case my details needed updating. I spoke to someone who said they would check my record and that I would now get occasional updates.
5 years later I still receive nothing. £3 goes out of my bank account every month and I have no idea what it is spent on or the difference it makes. If any.
Over the years I have given almost £500 to this charity with no thank you that I can remember. But more importantly than that, no one has told me how my on-going contribution has made a difference and no one has given me the opportunity to give or do more.
I could give much more than £3 a month now (I’m almost embarrassed that I give so little). I’m no longer a recent graduate. I have paid off my student loan. I have been in employment for 12 years. My ability to give has increased but no one has asked me.
In addition to my 12 years of donations, I have a real affinity to the cause. I volunteered with them every week for over a year. No one has ever asked me as an ex-volunteer if I would like to support their work in other ways – like giving a donation.
Why has no one asked me? Are the services the charity provides not urgent, important and life changing?
I suspect that no one has asked me as an ex-volunteer, either because the data no longer exists, or because there are disagreements internally about who ‘owns’ the data.
I’ve had many conversations with custodians of data in charities on the difficulties of and reasons not to ask campaigners to volunteer, volunteers to donate and donors to campaign. (and many more combinations of cross team and department working that you can think of that would be too hard or a ‘bad’ idea)
Fundraising is tougher than ever, yet many charities are missing these fundamental opportunities to increase income and support.
As fundraisers our jobs are to build and broker relationships with all sorts of supporters in order to make the most difference to the cause that you fundraise for. So however difficult it is, you have to find a way to get over internal politics and interrogate your databases to make sure that you are thanking your supporters, sharing with them the difference they are making and offering them opportunities to do more.
Anyway writing this blog has made me so cross I’m going to cancel my paltry £3 direct debit. I’ll tell you about my experience of that next time.