News & Insight
22nd March 2019
Using digital to bring your supporters closer
Francesca Hewitt shares her thoughts and tips on harnessing the power of digital from this year’s Cultural Sector Network Conference
Last week I went to a brilliant talk by the very energetic Richard Turner who led a session at the Institute of Fundraising Cultural Sector Network Conference which I was on the organising committee for.
He pointed out the huge opportunities to improve our supporter engagement and experience in this the digital age. “Everyone is a channel” – as he put it – is so true – and with this comes the opportunity for your supporters to be amazing advocates for your work.
Take my friend Chris, for example, who recently posted out on his LinkedIn profile about the work he’s been doing with international development projects through Plan UK. I took Chris on his first trip to Africa while I was working at Plan UK, to see the difference his family’s support of education programmes was making to local communities, empowering them to educate their youth and practice good sanitation to improve child health.
None of the fundraising team at the charity will personally know the same network that Chris knows – I certainly don’t! So by having him be a spokesperson for their work, not only does the message reach hundreds of people I could not have reached, but the message is even more impactful as it comes directly from a supporter. Chris has greater “social capital” with his network than Plan UK has with his network.
As a major gift or corporate fundraiser, say you’re managing a portfolio of 50 active and engaged donors each of whom has a network of 500, the reach of them all sharing their story of supporting your cause is 25,000 people! For anyone struggling to see how they can increase their pipeline, the power of digital becomes evident.
So here are a few tips on how:
1. Give supporters stories they can share – such as by bringing them into contact with beneficiaries
2. Be sincere, be simple, and avoid jargon
3. Offer props – this worked really well for Richard at SolarAid where supporters could get hold of solar lamps to tell the charity’s story to their friends
4. Make sure giving to your cause online is straightforward and inspiring
5. Provide pithy impact statements
6. Say thank you in creative ways – videos, photos, and calls can make a huge difference in providing a personal supporter experience. A fellow major gift fundraiser at a homeless charity got their CEO to call donors who had given a major gift that week and the relationships between donors and charity strengthened immediately. Their loyalty was secured. Perhaps they told their friends about the call they received too? And in the longer term, income also grew. We should not be scared to pick up the phone.
Finally, as you deepen your supporter engagement, do steal tips from different areas of fundraising! Asking your regular givers why they choose to support you, as any good major gift fundraiser would do with a major donor, will help you create relevant and inspiring content that those regular givers can share digitally, and will help you understand your audiences better and better so you can produce even more relevant content for them.
In this increasingly connected world you do not know who people know – so anyone could open the door to a funder, company, foundation or major donor.
The brilliance of digital is that it highlights how giving to charity is not a one way street – it’s a two-way conversation. Yes, if we offer a poor supporter experience Twitter can be used to reveal our shortcomings to the world. But if we do something great, tell an inspiring story, create a brilliant thank you video, it might just go viral….
If you are interested in Richard’s thinking check out his blog https://ifundraiser.wordpress.com
And if you’d like any help thinking about your supporter engagement, don’t hesitate to contact us.