Scottish charities can be great, they don’t have to be big

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Scottish fundraisers were challenged to be great at the opening of the Scottish Fundraising Conference in Glasgow

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3rd October 2017 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Scottish charities should forget about being bigger and instead focus on being better.

Damian O’Broin challenged hundreds of Scottish charities to be great at the opening of the Scottish Fundraising Conference 2017 in Glasgow.

He told a room full of Scottish fundraisers that being a small charity is not an excuse, and when it comes to changing the world small can actually be a good thing.

O’Broin is managing director of Ireland’s Ask Direct, a fundraising agency that works with some of Ireland’s best known charities. He says his agency wants to change the world but “we don’t see ourselves as doing that by being big, we see ourselves as doing that by being the best.”

The two-day Institute of Fundraising-run conference will focus on the best of Scottish fundraising and explore issues surrounding fundraising’s new regulatory regime and the imminent introduction of new data protection laws.

It kicked off with O’Broin reminding delegates that their job is to help donors change the world rather than do it themselves.

“Most donors are less interested in how you change the world than in how they can change the world,” he said.

He highlighted the Rokia approach, which saw an international development campaign double donors from 23% to 48% by focusing on the story of one young girl, Rokia, rather than highlighting the big statistics and rational for the campaign.

With the big statistics approach, O’Broin said, “the problem is just too big for donors. With the Rokia approach, the donor could see what difference they could make to Rokia. It was a donor sized problem.”

Great fundraising can be broken down to just three simple principles, according to O’broin: understanding donors, looking after donors, and inspiring donors.

He challenged fundraisers to follow the lead of craft beer entrepreneur Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing, who said: “We’re trying to make beer that most people won’t like”.

Understanding donors is about understanding what makes people want to donate to a particular cause over another. “Most people will not donate to Friends of the Earth,” O’Broin pointed out.

As an example, he highlighted Ireland’s Abortion Support Network, which tells people why it’s mostly female support based donate. They donate because it’s personal to them – most people will never wear its Pro-Choice Superstar badge, but its supporters love it.

Ask Direct recently surveyed 5,000 donors to find out why they donate to the causes they do. Nine out of 10 of the top responses were linked to donor care. The top answers were about how quickly and well the charity responded to questions or concerns.

Donors are increasingly looking for new ways to change the world but not always by supporting established charities, O’Broin cautioned. Now is not the time to treat them like ATMs.

“How many of you see your donor services departments as a cost or overhead,” he asked. “Shouldn’t you see them as an investment in fundraising, and even invest more in them”.

In this way, O’Broin said fundraisers should be cheering for rather than fearing new data protection laws, as they will force charities to take relationship fundraising seriously.

As an example, O’Broin cited a lead generation campaign the Dogs Trust ran last Christmas which saw 91% optional email sign up and 52% optional mobile phone number declaration after the marketing was explicit about why it was requesting the information. This compares to an average 10% sign up for less honest campaigns.

Finishing up, O’Broin’s has one simple top tip for inspiring donors: “Sometimes we need to make them cry”.