In this webinar, Sean Triner will share the stunning results charities around the world have been seeing for years with this special donor survey; one that is essential for legacies, major donors, monthly giving and direct marketing.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Sean, it’s 4:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Sean: Six o’clock in the morning, Eastern Australian time. Yeah.

Steven: We appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Good morning. And if you’re like Sean, who is in Australia, and it’s Friday morning there. We’ll talk a little bit more about that later, but I want to welcome all of you to our Bloomerang webinar. We’re back from our midyear break, and we’re going to be talking about donor surveys, specifically, a survey that will supercharge your fundraising. One of my favorite topics. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang. I’m actually at Bloomerang the first time in a while in an empty building, but I’ll be your host today for the next hour or so.

Just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here, just want to let you all know that we are recording and we’ll be sending that recording as well as the slides. If you didn’t already get those, we sent them out about an hour ago. If you didn’t get them, don’t worry. I’m going to resend all that stuff, including the recording later on. So if you have to leave early, if you get interrupted, you got to bounce, whatever it is, don’t worry. I’ll get all that in your hands.

But as you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box on your webinar screen. Ask questions. We’re going to save some time for Q&A. Introduce yourself now. If you haven’t already done, so we’d love to hear from you. There’s a Q&A box, there’s a chat box. You can use either of them, both of them. Doesn’t matter. I’ll keep an eye on both. You can also tweet us. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed as well. We’d love to hear from you. Don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. If you’ve never been on one of these webinars, hopefully won’t be your last one. We do them just about every week. In fact, we’ve gotten multiple sessions coming up in the coming weeks. We love doing these webinars, but what Bloomerang is, if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, we are a provider of donor management software. So if you’re interested in that or just want to learn more about us, check out our website, we’re pretty easy to find. There’s all kinds of videos.

Do that later because we have a very, very special guest. Sean Triner is here. I’m just blown away by his generosity. It is 6:00 a.m. Friday in Australia, where he is, and he was willing to do this webinar for us. He reached out to me, wanted to do it. This is after he did a fantastic webinar for us back in March regarding all of the COVID fundraising and disaster fundraising, crisis fundraising that he had seen in Australia, because they were kind of ahead of the curve.

Sean, how are you doing? Are you okay? Are you awake? Are you okay? We love you. Thank you for doing this. How are you?

Sean: What? What? Who? Where? What? I’m good. Thank you.

Steven: You’re awesome. Thank you for doing this.

Sean: Thank you. And thank you for doing this series. You have so many awesome presenters on here. I feel like I’m in very good company indeed. So I really do appreciate that.

Steven: It’s fun for me. So take over. You got this awesome survey mojo that we want to hear about, so I don’t want to take any time away from you. I’m going to shut this down and let you take it away, my friend. So go for it.

Sean: No worries. Well, thank you very much, Steven. And hopefully, please, everybody, do ask questions. Certainly toward . . . Ask questions. I love questions. So I’m going to kind of go through this quite quickly, but please do to ask questions and please do come to Do tons of free stuff as well as paid membership, but please come and have a look if you’ve not heard of us before. If you have, then tell people. If you like us, tell people in the chat, but don’t forget to choose All Panelists and Attendees or otherwise, you’ll just be telling me and Steven, which is fine. Thank you.

So I’ve been in fundraising forever, as it said in my bio since the ’80s. And I set up a company that just literally works alongside for active learning where we work alongside charity staff, producing product with them. So we don’t actually produce the product, whether it’s a direct mail appeal, a new type of newsletter, or a survey like this, we just help them the staff. So we’re all about capacity building and teaching as you go. So it does make profit. We make more money for you, but we also make sure that you know how to do it yourself next time.

And one of the biggest tools that we’ve ever had is this survey. Now, if you’ve ever seen me speak before or anything, you will know that I talk about this survey in everything. I could be talking about COVID, I could be talking about major donors, bequests, monthly giving. I could be talking about appeals, newsletters, anything at all to do with individual donations, and I will mention this survey because there is nothing more powerful in fundraising than knowing your donor. And I’m not talking about knowing donors as a group, I mean, knowing each and every donor. Basically, this survey allows your communications to each and every person who is on your file to be treated like they were major donors. So just like a major donor fundraiser would find out exactly what Sean Triner likes. He likes diving, cares about women’s in Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander issues and blah, blah, blah.

