Monthly Archives: March 2010

Charity branding and donor needs – more thoughts

I did an interview with one of my student callers last week for her dissertation, which is all about branding in the charity sector. It was great fun and she asked some questions that didn’t fit with my experience of the sector but which set me thinking.

Laura thought there was a resistance in the sector to the idea of branding and so we talked about the huge effort lots of charities put into their visual identity and messaging, to show this wasn’t really the case. But of course that’s at national and global level with some very big players. Maybe smaller charities indeed don’t want to go there for all sorts of reasons. But as I also said to Laura, just because you have a lovely visual identity doesn’t mean you have a brand. Not unless your supporters know you and think about you in a particular way, and even then, their ‘brand memory’ of you may be out of step with your current positioning – Parkinson’s Society, for example!

But big or small you may fall into one of these brand groups:

1. The ‘local’/’close knit group of supporters’ identity. Defined by a particular area of the country or a group of people which feels marginalised and under/misrepresented. Feels like a family.

2. The national campaigning charity. They right wrongs we care about.

3. The ‘personality’ brand. In the commercial sector, this is Apple. Joanna Lumley and the Gurkhas, perhaps in ours? We trust Steve Jobs. We love Joanna.

4. The international/global fixer – Oxfam, Amnesty, Wateraid, Red Cross, we all know them! We want to be the kind of person their branding implies.

These are crude groupings of course, but the key thing is that you need to know where within these you fit in order to have your best impact.

And also, the bigger you get, going by Mark Phillips’ research at Bluefrog, the more of a challenge you’ll have in presenting yourself the way donors want you to be – personal, relevant to them, and running off a small cost base!

Funnily enough, some of us, like universities, have a ‘global/ international’ corporate brand, but looking at our donor numbers should we be presenting ourselves as a ‘close-knit group of people who care’ charity brand? Does that make sense? It certainly presents a challenge in mediating between our corporate and philanthropic branding.

Do we all need, particularly if we’re bigger, to split what we do into ‘family size’ chunks, so that even if our donors rationally know they’re giving to something big, they all feel like a special group of people who care?

Do we need well-trained people in supporter care and stewardship who can translate large sums donated by many, into personal meaningful feedback for individual supporters?

I think we do – how about you?



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What are my needs as a donor?

This was in response to a very good blog post by Kimberley Mackenzie, which has prompted some great comments.

My needs as a donor?

1. Prompt acknowledgement of my support

2. Not getting my next appeal before my acknowledgement!

3. I’m not so fussed on how I’m fed back to myself, but it would be nice to know once in a while that my support had actually helped do something, in fairly simple terms! I don’t tend to do more than skim newsletters and I tend to ditch emails unless they really grab me. And I don’t have time to attend events.

4. To feel that my support isn’t just taken for granted.

But then I’m a busy fundraiser and my giving is coloured by my knowledge that there’s someone like me at the other end, manically watching their response rates and average gifts.

I think the tricky thing with donor needs is how you balance meeting those needs with the reality of your organisation. What if a donor has ‘champagne needs but a beer budget’, for example? I think we all as fundraisers know some, and may be guilty of being them as well with the causes we support!

So, what I try to do is make sure that, as far as possible, donors who give to us at Leeds get the sense that there are real people receiving their gifts on students’ behalf, who’ll engage with them in a human way if they want to be engaged with.

If someone expresses concern through one of our telephone appeal calls, I’ll do my best to write back personally and address the issue, explaining a bit about how we work if I need to make things a bit clearer. I think the phone is a fantastic fundraising tool, just because of that opportunity it can open up for a real dialogue with some donors.

I’m sure I don’t always get it right, but I do try to remember that people want to give to people, and that that holds true for donor care just as much as for design and copy.


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