This year, charities and agencies will start walking the walk with regard to moving past cost-per-acquisition as a metric for measuring success, says Dominic Will, managing director of Home Fundraising.
In 2017, we will see a new era of face-to-face take hold. In the past, both within and beyond the sector, the emphasis has too often been on driving down cost per acquisition allied with a narrow understanding of return on investment. Those days are now well and truly gone for fundraising.
While campaigns need to be cost effective, the focus must be firmly rooted on the importance of consistently high standards, and this means that we must look beyond the obvious numbers of cost per donor and direct financial returns to a broader range of metrics to determine success.
Of course, the ultimate goal remains to secure long-term committed supporters, but in doing so we also have the chance to address the individual needs of supporters, answering any questions they might have and asking their permission for future contact.
The emphasis has shifted firmly to quality and the fact is that this comes at a price. But the rewards of delivering a successful supporter-centric campaign, which means having genuinely engaging conversations with supporters and building real relationships, can also be that much higher.
Strong financial results are important (we are fundraisers after all), but there is both a financial and an ethical imperative to better understand the less obvious metrics. This might include overall reach – how many people fundraisers have engaged in conversation around the work of the charity; consent – how many people may have consented to hear from the charity in the future (an essential first step in building a lasting relationship); and measuring feedback – what the public thought and how they responded.
Many charities have already reviewed their commercial terms to see how they reflect these aims. How much of an impact this makes will of course be determined by the relationship they have with agency partners.
In this new era, a successful charity agency partnership is critical, involving deeper levels of understanding between each party. Agreeing a price and monitoring results on spreadsheets won’t cut it. The smart organisations (I mean both agencies and charities) have long been looking at how they can work collaboratively, what their broader success criteria should be and how they will communicate this to supporters.
This means testing what works best in light of these new metrics, whether it be creative or process-related, and what will be the long-term impact of these changes. As with all forms of fundraising, face-to-face needs the right framework to thrive. The right regulations and professional standards need to be in place, not only for fundraising, but also for the recruitment and development of fundraisers, charity communications and more. This should be coupled with meaningful compliance systems and an accreditation structure, which I hope will be taken forwards in 2017.
Working with and through the Institute of Fundraising and networks such as the Commission on the Donor Experience, we have the opportunity to develop a raft of recognisable professional standards. This is a necessary step in creating context for the public about fundraising, which has been sorely missing while the mud has been flying in recent years.
- This article first appeared in the January 2017 issue of Fundraising Magazine
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