The Pandemic: What is the difference between Australia and the UK, right now, and how might we share good practice?

Australia is currently in a much better position than the UK in how you’re dealing with Covid.   You are coming out of the second wave while we are still going into it.  74% of you expect to invest more money and time to improve the supporter experience.   This is terrific.

Also, though, I know that you are not complacent.   In the flu pandemic of 1918/19 there was a third wave.   I hope and pray that you in Australia don’t have one.

What follows was written for a UK audience, in the current situation in the UK.   But most of what we’re doing is as relevant for Australian fundraisers as British ones.   Good fundraising is universal.   So, please do read on.

The UK today

One thing that’s certain about the coming year is – uncertainty.   Indeed, I believe that that is true for every country in the world.

The only sure thing for fundraisers is that, as so often, so reliably in the past, we can turn to our supporters.   That’s right.   You can be certain that your supporters will see you through.

In the first wave many charities were reluctant to ask their supporters for money.   They felt that they’d be preoccupied with Covid, or that adverse finances would mean they couldn’t afford to give, right now.   So, fundraisers didn’t ask.   They let their donors be.  

They were wrong then.   And they are wrong now.

Now is absolutely the right time to be engaging and communicating with your supporters.   Now more than ever, the experience you give to your supporter will make all the difference.

So, communications to supporters need to be extra-carefully crafted.   They must be outside in, not inside out.   What does the supporter want to hear?   Not what you want to tell them.   Start with the supporter.   How are they?   How are they feeling?   Thank them for all they have done so far.   If their finances are suffering, offer them a payment holiday.   They’ve been there for you, now you can be there for them.   “We look forward to hearing from you when things are OK.”   

But the reality, it’s now clear, is that most of your real supporters are better off in lockdown.   Those retired or in regular employment have had few places to spend money in recent months.   And lockdown looks like continuing.   So, they’re saving shedloads by not dining out, going to shows and events, foreign holidays etc.   For them, it’s precisely the time to be showing why they’re even more needed now, and showing them the extra difference that their increased giving now can make.   Indeed, charities that have done this well recently have seen almost unbelievably good results.   And they’re not isolated.

“The fastest growth in supporters that we have had in nearly a decade for two consecutive quarters.”   “Our April, June and September appeals consistently hit and excelled targets.”   “We have just had a record summer appeal for our Poverty Pandemic.”   “We completely redid our Lent Appeal (schools and churches couldn’t act as channels for collection boxes).   Direct donations were over €4.5 million – double previous years”   “Just had a record summer appeal for our Poverty Pandemic.”  

And, if this seems hard to believe, look at Auntie BBC’s Radio 4 weekly Appeal.   In the period from 1st March 2019 – 10th May 2019 the Appeals raised £205,085.   In the same period to 10th May 2020, they raised £464,864.   (I’ve counted them, week by week.)   That’s as far as published figures go.   What will have happened since 10th May this year?

Compassion is spreading as fast as the virus.

There is hope.   We must communicate well. 

So, what exactly do you need to do to immerse your organisation in the supporter experience?

Why a good supporter experience is crucial

This thinking is what the UK’s Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s ‘Supporter Experience Special Interest Group’ exists to help with.   Several members of that group, with decades of experience and steeped in the supporter experience, have produced an online booklet; ‘Fundraising at the time of Covid: how the supporter experience can help you navigate the pandemic.’   Seven principles with up to six actions beneath each of them.   Concrete, practical and very do-able.   A veritable ‘How to’ guide at a critical time, entirely free, for you and your colleagues.

How can you start to think about the needs of your supporters, rather than the needs of your organisation?   How can you change the mindsets of all staff within your organisation?   How can you convince the decision makers that your supporters still believe in your mission – and that they want to give?   How can you make the case for investment in fundraising, rather than cuts?   Unlike other parts of your organisation, fundraising is a profit centre, not a cost centre.   Fundraising can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

The CIoF’s Supporter Experience Group has given a lot of thought to all these questions and will answer each in turn at a free webinar on Wednesday 25th November, here which you can watch afterwards, and you can access the on-line booklet here.

As well as the principles and actions, there are oodles of positive case studies that you in Australia will find relevant and fascinating.   Each gives a glimpse of good fundraising in Britain.

So, from British fundraisers to Australian fundraisers, with our very best wishes.