The power of small moments in fundraising
5 March 2021 at 11:58 am
We chat with Irish professional fundraising consultant Simon Scriver following his Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) Conference appearance
Fundraisers need to remember that even the smallest interactions they have with their donors can shape the way they think about them and their organisations, an award-winning Irish fundraiser says.
Simon Scriver is a professional fundraising consultant, coach, keynote speaker, podcast host and co-founder of virtual fundraising platform Fundraising Everywhere.
A winner of Fundraising Ireland’s Small Budget, Big Impact and Supplier of the Year awards and Eircom’s Start-up award, Scriver spoke recently at Fundraising Institute Australia’s (FIA) Conference 2021.
During his sessions, Scriver discussed how fundraisers were the bridge between an organisation’s donors, beneficiaries, co-workers and volunteers.
He talked about how even the simplest of things fundraisers did could make donors happy and said organisations did not need a big budget to win donors over.
Pro Bono News spoke with Scriver after the conference to discuss how Australia shaped his fundraising career, why fundraisers need to avoid “anti-delighters”, and the importance of humanness in individual giving.
You started your fundraising career in Melbourne. Can you tell me about how you got started and how your passion for fundraising developed?
Honestly like most fundraisers I fell into it. I didn’t know it existed as a job and it really wasn’t something I went looking for. I was a backpacker who had just arrived in Australia having travelled across Russia and through Asia and I was on the tram in Melbourne when I saw an ad to be a street fundraiser. It was the best and worst job I ever had. It was incredibly tough. But I worked with amazing people, met wonderful and lovely members of the public. It was so good for my confidence and taught me so much about communication and people and the way our strange little brains work. The things I learned as a street fundraiser still come into my career now nearly 20 years later.
During your FIA session you talked about how little moments can have a big impact on potential donors. Can you explain the little moment you had in Melbourne that had an impact on you, and how can fundraisers utilise these little moments to attract donors?
When I think back to my street fundraising days I can still remember a bunch of the people I spoke to: things they said to me, what they looked like, and more. They very possibly don’t remember me, but maybe some do and are still donating monthly today. I remember one woman signing up because she had just lost her job… but she wanted to do something positive that day to offset it. And that stuck with me. Even now when I feel crap or have a bad day I follow that lead and make a donation and it always makes me feel better. She has no idea but in that short conversation she changed the way I approach my life and some of my giving.
I find that so fascinating – these little moments of surprise and delight which stay with us for years. Even if they were a small blip of kindness on someone else’s radar. It works both ways. You can’t even begin to imagine the number of people whose lives you’ve touched positively and you can’t even remember them. We have to remember these little interactions shape the way our donors (and beyond) think about us. How the receptionist answered the phone. The little handwritten notes. The funny throwaway lines. I love it… the power of all these small moments.
You also talked about how fundraising organisations with small budgets and not many staff can still connect with donors and thrive. Can you explain how?
It’s building on these “delighters” – these small moments that don’t take a lot of or any money. I talk about the text messages I’ve received from friends – lovely ones. And they stay with you years later. And it didn’t cost them anything to send! We all have this machine in our pocket that enables us to make someone’s day and feel all warm and gooey with minimal effort. It’s amazing. We often hold back because it feels awkward or embarrassing… but stepping out of that comfort zone to bring warmth into someone’s life is incredible and addictive.
With charities we often daydream about what we’d do if we had big budgets – fancy ads and huge celebrities and clever mobile apps. But these aren’t actually important to donors. They can do cool stuff, but the important thing is that they feel seen and heard and important. It doesn’t take a lot to make someone feel special.
You say every interaction, with every person in the organisation affects an organisation’s fundraising. How can organisations ensure the entire staff are supporting the fundraising cause?
You can be the best fundraiser in the world and perfectly craft your donor journey and experience. But if your receptionist is rude or your finance person is inflexible it can undo everything. We don’t often see those other interactions as “fundraising” because there’s no ask. But it is fundraising. Every interaction is fundraising. Potential donors take them away in their brains and it shapes how they react the next time you ask them for money. Consciously or subconsciously. And we need to control that message to a certain extent.
I often talk about “internal marketing”. Most organisations don’t like their own fundraising… they’re embarrassed. So we, as fundraisers, have to market fundraising to them. Show them it’s amazing, help them understand how it works, share the positivity donors bring back to us. It’s hard and frustrating but a chunk of our job is to bring our co-workers on that journey with us.
Can you explain about “anti-delighters” and how fundraisers can avoid them?
Those little wonderful interactions go the other way too… small little things that are so insignificant for us but shape the donors view. Mispronouncing someone’s name is obvious. But less obvious things like saying “We are calling ‘all’ of our donors today” makes them feel less special. The example that so many of us fall victim to are Donor ID numbers from your database. We often put them on the address labels or top of our letters… why? No donor has ever used that reference number. We rarely use them, but they could be nice and subtle down the back and bottom of our letters. When a donor sees their donor number, again consciously or subconsciously, they know they’re one of many. They’re not special.
You also talked during the conference about individual giving. What do you think is working in individual giving at the moment and what do you think needs to be improved or changed in this area going forward?
Like always, I think humanness works in individual giving. Being human and remembering that people give to people. Even in a virtual world. The highlight of any zoom call is when a person’s kid or cat runs on screen. We love snooping at other people’s backgrounds. Drop the green screen and be human instead.
Having said that, what works and what’s right is a really interesting conversation that is growing in fundraising and we’re going to see big changes in the coming years. Just because something works doesn’t mean we should be doing it. And the move away from “donor-centred” fundraising to “community-centred” fundraising is something I support.
A lot of charities have struggled with their fundraising during COVID due to the cancellation of big fundraising events. Given that your organisation Fundraising Everywhere offers a virtual fundraising platform, how do you think fundraisers can thrive in the virtual world that COVID seems to have created?
A lot of our clients have come into virtual events kicking and screaming. It’s a necessity because there’s no other option. But a lot of our clients have raised more than they ever did with their real-life event equivalent, because they’re more accessible, have limitless sizes, and you can get speakers and attendees who otherwise couldn’t have attended.
We all want real-life events to come back. But virtual or hybrid is here to stay. And if you’re not offering at least a partial virtual offering then you’re missing out on income and you’re not doing justice to the supporters who can’t or won’t come to your real life events.