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How many times would you walk into a wall before you decided to have your glasses checked? So why is it that every year we waste resource, time and enormous amounts of money planning and executing donor journeys that don’t deliver short, medium or long term net value?

Aren’t you tired of sitting in yet another strategy meeting with a new agency presenting something remarkably similar to what your old agency sold you? And after what seems like forever you produce yet another white board wonder that ends up being nothing more than a spreadsheet, production schedule and budget rather than an actual strategy.

With performance, lifetime value and retention being so poor does it really seem plausible that simply adding a couple of loyalty messages will suddenly fix everything? Many well-known charities have invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into loyalty programmes only to see loyalty get worse!

We all know the way we strategize is cumbersome, time consuming and ultimately futile. But at least it’s familiar and no one ever got fired for following ‘best practise’ (even if it’s getting the worst results). The irony is it takes little to no effort or cost to make radical change. The world is as it is; the variable is how you’re looking at it. Your glasses have the wrong lenses; you can make out some shapes, but everything’s blurred.

Our sector’s blind spot is trying to influence donor behaviour by analysing donor behaviour. Both logic and performance bear witness that it doesn’t work. Think about it: the recency, frequency and value of gift modeling we’re so wedded to tells us that our best donors are our best donors because they’re our best donors. We’re working from a model that’s all effect and no cause!

Just to compound the problem we go on to confuse correlation with causation. We overlay our data with the latest ‘insights’; we append socio-economic information and whatever else is being sold and desperately search for patterns:

Agency Guru: “You’ll notice that your best uptake for the upgrade ask occurs in the 3rd month. Now, if we overlay this new data modelling we can see that 26% of donors who refused the upgrade ask did so on a Tuesday. Of those 48% are men, and of those 16% wear boxers on a Tuesday. If we drill down into that segment we find that 19% of those shave three times a week, and 1% of them are called Donald.”

You: “Fascinating, so what should we do differently?”

Agency Guru: “Ummmmmmmmmmm………………..”

This farcical, expensive Groundhog Day strategizing is a fixable problem. All it takes is a slight shift in focus. By accepting the obvious; that we don’t directly influence behaviour, we can reallocate time, money and spend on the thing that we do directly influence; how a donor thinks and feels about us. This can be both measured and influenced. If you know where to look you can identify exactly what does and doesn’t matter to your donors. You can define exactly the messages they will respond to and plan accordingly. And you can map it using custom tools that allow you to easily execute your strategy instead of turning it into another production schedule.

Best of all you don’t need a whiteboard. This is about fixing what you already do, not trying to reinvent the wheel year on year.

Not slightly adjusting focus is as senseless as not changing the lenses in your glasses even though you keep walking into the wall!

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Charlie Hulme

Charlie Hulme

Managing Director at DonorVoice
Charlie is MD of Donor Voice, the experience and relationship company. He helps charities drastically reduce donor churn by using a unique set of tools for delivering donor led campaigns. Voted a top speaker at the Institute of Fundraising's National Convention in 2013, he writes frequently for SOFII, 101 Fundraising, the Institute of Fundraising and many others.