The pandemic brought about much change last year but thankfully, despite their own challenges, supporters still showed the love and some charities reported their best ever appeals.
Of course gaps still exist – in services, and in finance. Lockdown life has been difficult for many, so demand on charity services has increased. At the same time, charities also struggled last year as some forms of fundraising had to stop with many still playing catch up.
As restrictions are lifted, it’s understandable that charities are asking “where now?” in order to restore key services and accelerate their fundraising. For most this means catching up on income generation.
Yet the risk here is that in their haste, charities turn to short-term, cash-driven fundraising. And this could result in individual giving being put under pressure to deliver more, and more quickly – particularly because for many charities it performed so well last year.
But it’s going to be critical to tread softly with supporters as we head back towards normality.
Short-term fundraising that focuses on financial results risks compromising long-term relationships with supporters. So while this approach could well see charities and their beneficiaries benefit in the short-term, in the longer term it’s an approach that risks the sector losing that support, goodwill, faith, popularity, and trust. And this will have widespread negative impacts.
We already know that ‘high pressure’ fundraising doesn’t work long-term, with clear evidence to show that investing in a good experience leads to short, medium and long-term gains in income, contribution, and lifetime value. Our own research has shown that supporters with high loyalty are three times as likely to give again, nine times as likely to give more, and five times as likely to leave a legacy. And indeed, over the last 5-6 years, charities have made substantial progress in bringing ‘experience’ and ‘loyalty’ up the priority list.
It would be tragic if in the enthusiasm to restore services and regain some financial security we lost sight of this. We need to ensure we don’t take a step back.
As we go through the next six-12 months and charities go through their budget cycles, it's going to be even more important to repeat that mantra about the experience and loyalty being important to avoid slipping backwards to focusing on the money.
Over the coming months, of course your supporters, who have been so generous over the last year, are likely to remain ready and willing to help if they can. It’s important to remember what they too may be going through, and ensure we keep that relationship strong. This way everyone will benefit – and for the long term, not just the short term.
Looking ahead then I’d suggest bringing this to the fore in these key ways:
· Focus on growing the key loyalty drivers of commitment, satisfaction, and trust (more on these here)
· When budgeting or reforecasting, take a moment to ensure loyalty and the supporter experience are still trumping short-term financial targets.
· Regularly remind your board, trustees, finance director and CEO about the critical importance of growing loyalty with a focus on the experience over short-term financial targets.
This is an approach that everyone needs to be on board with.