Why CRM is so crucial for charities

Stuart Huke

Charity donations in the UK may have fallen below the £10bn mark last year, according to research by the Charities Aid Foundation and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, but as the economy improves the third sector can reasonably expect this figure to climb again as people loosen their belts again.
Amid the clamour for new donors and increased contributions from existing supporters, charities would do well to reconsider their contact strategies.
If businesses and other organisations view CRM as a vital aspect of the sales and marketing cycle, why should the third sector be any different?
Sadly, a majority of charities are not set up to handle complex CRM programmes at present. An easy mistake to make is not treating a person as a donor until they actually give money; but this ignores all the possible ways an interested party can be drawn into a good cause and be persuaded to part with their hard-earned cash.
Let’s take a typical “donor journey” beginning as an example of how charity CRM might work. Gemma is a 19-year-old who likes socialising and going to local events. She’s keen on music and spots there is a charity gig around the corner from where she lives, so she calls a friend and goes along. The organisation behind the event has realised this is an ideal opportunity to get to know attendees a bit better and arranges data capture in return for free entry, as the gig is about brand-building and raising awareness.
Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to donate on the night in cash or by signing up for direct debit payment. Finally, everyone is asked to leave their Twitter handle – on a voluntary basis – as a way of the charity keeping in touch as the fundraising team appreciates attendees will probably want to be contacted through less traditional routes. It might be a slower burn getting people to support the organisation, but it’s an important channel in the digital era for the hyper-connected Generation Y, who will be the future life-blood of charities.
People who attend events, or even volunteer to help at one, are very important as they have expressed an interest in the charity and need to be communicated with afterwards in order to keep them engaged, and in the hope that they donate money in the future. Taking a more joined-up approach to donor management, even before individuals become donors, will boost the chances of them giving, and doing so on a regular basis.
So, following the event, whereas many charities would seem to be content with any connection made with attendees on the night, the organisers in this situation embark on a continuous engagement programme with Gemma and her friend.
This could involve swapping direct messages on Twitter; sending information or donation requests to their mobile phones; email invites to future events asking if they’d like to volunteer to help run them; and digital updates of current and future fundraising activity. In combination, this will create good engagement, which generally results in financial giving, often of a high value and over a sustained period of time.
Charities must realise that a one-size-fits-all approach to contacting donors and prospects is no longer the answer. It’s important to realise that people’s preferences can change from first contact to becoming an established, committed donor. Our research has found, for example, that face-to-face and payroll giving encourages regular payment, while text message donation and online sponsorship are more likely to lead to one-off payment.
Ultimately, organisations need to become smarter at segmenting their donor base to determine how individuals prefer to donate and receive communications and devise fundraising strategies with this in mind.

Stuart Huke, planning director, Response One – a St Ives Group company

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