They’d find that out and then they would tailor their communications with me as a major donor. And this survey allows you to do that in a relatively simple way, certainly a simple process of how to do that for each and every donor. So these surveys should definitely be at least annual. We usually do them annually and then you might do one half yearly, like certainly with COVID, I would recommend doing two this year. But also too, you might do them as a welcome package as well, part of the welcome process.

This is a chap called Derek. He works at a cancer organization in Manitoba, in Canada, and you see his desk is at an angle because of the weight of those surveys that are coming in. He was very proud and pleased with all those surveys that have come in from his work. And those surveys managed to find him more bequest leads, so people who said they might put his organization in their will, than anything is ever done.

The survey is the biggest source of bequest leads of anything that has ever existed to my knowledge, this particular type of survey. It is fantastic. So if you have any slight interest in bequests, this is the thing for you. It is in fact, I think if you think you have a bequest strategy or a legacy strategy and you don’t have this survey, you do not have a legacy of bequest strategy because there is nothing better than this. Not only does it identify those people for you, it also tells you exactly how to ask them about putting your charity in their will.

Now, as a treat for you, because Steven’s very generous and wonderful with Bloomerang and what they’re doing, but I put together this special thing for you. I will put it up at the end, If you go in there, I’ve actually got a five . . . well, six-page technically of actual stuff that is telling you how to do the survey. Step one, do this. Step two, do this. Obviously, you still need to do the work, but that’s for a digital and a direct mail version of this survey and how to go about it. So obviously I’m going to talk to you about that now, but I’m also going to give you that wonderful free resource. And you can just basically go to there and get hold of it. So please, please do. And, Steven, at the end, will put that into the chat and stuff. And when you write to people, Steven, I think you’ll send them that link because it would be very useful, right?

Right. What is so good about this survey? And I don’t know if you noticed that currency, I actually took that picture of our cash from various different countries when we were doing quite a lot of speaking at international conferences. And what I found is that this survey works in every single country I ever worked in, whether that’s a Chinese-speaking country, Italian, English-speaking countries, Spanish, anywhere. And one of the most successful ones recently was from UNHCR in Spain. So it is a really, really great tool.

And what it does, what we want to try and do, one of the main things and probably the most valuable thing out of this, but not the only reason that we should do the survey is because it will get more bequests leads than any other tool to give you an idea of the context of that here in Australia. Something like 90% of all bequests leads and known bequests that are identified in this country come from these kinds of surveys across various charities. It is so huge. It might only be 85% are saying, or 95% are saying, it is huge. There is nothing that gets more requests leads than this. So it is an essential thing for your bequest.

And also by using the survey to communicate better with your partners, and there’s an example from Save the Children in New Zealand by combining people’s answers with hyper-personalization. So Save the Children might say to me, “Sean I’ve got this project in East Timor for education for girls. Why girls, blah, blah, blah,” a bit of explanation. Why would you like this project to be a success? And it could be, the answers are things like as a father of girls, as a woman myself, as a Christian, whatever those answers that I might tick there.

And then when they write to me about that East Timor thing, they’ll actually ask me and they’ll say, “Hey, Sean, I remember you told me that you couldn’t imagine a country where your kids couldn’t get education like you can in Wyoming or wherever, so I thought you’d be interested in this letter.” So you can imagine how that’s going to boost the response to your campaigns. And this works really quickly. So if, for example, you were to put out a survey in August then you would have answers in and be able to personalize your end of year appeal and you would increase your revenue from your end of year appeal quite a bit, particularly from your mid and major donors as well. So this is fantastic stuff.

