David Dixon is founder of The Phone Room, a call and contact centre specialising in telephone fundraising for not-for-profits and ticketing for arts organisations. I’ve been talking to David for a while about blogging and social media in this context and he invited me along to help record a “Skill Share” day last week where he and his colleagues were meeting with people from sister companies in the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Germany to talk about their common experiences and how to improve their effectiveness.
The day kicked off with presentations from David and Daryl Upsall who heads up the Fundraising Company in Spain. Here are my lightly edited notes from these presentations.
David Dixon – How do we enhance voice fundraising in the age of new media
Note this is “voice fundraising” not just about telephones or whatever device you might happen to be using to convey your voice such as: web, e-mail, mobile voice, mobile web & wap, sms, vismail, affiliate marketing, VOIP (and associated services), social networking, user generated content, MMORPGS such as Second Life.
There’s just been a conference about charities using Second Life – one of the main speakers is from Oxford University which has bought an island in the space. There’s also been a sponsored walk in aid of the American Cancer Society – it’s like temporary emigration – they are very real and people spend money on them, lots of big companies are setting themselves up there.
So we face a big threat – not so much in Spain, but further north. If you listen to calls you see that nearly everyone is very old – over 65 probably – the reason for this is that they were recruited by direct mail. Most of the donors in britain are acquired through direct mail. This is changing, but not that quickly. The effect of mass direct mail is under threat from both generational (older people dying, younger people not responding to direct mail) and technological change (the move to online) and the marginal rate of return is reducing all the time.
When direct mail started, you had to be very stupid not to get a good response, but as time goes by the quality of your communication has to go up in order to maintain profitability as the marginal rate will always move towards break even. So a small change in marginal response rates means that a whole bunch of mail becomes uneconomic, meaning that the volume of direct mail will have to reduce. At the moment it’s still increasing as the only way to increase profitability but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to continue like this forever.
We don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I believe it will be sometime in next 10 years. So we have a problem coming and I want to be on top of it beforehand. So now we’re investigating new media, we don’t have to but i’d like to be thinking about it now to get a strategic solution in place before it’s needed.
We’re focusing on learning how to integrate voice with new media. Our new kit allows us to work with sms email and web alongside voice, so we can position ourselves as an integrated contact centre. We don’t quite understand how to do it best yet, but we could get started right now.
The problems that charities face are: How to migrate from ‘here’ to ‘there’. How to restructure organisationally. How to monetise new media and how to grow expertise.
We are developing expertise so we can sell more voice fundraising, involving TPR directly with clients’ strategic planning. Historically, we haven’t been part of that planning, but we’d like to be in future.
An example of the experiments we’re doing is Donor Connect – it’s affiliate marketing – an awful lot of people want to give but don’t know who they want to give money to. Increasingly people go looking for ideas on the internet. In the commercial world for any search on a generic term you’ll see a mix of direct producers and affiliates who guide searchers towards the producers, with the affiliates getting a small cut.
If you were to type in ‘help darfur’ you’d get such a mix. Opinions vary on it – some people think that they are squatting and stealing traffic – others think its good because they are doing the suppliers job for them without getting paid until they get a result.
So we’re working with a network of affiliates – 1-2,000 from Affiliate Future – they do the dissemination for us. It captures people with a general interest – so if they know they want to help the people of darfur, they will get a way of finding it. and then we will get the calls.
We’re piloting it at the moment – pay per registration with a 10-day cooling off period – basic identity data – one phone number. We want to see if and how the model works so everything is being tested. In any sample we find a number of non-contacts, qualified prospects and sometimes single gifts with qualification information, but the main aim is new monthly donors which is what the charities pay for. Charities love this – they get to only pay for the people who actually pay them.
The thing that isn’t happening is the call back – assumption that people who’ve registered online will only respond to e-mail. So there’s a great opportunity – because voice is still the best way to talk to people.
So far we’re not getting huge numbers – given how much we’ve spent, we’re still pleased, but of itself it’s not great. We feel we’ve proved the basic concept but we want to show that we can do volume.
The ROI was 1.06:1 with a highest donation of a £100 Paperless Direct Debit. TPR income per contact was over 60% more than usual.
So good for us and good for the charity. The average donation levels are higher by web than we get by mail or face to face on the street. We think that attrition will be low as we’re creating a relationship. If we can prove it works we’ll do more – and go to all our clients and say give us your data and we’ll do the rest of the work.
Daryl Upsall – Integrating fundraising & communication- how to stand out
Daryl explained how there is so much going on as the web grows up and content (pictures, stories, videos) is going to be generated much more by individuals rather than charities. Here are the examples Daryl used.
Big shift from billboards to online. Google sells more advertising in the UK than Channel 4 in 2006
In UK 10% of young people get news from internet – even Murdoch is in on the act buying myspace – he knows that the traditional newspaper is dying. Where are the charities on myspace? In individual people’s pages. Lots of people setting up microcharities.
youtube is the perfect place to recycle content – very few charities have their own blog – does anyone do podcasting for charities? how about videoblogging?
First aid – St John’s Ambulance have put all of their courses on podcasts through iTunes.
SMS – Italians donated 18m euros in 24 hours for tsunami. but nobody’s capturing the phone number data by call back.
Vodaphone campaign in Spain – supporting various charities with shortcodes for each one. again no data capture even for feedback.
Unicef at Berlin New Years Eve party. 130,000 donated 350,000 euros
26m people sent a message for Live 8 – nobody got back to them.
e-mail campaigns work less but still effective getting 150,000 people to sign a petition – 95,000 new names – 225kUSD
Amnesty has probably the biggest database of e-mail addresses – amina libre – stoning women campaign 140 e-mails –> 9m people who can now be telephoned.
Keep your eyes open for anyone who’s doing something snowballing.
Amnesty’s base is getting older too. so they’re saying let’s build some lists of younger people – pencil in envelope not working. downloading music (john lennon)
Ticketing – fastest growing area is sms – latest is sending barcodes. How do you ticket your charity events – and what’s happening to the phone numbers generated…?
The mobile phone newsletter – via qr-code in Japan – building response mechanisms into advertising.
El Pais – unique numbers on paper is an entry to daily lottery – with immediate textback collecting permissions.
Online auctions – ebay for charity – you can sell anything and again generating leads.
Everyclick – every time you use the search engine, charities make money – some corporates force their people to use it.
Integrating f2f & mobile – Greenpeace India – bought a whole bunch of numbers in Bangalore – sent them a message (some would say spammed them) and if they replied positively they said “we’ll bring you a tree to plant in your garden”. They bought 39,000 numbers and got 2.3% conversion – the person bringing the tree was a fundraiser ready to sign them up to donate. Lead to supporter conversion 16% planning now to recruit 22k new supporters this way.
It’s about developing relationships – John Aspinall Foundation – get info via shortcodes about animals with click through to sponsor immediately. totallywild.net including ringtones of their sound or a related music download.