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#66 Check here to opt out of bad content □

Just as it is now, Christmas was approaching fast. The year was 1991 and the shops of Portsmouth had hung their decorations, put up their trees and were blaring jingles that played in the background of everyone’s minds for the rest of the season. A helpful 10-year-old decided to give his parents a helping hand this year by circling the Lego set he wanted in the catalogue, ensuring a very merry Christmas for him and a guaranteed win for his folks.

This Lego set was awesome. He couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to arrive so he could unwrap his new Lego space station.

After running down the wooden staircase two steps at a time he flew to the lounge and dove into the mound of presents waiting for his tiny hands to rip apart the concealing paper. He shook the box that looked the right size and heard the glorious rattle of small plastic bricks. He tore away the wrapping and tape to find to his dismay a different Lego space station. A smaller space station with fewer figures with nowhere near the same potential for intergalactic war.

Instead of following his instructions, the child’s parents had bought the one that they liked the most. It had fewer bricks for their bare feet to discover in the dark, fewer figures that would tidy away quicker, and less potential for intergalactic war so that he might play more quietly.

Christmas was never the same after that. He didn’t bother to tell them what he wanted because they weren’t listening. He didn’t spring down the staircase to tear open the presents. He wandered morosely to the lounge and pulled the paper from the objects without glee or hope.

I have a confession. He was I. Mind blown. Thank you for allowing this to be a safe space for me to vent my first-world problems. Now, on to fundraising and learning a lesson from my past misery.

Privacy and anti-spam legislation are beginning to impact Australian fundraisers and retention teams. Charities have been forced into giving their donors choice about what channels we use to communicate with them. For positive, forward-thinking fundraisers this seems like a fair and wise manoeuvre that places our fundraising and comms slap-bang in the middle of donor-centricity, but some of us, whilst we understand the greater and wider need for the legislation are warning that giving a donor a preference without experiencing is dangerous.

How can someone be expected to make an informed decision without experiencing the thing they are opting out of?

The issue, as I see it, is that donors don’t want to stop receiving communications from their causes, they want to stop receiving bad or irrelevant information in their inbox.

Time and time again I see donor journeys that bear no resemblance to the messaging at acquisitions. Fundraisers, face to face in particular, pick the low hanging fruit that can be communicated easily by a Swedish backpacker (thanks Tom.D for that phrase) and summarised in thirty seconds to a busy mum on her way back from the supermarket, but often the charity has no idea what the fundraisers are pitching and make little effort to match this with the journey.

Anti-spam legislation states that companies and charities can communicate to their customers and donors in a way that is consistent with the commitment that these people have shown to the organisation. By agreeing to a long-term ongoing monthly donation, you could easily defend monthly eDM, DM or the odd phone call if it is filled with relevant content.

My Christmas nightmare has driven me to create donor preference dropdowns on the iPads of my client’s face-to-face fundraisers. These preferences do not offer the donor the opportunity to opt out of receiving SMS or emails from us, but instead let us know what they are interested in hearing and reading about. People want to stop bad content not all content.

By breaking your organisations campaigns down into four or five broad headers you can gather data and tailor not only the donor journey to the responses, but also future training.

In each case there is an outlier that stands out like a sore thumb. There is always one area of the charity’s work that motivates the donor. Frequently this option is chosen by 75%+ by new donors at acquisition.

This means that the fundraisers are probably talking about this subject and it is resonating with the public. With this new data we can move to give the fundraiser more information around the topic and less on the other areas. We can empower our fundraisers to create the best possible arguments for giving based on the best possible information and evidence.

We don’t then ignore everything else that the charity does we champion the dominant response. 50% of your training session will be on that subject, 25% on all the others combined, and the remaining 25% on KPIs and recognition.

Similarly, by learning that the donors signed up for one specific reason doesn’t mean that we remove all mention of the other stuff from our messaging, we just reprioritise. If they love topic A, then make topic A the subject of the first email they receive and give it the front page of the booklets, leaflets and fridge magnets. The other content is not necessarily tossed into a skip but used in ratios in relation to the prominent one. In the next three to six months you will naturally open the rest of your work to them.

Better content will lead to better donors, so let’s give our donors the chance to tell us what they want to hear about, and if we let them down we can give them the opportunity to opt-out.

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