And my favorite win for that example, and this has worked really well is to take that hyper-personalization. And we also ask people a question along the lines of . . . if I go back to the East Timor one, we might say, “My best chance of making this campaign for education for girls in East Timor a success is if I get a very small group of donors to create a match fund or a very small group of donors to give donations of $500, or $250, or $1,000 dollars or more.” And even if you just do $1,000, you’ll find that you get more people that could give you $1,000 or 500 bucks, whatever the amount is than you’ve ever had before. Again, you’ll get . . . wow, you’ll just suddenly get . . . for a charity with 3,000 donors, you might not be surprised to get 30 odd people saying who’d never done that before, “Yeah. I can give you a $1,000 or more if you ask nicely.”

So that is a fantastic thing. And I found that one of the strongest asks for that and the easiest ask is to close that deal by asking somebody to be a match to contribute to the match fund. So this is actually . . . So I’m sure most of you are familiar with match funds. You know, if you donate now, your donation will be doubled or your $50 donation will be worth 100 bucks, that kind of stuff. So what we would be doing here is actually asking the donors to provide that fund, so our mid and major donors. That’s worked so well.

This is Aeon in . . . they did this in 2018 and working with us, they’re one of the first charities that I worked with in the U.S. as Moceanic is new. We only set up a couple of years ago. And they worked with us on their survey, and as you can see, a huge impact, like two and a half times their total revenue. That wasn’t just the survey, but that was combining the survey with the answers to the survey into the end of year campaign. And in that period of time, two and a half times revenue, that’s not that unusual.

It is a bit in that most of the people that we’ve worked with have come closer to double rather than two and a half times, but still, that’s pretty good. For really big organizations with huge revenues, like millions of dollars, we might be looking at a 20% increase in revenue, I’d say if we basically use a survey, follow up on the mid value, and ask people to be match funders. And then, of course, that next campaign is matched. It’s a huge increase in revenue. And they’re not unusual. This has worked again, in Italy, in Netherlands, in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and all over the United States. That was Aeon’s survey, they’re affordable housing in Minneapolis, and they did really, really great stuff. So it works. I promise you it works and it works fantastically.

So you’ve done surveys. Yeah. Everybody, I mean a lot of people, oh, we do a survey. Of course, we do surveys. We ask customers about our newsletter and things like that. Why is this one so special? What is different? Well, what about you? Have you done any surveys before? I just want you to think about, what are you trying to achieve with your surveys? Is it for some PR? Are you trying to kind of work out that 40% of your donors that put you in their will or something like that? What are you trying to do with your survey? And that’s important because this survey is probably quite different to what you would normally try to achieve with a survey.

Why now? Why would you want to be doing a survey now? I mean, the highest priority for you now is, of course, to be getting out there with emergency campaign, say every charity in this world should be doing emergency campaigns. Now, whether that’s a financial crisis, or service crisis, or whatever, there is a lot of fear all over the world in our community, the fundraising community that we are in deep [dooda 00:14:32] charities and indeed, many are, and many organizations have already gone to the wall. There’s a lot of mergers and acquisitions happening where larger charities are sort of absorbing smaller charities, which is a very, very smart strategy, a good thing. But we have seen a lot of charities down, but a lot of charities are up a lot on revenue, but we also have this really unknown future. We just don’t know what’s going to happen.

If you’re watching this as the recording ages away, I hope COVID wasn’t too bad in the end, but we didn’t know how bad or not it was going to be when we were recording this. So we need to be cautious. And what better thing to do to help us get through a genuine crisis than know our donors individually, much better. So this again is not about knowing donors as a whole, this is about knowing each and every donor.

So this is a very special type of survey. This is not at all a customer care survey or that sort of stuff. This is a very different type of survey, really, really focused. So this is one way we know what Cal cares about and what Cara, and Kali, and Katherine. I’m just reading some names off here. Courtney, Darrell. It’s about what you care about, Elizabeth, what you care about, Erica, and why you support this organization. Jamie and James. So that’s what this sort of survey does.

Now, you might have seen other types of surveys as well. It’s not one of those. So, you know, like these disguised appeals, it’s not real research. And the way to know whether a survey is this type of survey is, do you want to type in the answer to that question against that donor’s record? If the answer is yes, then that’s this kind of survey. If the answer is no, then that’s probably not this kind of survey question.

