This is the first in a series of posts about a new piece of work that we’ve been doing here at Bluefrog. So new in fact that at the time of writing I can’t actually refer to it by name. Because it hasn’t got one (see latest feeble ideas above).
I say ‘new’ because, in parts at least, it’s now complete. You can press buttons and it works. But in another respect, it’s very old indeed because everything we have ever done over the years has been working in this direction.
No wonder then that we’re struggling to find just one word to sum it up. Although a briefing that proposed the word ‘lemon’ was perhaps an inauspicious start.
But for today’s post, I’m going to look at what the product is a response to.
1 October 1989 – do you know what happened that day?
It’s an incredible twenty years since First Direct opened its doors. Or rather revolutionized the world of banking by having no doors to open.
The new telephone bank appealed to a specific consumer need to make transactions on the go, outside of the limited hours that banks open. I remember a new customer saying, “I love my bank”. For different reasons than today, those words seemed as peculiar then as they do now.
Eight years later, they continued to shake up the previously intractable world of banking by introducing Internet banking. A year later, SMS trials took place.
I’ll admit I chose this example slightly randomly. And not on the basis that our new product would have the same impact (wishful thinking aside). But it sprang to mind when I was thinking about times when new ways of using a vital service are put into the marketplace.
Since then, mobile and digital technology have moved on apace, giving us new ways of not only banking, but buying, paying bills, finding information – even the ancient art of making friends exists online.
And that means (to many people’s regret), you can do those things at any time of day without having to do anything so onerous as speaking to a fellow human being.
Charitable-giving has perhaps been a little slower to move in this direction. And there are good and bad reasons for this – the good including the fact that ‘traditional donors’ were not early adopters. And the high entry costs are hard to justify when fundraisers must prioritise spending money in ways that will almost certainly see a speedy return on investment.
Amongst the bad reasons, I find the worst is the school of thought that it doesn’t matter if supporters aren’t actively engaged as long as enough of them are so inert that they don’t even bother to cancel their gift.
That’s never been my type of fundraising. And the current economic climate is proving to be just what it takes to jolt a large number of previously apathetic donors from their slumber just long enough to terminate their Direct Debits.
Anyway, the lack of investment in desktop interfaces between supporter and their giving has left charities increasingly out of step with banks, utilities, shops etc.
I know there are exceptions, but generally across charities, large and small, we are losing donors because of it.
When you move, most charities want you to write or ring with your new address. When you want to change the amount of your gift, you have to contact the charity as well as the bank (and many people won’t bother with the charity). And when you’re feeling a bit fed up, cancelling your gift is as easy as pressing one button – it’ll be months before the charity you support actually knows about it.
With that preamble, it’ll be no surprise to those of you who haven’t seen it already, that part of the new product is a site that enables you to do this.
But we also wanted to do more. And that means the site does more and there’s more to the product than the site - too much to cover entirely today.
It looks at how supporters are recruited, how we enable them to become active and engaged donors and how we make a charity’s relationship with them more flexible – just as First Direct did in the field of banking.
But we’ve also learnt from social networking too.
It’s pointless to try and replicate or attempt to rival the powerful social networks that are already in existence, but we can look at enabling people to feel part of a community – and to bring in their own networks to support the cause in question.
We can also properly get to know our donors – their likes, dislikes, what actions they take – and feed back our findings to improve the process for the supporters who follow them. My colleague, John Wallbank, a hesitant twitterer/tweeter, calls this the ‘virtuous circle’ and I wouldn't dream of arguing with him.
So onto the creative side of it.
Well I’d like to, but you can only experience the full product - including your own website – if you sign up to CARE International at the moment. Get in touch though if you'd like to see one of the sites (working name U SPACE) firstname.lastname@example.org.
Face to Face. Door to Door – these are the first recruits that we’re putting through the process, but clearly it will work just as well with TV, sponsors of any kind, press, lapsed etc.
So far, for Face to Face and Door to Door, we’ve looked at a whole stream of communications that engage. Anna is the person to follow for insights on the work that has gone into the more personal side of this, but here’s a sneak preview of the printed.
Below is the whole pack that is given to new donors on the street/door. It contains a pumpkin seed, a grain of rice and a peanut. Metaphorically, these represent the seeds they have sown by deciding to give a gift. More specifically, they represent three real life projects that the donor will learn about when they reach their site. So each one is also the beginning of a 'thread' of communication.
It's a neat format with the outer perforated down the middle to give the donor an envelope to keep and one to return.
Without having to open anything, the donor can engage straightaway with what they are given and what they are being asked to do.
The supporter is asked to take a further action straightaway - giving their personal encouragement to children who will learn to grow food as part of their lessons at school. The child gets the stickers (and we'll feed back on this too).
The donor is left with these three objects and the promise that they'll learn more about their power to change lives.
The piece was developed with donor needs in mind and, as I said, part of a bigger stream of communications.
As I mentioned, I’ll be doing further posts about the creative side of this in forthcoming weeks, but if you want to know more now, get in touch. Also keep the 23rd of October free when John Wallbank tells me Bluefrog and Dialogue Direct will be presenting on all aspects of this project in London. Click here to be added to the guest list email@example.com.
*In the fifties, Winston Churchill was involved in planning his own funeral (which didn’t actually occur until 1965). He called it Operation Hope Not. Wish I could think of something as good.