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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Keeping donors happy when your cause is out of the spotlight

This opinion piece is about 2 years old

Author illustration
19 November 2020
by Anna Devine
Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Scottish SPCA

Scottish SPCA has found that if you look after your supporters, then they will look after you 

At the Scottish SPCA our fundraising vision is to be the most valued, trusted and chosen animal welfare charity in Scotland.

When lockdown came we didn’t panic – maybe that’s just in our DNA, we didn’t launch an immediate emergency appeal and we never lost faith in our supporters. 

We found new ways to engage and recruited e-volunteers to share key messaging across social media. Communication increased internally and externally, and most importantly we picked up the phone (and still do) to reach out to supporters, especially those who were potentially vulnerable or more isolated.

Every charity with regular donors will experience some level of attrition and should, more than ever right now when we are Never More Needed, prioritise and try to gain control of this. During 2020 we’ve managed to reduce attrition levels (January to October figures) by 36% in comparison to 2019 and by 44% in comparison to 2018.

One area that many charities have tapped into more has been emergency funds which has highlighted the need for more trusts, grant giving bodies and corporates to really look at their giving criteria and loosen restrictions wherever they can. What charities need right now is funding for core activity.   

Right now we also need to keep a handle on spend and negotiate harder with suppliers. So if you’re planning campaigns, then put as much time in to evaluating cost as you do creative. For direct mail, make sure the visuals are clear and grab attention (some suppliers will offer free eye tracking to measure emotive impact of your campaign material). The last thing you want to do is produce material that is difficult to understand, misses the key messaging and fails to generate income. 

If you have budget for events then consider investing in technology to help deliver a great supporter journey with personalised and automated, virtual activities and challenges. Less is more philosophy is key to deliver quality and an income source that you can scale up every year rather than spreading yourself too thin with too many events that deliver a poor experience. Our first virtually supported challenge of 2021 was Pound for Paws. It required a lot of planning but ultimately achieved income 44% over target and is already being planned again for 2021.  

Don’t be frightened to test and measure new stuff. We’re testing QR technology in our Christmas press advertising campaign and will evaluate the response to help plan in 2021. We’ve developed our virtual gifts and will focus on our e-commerce offering for 2021.

We’ll continue to try new things and recently launched a quirky Badly Drawn Pets fundraiser which is off to a tremendous start. We even partnered with a gin company and sold out our complete supply of 600 bottles within just three hours!

So what’s the moral of our story? Keep your supporters at the heart of everything. 

I’ll sum it up with a quote from Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.



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