Ken Burnett, one of the founding fathers of charity direct marketing, has blasted the “stupidity” of charities getting donors to sign up for £5 a month claiming it takes at least two years to recoup the recruitment costs.
Burnett, who sits on the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing, was speaking at a round table on the future of fundraising at New Philanthropy Capital’s offices in London late last week.
He said that too many donors did not continue supporting charities long enough to repay even their acquisition costs.
“From the viewpoint of a donor giving an average £5 a month, it will be two years before any of the money that they’re giving goes towards the cause they think they’re giving it for,” he said.
Burnett cited an informal poll of donor recruitment costs, in which he said that a regular donor acquired through face-to-face methods costs a charity £160 on average, while a £5 ask by mobile phone cost £90, a two-step regular gift conversion was typically about £164 and a £3 regular donor acquired through the radio or press cost between £72 and £140, not taking into account overheads.
He added: “We’re coming close to eating our seedcorn, which has got to be the ultimate stupidity for a sector.”
In the early Eighties, Burnett founded Burnett Associates, one of the first agencies which specialised exclusively in the charity sector. For two decades Burnett Associates was credited with producing original, donor-focused and effective communications campaigns.
The agency relaunched as Lion at the tail end of the Nineties, but re-emerged as Kitcatt Nohr Alexander Shaw after falling into financial difficulties. Burnett set up again as Burnett Works, but left in about 2005 and now works as a consultant.
To leave a comment please register – it takes less than a minute and is free of charge. You will also get our weekly email update The DM Report (to opt out contact email@example.com). If you are an existing user, please log in. If you have forgotten your log-in details please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get them reset!