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Growing loyalty in a small charity

In our latest Insight, About Loyalty founder and director Roger Lawson recaps the panel discussion he led at the CIOF Fundraising Convention 2023.
Roger Lawson pictured here, leading a panel discussion at CIOF Fundraising Convention 2023 with  panellists from four smaller charities.

I had the great pleasure of holding a panel discussion on Growing loyalty in a small charity at this year's Fundraising Convention #CIOFFC, where I was joined by panellists (pictured above, from left to right):

  • Olly Du Croz — International Nepal Fellowship (INF)

  • Ian Livett — Embrace the Middle East

  • Esther Neave — Age International

  • Sally Wilson — MAG (Mines Advisory Group)

The panellists represent four of the five charities that participated in our Chase Lite pilot — a programme designed exclusively for smaller charities and based on The Chase Index, our long-standing benchmarking and research community with 40 charity members.

Our research over the last decade has identified three main drivers of loyalty – commitment, satisfaction and trust.

For the pilot, we sought to answer the question: When it comes to supporter loyalty, are smaller charities any different to larger ones?

Broadly we found that small charities have the same issues as larger charities, with each having their own unique strengths and weaknesses. I guess that’s the advantage in measuring your own loyalty and understanding how your own supporters feel about you.

If there was a difference it was in the area of trust, where two of the smaller charities have the highest trust that we have ever seen across any of the charities we’ve worked with. I wonder if that’s something we’ll continue to see as more smaller charities measure their loyalty – I’m looking forward to digging into this more.

Each panellist presented their own experience on growing loyalty, which I summarise here:

Esther Neave, Head of Individual Giving at Age International

"Create shared connections that build empathy and draw on shared experience."

Age International is a sister charity to Age UK and has run a successful Sponsor A Grandparent programme since 1973. Approximately 6,500 people support 1,500 grandparents in 15 countries.

Donors are loyal, or so they thought. It was clear from the Chase Lite pilot that Age International could do better, with donors loyal to the grandparent but not the charity itself.

The key learnings Esther shared:

  • It’s OK to tell the same story over a long period of time – showing the long-term impact of gifts and giving the opportunity to talk about the challenges as well as successes.

  • Everyday details help to build connections. Creating shared connections that build empathy and draw on shared experience will help your supporters relate to the everyday lives of the people they’re helping.

  • By letting others to be your spokespeople you can take the organisation out of the story and bring donors closer to the cause.

  • Introduce interactivity to connect donors more closely to the people they’re helping for example asking donors to send a message of support or organising a Q&A with your programmes team.

Olly Du Croz, Marketing & Communications Manager at International Nepal Fellowship (INF)

“Our size can be our superpower.”

Founded in 1952, the International Nepal Fellowship (INF) is one of Nepal’s longest serving international NGOs. The charity initially provided community health and development services through missionaries sent from the UK. This approach has evolved over the decades, with the NGO now delivering services through local partners — a strategic shift that presented an opportunity to reach new donors.

Olly talked about:

  • Prioritisation, e.g. focus on donor recruitment and retention, ensuring INF kept pace with the digital shift that accelerated during the Covid pandemic, and developing supporter journeys.

  • Do we really know our supporters? And ask the right questions… What is their motivation and level of commitment, satisfaction and trust?

  • Be driven by the data. Use quantitative research like Chase Lite or surveys to measure and identify your priorities. Use qualitative feedback to maximise interactions and explore at a more individual level. And anecdotal evidence (e.g. phone calls with supporters) can also give insight.

  • It’s a work in progress – there's always more we can do, so focus on one piece at a time.

Ian Livett, Director of Fundraising at Embrace the Middle East

“We want to protect what’s working as we grow.”

Embrace the Middle East (“Embrace” for short) will be 170 years old in 2024 and believes that “Small is beautiful – or at least can be.” As a small charity, it can be easier to be agile and decisive and to bring that human touch and genuine supporter-centricity.

Ian talked about the collaborative culture at Embrace and how everyone, including local in-country partners, has a mindset that includes the donor and their needs.

Whilst Embrace were 5th on loyalty and 2nd on satisfaction and trust, their commitment score was lower which Ian suggested spoke the charity’s poor brand recognition and will be their priority to improve.

The actionable insights that Chase Lite provides are helping Embrace align their messaging to drive up commitment and focus on developing legacy marketing and regular and mid-level giving programmes to further build loyalty and commitment to the cause.

Sally Wilson, Digital Fundraising & Engagement Manager at MAG (Mines Advisory Group)

"Our supporters are at the centre of everything we do and so we've built in key moments to the programme to show our loyalty to them."

Sally is committed to providing the very best supporter experience, using a data-led approach to deliver personalised, supporter-led communications.

MAG’s loyalty score of 6.10 put them 10th out of 45. The resulting data provides valuable insight that the charity can use to connect people to the cause.

Sally talked about the work the charity has done to grow loyalty with donors through the way they thank and build digital engagement, which includes:

  • Their annual 'Thankathon', which over the last eight years has included: 3,500 phone calls, 2,000 SMS text messages, 87,000 emails and 12,000 handwritten and personalised cards.

  • Sharing videos and case studies and using personalised scripts.

  • Gathering quotes and comments that can be used again in follow-up contact

  • Using digital journeys to build loyalty - keeping up to date with real-time updates

  • Whilst not the purpose of the 'Thankathon', they have seen gifts and legacies come in afterwards and an average gift increase of 18% and a 36% retention rate.

Would you like to know how your charity can benefit from ChaseLite, or any other services? If so, do get in touch! We look forward to speaking with you.


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