Securing the promise

Quite a bit on Twitter yesterday about interruption marketing and its shortcomings. We were reminded, via Angel Fernando’s article, of Seth Godin’s very pertinent observations and also the concept of ‘data smog’

And yet there’s still a problem for fundraisers who want to go down the permission route – how do you get the attention of those people who might become consenting members of your ‘tribe’, to use a Godin expression, ‘somewhere down the road’? Surely that requires an initial interruption at some point?

My work for the last 12 years has mostly been in the area of telephone fundraising, an interruption marketing method that is still one of the most effective out there. Why so? Well because at the end of 1 in 5 conversations, sometimes 1 in 3, a promise has been secured, however grudging – to donate to our cause, or at least to consider it in future. And for those who won’t make that promise there and then, we know whether it’s ‘never again’ or at least ‘not now’. No other form of fundraising, apart from face to face methods, gets to the point of securing the promise so well, or helps us say farewell to those who won’t.

So, to change things for the better in the crowded fundraising world, we need people’s permission to talk to them – and thus eventually be in the position to secure the promise.

So how do you get that permission?

How about putting a new twist on a couple of old marketing propositions?

1. The ‘Send No Money Now’ proposition. You’ve all seen this – it’s still used by thousands of commercial companies. Why? Because they’re so confident their product will meet our needs, they know once we try it we will gladly purchase at the end of the trial. For us, a send no money, just your contact details proposition, could provide us with thousands more people who aren’t ready to make the promise to give straight away, but want to hear how we would use their gifts. We’d also have their permission to follow up. Some campaigning charities, like Save the Children, use text message petitions in precisely this way (scroll down the linked page) – and have got spectacular results.

2. The dating concept. Godin uses this as a metaphor for permission marketing – but what if there were a ‘dating site’ for charities?
Put in the causes you care about, whether you want to support locally, or further afield, whether you want to support a single cause or spread your support, and how much money you can spare each month, quarter or year. You’d then pick one or more charities to whom you’d either give, or give explicit permission to send you information in future. You could even combine it with the Sarah Beney ‘My Single Friend’ concept – where donors would themselves endorse charities on the site. Some sites, like JustGiving or See the Difference, might go some way towards this, but there’s no site out there doing this yet.

So, what are the barriers? Cost for the one, and perception of competition for the other?

Well, the biggest thing holding us back as a sector is the refusal to invest in long-term value rather than short term. If we invest what we’ve always invested, with the strategies we’ve always used, we’ll continue to get the results we’ve always got, or worse.

The second I think rests on a confusion of what competition is, in our sector. We are not competing against each other as causes in the public mind. We are competing against the ability we all have – to send no money now and make no promise whatsoever.



1 Comment

Filed under Fundraising

One response to “Securing the promise

  1. Adrian Salmon

    Hi Howard and thanks for the detailed reply! I didn’t intend the ‘Send No Money Now’ proposition to be taken in its raw form – it would of course need adapting for different causes and different levels of urgency. So the message you’ve got there should never be used in that form – but it could be ‘let us tell you more about why we think saving these children’s lives is so important and how you can really help’ – remember those Baby Boomers who don’t believe the £3 per month proposition? Also, I still think some people will sign up to find out what’s going on about a genuine emergency, who still won’t give straight away, or they’ll volunteer to spread the word or awareness-raise first, rather than giving money. These people could still give if followed-up with later. People want to know a genuine difference can be made before they’ll donate, so why not show then ask in some cases, rather than ask then show?

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