So it isn’t quantitative research, this is not valid research, so you can’t say that I just did this research and it tells me that 33% of my donors really care about this because we’re going to be more kind of . . . I don’t want to use the word manipulative, but if you’d accept that, writing a letter saying, “Please send $50 to help kids survive, and here’s a picture of a kid who is in trouble,” or a puppy or whatever. That’s what we do in marketing, in fundraising, right? We basically show people a need and ask them if they would be able to help.

And what we’re doing here and what ruins this from being real quantitative research is we’re going to set questions up along the lines of, you know, that kids are suffering in East Timor, like girls can’t get their education. Is this something you care about? So we’re actually sort of managing mind, getting people to think about things in a different way. So it’s definitely not quantitative research. Also, it’s not customer feedback. We’re not interested in how many mailings they want or how often they think we should communicate, and that kind of stuff. It’s much more than that.

So just to check, do you need this? Are you an organization that made this? Really, below about 500 people, you probably know your donors . . . I would hope that you just know your donors anyway, you know the individual donors. When somebody comes in and you ring them, we pop into their house for a cup of tea. I mean, so if you have less than 500 donors, then you should have really, really high quality information about your individuals who donate anyway. But if you’ve got more than 500, then this is definitely a tool that you need.

But you also need to really believe in using the answers to communicate with people in stewarding, in actually respecting individuals and listening to what they say. I mean, that’s what many people have got a lot of love. What is love about? And one of the things about love is mutual respect, listening, and understanding.

You do need this tool. If you want to get people in their will, there is nothing, nothing in the world that I know of that is more effective at finding new people to discuss . . . the right people to discuss with their wills. And also, we can use it to increase your appeals income and getting more monthly givers. So if those are the case, then you need that.

Now, you might as well . . . If you don’t currently raise money from individuals and don’t have any plan to raise money from individuals because you get all of your money from trusted foundations, or companies, or something like that, then you don’t need this survey tool. It’s no good to you. Really, this survey is all about individuals who make gifts to your organization.

I don’t know. I mentioned this yet, Steven? Bequest bonanza. I will go on about this so much because you don’t have a bequest program unless you’re doing it. Now, if you’re not a bequest fundraiser, don’t worry. It does lots of other things for you. This survey gets you bequests, major donors. It gets you monthly givers, it gets you increase in your direct mail income, in your newsletter income. It gets up and makes you a cup of tea and gives you a shoulder massage after a tough day. This is the best tool in fundraising. I did exaggerate about the last two, about the tea and the massage, but anyway.

Okay. And what we’re trying to do, again, is get things . . . We can get people and understand them. And the sorts of results that you could get, if this is a kind of thing, so this is for a medium-sized charity. They had about 12,000 donors or such, who’d given their last two years. And a lot of . . . or maybe about 10,000. But then they had a lot of other people on their database and they really want it to reactivate people, find out about them and understand those individuals better so they could communicate with them better and try and reactivate and, of course, get more donations in the future.

They sent it to 30,000 by email and you can see they got 2000 responses. Most from this charity were by mail, but that does vary. Depending on the type of charity and the quality of your email . . . if you email frequently like twice a week normally, then you’ll get a much bigger response to this. Whereas if you’re only emailing once every two weeks or once a month, then like everything, your email program, isn’t very good. So you need to step up your email program and then you’ll find it would work better.

Anyway, they got 120 people who told them that they’d already put them in their will. I mean, that’s just amazing. That’s huge money. And those were people that this charities had been doing bequest about for years and didn’t know that. Fantastic. They also got a load of leads for bequests and they got 343 people said, “We will give you $1,000 or more if you ask nicely.” And they got that money, got a lot of that money. They did really, really well with that money. And they came very, very close to doubling their Christmas campaign. It is just fantastic. And they’ve obviously been following up those major donors and closing down some big leads as well. So they did this in 2018, it I think it was. And they were one of the first to do that and helped us get an idea.

