Remembrance of Things Post

This was originally written by Meredith Niles on CharityConnect

I am preparing to move house next week for the first time in a decade, and if I am honest, I am a more than a little daunted by the prospect (although it has given me an opportunity to engage in a massive clear-out, with lots of good stuff being donated to charity, of course!).  One of the most difficult things to sort out is making sure that all the people I want to be able to contact me — friends, family members, businesses, and charities — have my new address.

For friends and family, it’s not that difficult to let them know, as I generally have everyone in my own contacts file.  For the latter two groups, it’s been rather more difficult, as I don’t actually have a central list anywhere of every business or charity that I might want to hear from in the future.

In the end, I set aside out an entire afternoon to try to crack it.  I went through bank statements to check where my money was going, looked through my emails for messages from organisations I enjoy hearing from, and went through a large stack of post that had accumulated to round out my list.  It was the longest concentrated period I had spent with my post in a very long time (ever?) and as a fundraiser within an organisation that relies on the post for a substantial part of our income, it also presented me with an opportunity for some professional reflection.

Here are, in no particular order, some thoughts that occurred to me as I sat alone with my post for several hours:

  • There are some really great direct mail (both for charities and businesses) campaigns being delivered at the moment.  Personalised, memorable, distinctive.  There is also some rubbish stuff, but it’s easy to spot and ignore.  The good stuff — with engaging stories and compelling photography — really stands out.
  • The fact that I don’t always open a piece of post immediately is not actually a reflection of how interested I am in hearing from an organisation.  There were a number of “gems” in my pile that had been there for over a month, purely because I’ve been travelling a lot and other people in my house have been picking up the post first and “sorting” it for me (i.e. leaving it in some random place in the kitchen, sticking it under a pile of the children’s homework, etc.), making it difficult for me to find.  At work, when we look at the results of a particular campaign, I find myself making a lot of assumptions about non-responders, and it was a good reality check that factors that have nothing to do with how underlying interest can also have a big influence.
  • It made me really think about the recommendations from the NCVO that if a supporter moves and does not actively provide their new contact information, charities should think carefully about whether their consent is still valid.  I am sure that despite my (pretty intensive) efforts, there will be organisations that I didn’t manage to proactively contact to provide my new details.  To draw from that oversight an assumption that I never want to hear from a charity again is a big, and inaccurate, leap.

 

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And, of course, there were some negatives:

  • Pet peeve #1: response devices that in no way fit comfortably in the envelope provided.  Requiring one (intuitively placed!) fold is fine; more than that, and you should rethink the size of the envelope.
  • Pet peeve #2: when you want me to write down information on a piece of paper that has a slick coating on it.  Double pet peeve points if you go to the trouble of providing a pen that clearly cannot be used on the form you have sent me.
  • Pet peeve #3: asking me to purchase raffle tickets and not giving me enough sticky labels to cover all the tickets you’ve asked me to buy.  New policy: if I’m going to participate in your raffle, I will limit my ticket purchase to the number of labels you’ve sent.
  • Pet peeve #4: asking me if I want an acknowledgement.  This is one area where more donor choice is not your friend.  You SHOULD thank me (not just because it increases loyalty but frankly, it’s just polite!), and by putting the ball in my court to request a thank you, you make me feel guilty.  I saw examples of this in both directions (i.e. “Tick here if you do not require an acknowledgement” and the even worse “Tick here if you would like to receive an acknowledgement of your donation.”  The latter is inexcusable, in my view.)
  • Pet peeve #5: Not acknowledging my previous support.  The first four are issues around technique and execution; this one is about philosophy.  During this exercise, I reviewed two letters that I received from organisations that I had supported for the first time over the summer.  One was warm and friendly, thanking me for my support, welcoming me to the organisation, telling me about what they do and inviting me to learn more.  They also asked for money, but it was in the context of wanting to build a relationship with me and having offered me something valuable (thanks and insight) first.  The second was just an appeal.  I had never been thanked by this organisation, nor had they ever sent me any real information about what they do.  I had supported this particular charity via a friend’s sponsorship page, so there is no reason the charity should suspect I already know a lot about them; I opted in to hear from them hoping they would tell me something about their cause and the impact they make.  They clearly just added my details to their list and sent me the next appeal scheduled in their line-up.  It was all about how great the organisation is, full of jargon that I didn’t understand (because I am new to the organisation, which they should know!), and made no mention of donors, other than right at the end when they asked for my money.  And the donation form had boxes that were pre-filled with donation amounts, except they were all the same!  I could choose to donate £100, £100, £100 or other; I think this was an unintentional mistake, but you never know.  Needless to say, I don’t want to hear from this charity again.  Nor do I want them to waste resources trying to win me back, so I contacted this charity to say that I didn’t need to hear from them in the future.  They won’t be receiving one of my carefully crafted change of address cards.

Have you seen any great (or rubbish) examples of charity appeals recently?  Have you got a list of pet peeves that we could all work on correcting?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Emma Begg

Product and Marketing Manager at CharityConnect. Love learning about new technology and helping to create a culture of collaboration over at www.charityconnect.co.uk

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