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“Top Seven Insights” for Fundraisers - FIA Conference

24 February 2011 at 11:34 am
Staff Reporter
The Fundraising Institute of Australia’s 34th International Conference in Melbourne has kicked off with fundraising expert John Jeffries providing insights into his 28 year charity career - including his “top seven things fundraisers don’t want to know about donors”.

Staff Reporter | 24 February 2011 at 11:34 am


“Top Seven Insights” for Fundraisers - FIA Conference
24 February 2011 at 11:34 am

The Fundraising Institute of Australia’s 34th International Conference in Melbourne has kicked off with fundraising expert John Jeffries providing insights into his 28 year charity career – including his “top seven things fundraisers don’t want to know about donors”.

Christian Blind Mission (CBM) Australia’s National Director, John Jeffries delivered The Syd Herron oration to a packed conference of fundraisers from Australia and overseas at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

Jeffries has been working with CBM – the largest organisation working with people with a disability in the developing world – for 28 years.

Jeffries told the audience that when he joined CBM the organisation was raising less than $250,000 a year – it now takes in over $20 million annually.

Jeffries says the work that fundraisers do is incredibly important, making a huge difference in people’s lives, even saving lives – so fundraisers can’t afford to get it wrong.

Jeffries says he has learnt a great deal about donors at CBM and provided the audience with his list of ‘top seven things you don’t want to know about donors’.

1 – Donors are not like you

Jeffries says it is important for fundraisers to remember that donors are generally not like them at all. Donors are typically older, conservative, quite religious and not as socially aware as the conference delegates. He says when trying to understand donor behaviour, fundraisers need to remember who the donors are.

Jeffries says says when his staff ask his opinion on the latest proposed appeal, he tells them to go and ask some of the elderly women who volunteer at CBM, as they have much more in common with the typical donor than he does.

2 – The more you ask, the more you raise

Jeffries says he commonly hears from donors that CBM send out too much mail, however he says that the more an organisation asks for donations, the more they raise. Jeffries says he challenged the conventional wisdom by increasing direct mail campaigns with CBM and it worked to great effect.

He says new technology allows fundraisers to contact donors more often, more cost effectively and more intimately than ever before, by using tools like twitter and Facebook. CBM even creates daily prayer videos that are sent to thousands of donors on a daily basis.

3 – When complaints increase, usually income increases also

Fundraisers should not be overly worried by donors complaining – Jeffries says lots of contact will lead to complaints, however this opens an honest dialogue with a donor. He says donors who leave an organisation because of this were probably going to leave anyway. If a fundraiser isn’t getting any complaints, it may mean their communications are being ignored, with is a very big problem.

4 – Nothing beats personal interaction with your donors

Jeffries says the importance of personal interaction with donors cannot be overstated. He says research has shown there is no difference between the motivating factors between a donor who gives $1 and a donor who gives $1 million – its about respect for staff leadership of the organisation and creating relationships with donors.

Jeffries says organisations need to phone large donors to say thank you, hold regular meetings with donors, personally visit large donors, and hire warm people that excellently represent your organisations.

Jeffries says CBM realised that clerically gifted staff who are quiet yet sincere, and focused yet introverted are not the right people to talk to donors on the phone. He says when donors call they want to talk and form a relationship with the organisation, whereas clerical staff want to deal with the call quickly and cost effectively. CBM now hires phone staff for their personality.

Jeffries also says fundraisers should make the most of the CEO and key staff in their communications. Donors want to hear from these people, it helps form a relationship and create trust.

5 – 90% of PR is a waste of money. 10% is highly questionable.

Jeffries says most PR activity is a waste of money and a shocking waste of staff time and bad fundraising initiatives should not be covered up by saying it was ‘good PR’.

6 – Donors are more committed than you

Jeffries says fundraisers need to realise that most donors are more committed to the organisation or cause than they are. He says a typical donor will be with an organisation a lot longer than a fundraiser.

7 – If a thing is worth doing, its worth doing poorly

Jeffries says if something is worth doing, it is better to do it poorly rather than not at all. Fundraisers shouldn’t wait till they have the perfect campaign, rather they should act quickly to ‘pick the low hanging fruit’.

In closing, Jeffries says fundraisers have a duty to be the best they can be, to be as busy as possible, and to save lives and improve the quality of lives of those worse off than them.

Officially opening the conference, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the conference provided an important opportunity for people to get together and share what is not just a profession, but a commitment.

Doyle said from an outsiders perspective, an important challenge for fundraisers is to change the public perception that philanthropy belongs to very rich people and to create a culture of giving according to need.

To read more stories from the FIA conference click here.

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