So here it is – the poster that can help you better understand your donors and secure their support. I'll admit it's quite a claim, but hopefully you'll give me a chance to substantiate it. (I've been meaning to post about this for ages and can only point to a month-long distraction in the shape of the World Cup for the delay).
The poster you can see above hangs on the kitchen wall, close to my desk at Bluefrog. It shows how members of the creative team take their tea and is very useful for those of us who suffer the odd memory lapse. (I'd entirely understand, however, if you considered this information entirely lacking in interest).
Thankfully, the poster illustrates something else – something far more relevant to fundraising.
It shows that people don't fit tidily into the boxes you want them to. And you need to bear that in mind when you communicate with donors.
Let's have a closer look then at that poster. Remember, the question asked was, 'How do you like your cuppa?' And in an attempt to make it easier for the team to share the required information, the likely answers were offered alongside tick boxes.
In this sense, the poster is like many of the questionnaires and surveys charities send to donors with the aim of finding out more about them. Except, of course, asking questions in this way is seriously flawed. Because asking a question gives someone the chance to tell you what they want to say – and that's not necessarily what you're expecting.
Take Felix, for example. We asked him how he likes his tea, but he wants to tell us he prefers coffee in the morning.
Offered the chance of strong or weak tea, Joanna wants us to know she likes hers 'strongish'.
Steve's taken the opportunity to request biscuits.
And Bruce has indicated that he likes his tea cup decorated with flowers (he's a designer).
In fact, of our entirely unrepresentative sample, less than 50% have actually answered the question asked using the tick boxes. And that was a very simple question.
Charities are using multiple choice type questionnaires to ask people to share much more personal and involved information.
If you're set on building a lasting relationship with a donor, keys questions are things like, 'Why have you decided to support us?', 'Was this particular gift motivated by anything in particular?' and 'When would you next like to hear from us?' Meaningful answers aren't conveyed with a tick in a box, which is why at Bluefrog, we encourage more dialogue. Of course, it takes longer to read the answers if you offer a space for someone to fill as they wish, but it's worth it.
You get to see how people express themselves, which in turn can feed into the copy you write. Donors share personal, emotional and - more often than you might think – spiritual reasons for supporting a particular cause (without necessarily being people who would describe themselves as religious).
And for those fundraisers who spend their days working with budgets, spreadsheets and data, it's also a valuable reminder that it's a person giving money, not an extra 0.01% response.
Donation forms are for another day, but I'll finish by pointing out that it seems when we ask for money, we're only interested in one answer – 'Yes'. If you really want a lasting relationship with your donors, wouldn't it be useful if they were also able to tell you why they aren't giving? (This post on Mark's Queer Ideas blog is useful to anyone who is designing/approving a donation form).