And this is another one. They were one of the first as well, it’s just in the United States, ADRA, Adventist Development Relief. They all have awesome donors anyway, but you can see one of the fascinating things about ADRA is because they have a pretty good email program.

And you can see that their mail response rate at 4%, which is very low for Australian standards, but kind of normal, I guess, for charity that’s mailing more than once a month in America. You can see they just got just less than 4%. In email, they got three and a third percent. I mean, that’s just amazing. So well done in those. And again, some huge, huge, huge responses in terms of the volume of major donor and bequest leads that they got. Fantastic. Fantastic results. And that’s what their survey looked like. And they literally . . . it looks like it was designed in word. I mean, it’s pretty, you know, just . . . it’s not the most attractive survey compared to the other one I just showed you. Anyway, I’ll show you some nice ones as well. But it doesn’t have to be attractive.

Now, within the survey, we really want to be focusing not so much on the what or the which, so not asking people which of these is important, I actually don’t like asking donors . . . By the way, I’m evidence-based mathematician. So I’m going to tell you stuff which I’ve got tons of data to back me up. And if I’m going to tell you stuff that I’ve done to have data to back me up, I’m going to tell you. So I don’t like, and I don’t have any evidence to back me up here, but I think it’s kind of rude to say to people, “Which is the most important area of our work?” Because I don’t know. How can I choose between . . . it’s not fair for me to be deciding whether your work with homeless is more important than supporting families in crisis or working with young people in crisis or drug, alcohol, and gambling rehabilitation? I don’t know, because I’m not an expert in those areas and I’ve never been impacted by those areas.

Now, I’m sure if I had a family member who had a drug, alcohol, or gambling rehabilitation problem, then I would probably prioritize that one. But what I do is I would assume that Salvation Army’s donors all care about all of those things. And sure, if someone had a family member, they might care about one thing even more. But I could get richer information by asking them, “Why do think our work with the homeless is important?” And another question, “Why do you think supporting families in crisis is important?” And another question, “Why do you think how well would drug, alcohol, and gambling rehabilitation is important?” And in that answer, I’ll say, “Because I had a family connection.” So I’m going to get much richer answers if I split those up and ask people why about those areas of the work that my organization does, because otherwise, I would just take drug, alcohol, and gambling rehabilitation and you don’t really know me any better. You don’t know that my uncle had a real problem with gambling, or drug abuse, or whatever. You just don’t know that.

So I much prefer those why questions. This is one from Montana in the U.S. So Child Bridge of Montana, and then in Billings, very small town. But you can see how they’re really trying to sort of break down into why you support the work of Child Bridge.

So here’s another kind of case study of using that, of how that all works. So Save the Children in this one . . . this is in New Zealand so a larger charity. Mailed 20,000. And they got a smaller volume of major donor and monthly giving leads, but they actually made a huge profit on their survey that they didn’t expect. So often you would ask for money in your survey. And I have tested that a lot in the olden days and we found that it never seemed to suppress response rate, and, of course, it raises more money than when you don’t ask. So I always suggest that we do make an ask in the survey as well. But they got 38 confirmed bequests which were new to them and 118 people told them that they would like to talk to them about putting them in their will. Those numbers so big. I mean, these are really, really important leads.

And what they did is they had a full-page letter because one of the things about thinking about surveys is that surveys are just a very large response form. One of the things that they had on there, they had their donations slip on the letter. I don’t recommend doing that. I always recommend having the donation slip actually as part of the survey. So there’s only one thing that you’re asking the donor to return, and that is the survey, which has a donation form on it. But you can see a pretty full-on survey there. They’ve got a really nice letter telling you about this kid and his family and I’ll tell you why it’s so important that you complete the survey. Most of the ones that we’re working on now, the Johnson box is very much around during these times around COVID, we need to know your views even more than ever before. We’re worried about our, you know, future and things like that.

So how might that work? So this is how that hyper-personalization that I’d mentioned might be for. So if it were possible to solve one problem for children, which one would you choose? I would give every starving in child enough food to stop them suffering from hunger. And then when I’m doing my hunger campaign, I then have that note there, “You told us at a recent survey that if you could solve one problem for children, you would.” So this is very basic use of that kind of hyper-personalization. Really basic stuff, but it works really quite nicely.

So that’s quite important to us and what we can do as well, as we’re moving on year on year, another smart thing, it looks at the same question from Save the Children, but because they do this every year, they’ve got people who’ve already told them. So here, this is the question in general, which is just basically, would you be interested or have you already put us in their will? This is for people who ticked that they might do or they’re considering. So it says, “I am still considering.” So it’s basically referring, “You have told us in the past that you were considering leaving it.” So this is actually part of the ongoing communications year after year and chasing people with slightly different bequests questions. So then just moving that question on very, very smart. Really clever stuff. And get those answers.

And the reason that this is so important, because we don’t want the survey to be just the one-off, which does often happen. Like you’re going to champion, someone who’s at this webinar who goes, “Oh, yeah, I need to do one of these.” And then you might leave or the other stuff come along and you don’t do it every year. Or you do the survey and you don’t follow the leads up properly and then you go, “Oh, yeah. We did one of those surveys, but we never followed the leads properly.” There’s no excuse for that. There really is no excuse for that. That is an inexcusable thing.

I did say survey and I got loads of people told me they’d give me really large major donations and I never followed them up. I mean, what on earth was it that you were doing that was somehow more important than following people up who’d said they’d give you a high value donation? Or the same from bequests, all these people said they’d put us in their will and I never followed it up. All these people that gave me really rich hyper-personalization data that I never mail merged into the letter in the future. Like what was more important than doing that?

And it does work year, after year, after year. And we just need to keep getting this survey out, basically asking them these questions every year. A couple of reasons, one of the reasons is it’s profitable and it’ll help you boost all of your upcoming campaigns. It’ll get you more bequests and major donor leads right now. And the other reason is that after say five years, if you’ve been doing this annually, you might have for a typical . . . I’m going to pick on an American charity. An American charity, you usually get, say 5% or 6% response from its direct mail to its house file. Then after five years, I might expect to have maybe 20% of . . . or probably 25% of all of my current multi-donors having completed a survey. Whereas if I did them every other year, I’d maybe have 10%. So it is as simple as that. You’ve got a lot more personalization that you can build with if you do it every year.

There are a few charities, very few who do manage to sneak two of these a year. They might do one in January and February, and they might do one in July and August, for example. I think that’s really smart, really, really smart, but those are really . . . I mean, for a charity to do that, they really are on top of their game and really joining all of the dots around communications. They have genuine donor-led communication programs that are so well integrated that they think, “You know what? We should keep updating the data that we have on our donors so that we can constantly be communicating with them about the most relevant thing to them in this moment.” And that is truly amazing. And I’m sure you can see why.

And here we have an example of a charity who’s like mailed 2018 and then mailed in 2019 and you’ll see a lot of the numbers declined, 69 major donor leads went down to 23, although they got 253 maybes. They might have recorded them differently then, but you will see that first one is usually your best one, particularly with bequests. So this one got 38 confirmed bequests which went down to 25 and they got 118 leads and then they got down to 50. But, you know, oh, well that’s nowhere near as good, but this is still brilliant. I mean, you would have been very happy with the 2019 results.

So the danger is that the charity in 2020 goes, oh, it wasn’t as good, so we maybe want to do it this year. That’s not the right answer. It’s just that your first one that you ever do is going to be the best one ever because it’s the first time you have genuinely asked donors in this one-to-one way that you’ve never done it before. So you’re going to find people that you’ve never found before and then in the future, they’re going to say yes again, of course. But you’re going to get fewer new people unless you’re bringing in loads of new donors every year.

So what are the problems with this survey? Why couldn’t you do one between now and Christmas, for example, for your end of year campaign? And my recommendation is everybody on here, find a way even down to dropping a newsletter in August if it makes room. Find a way to get this survey out in August to September. So maybe mailing it towards the end of August, towards the end of the holiday season in Northern hemisphere so that you have just enough time to get your answers to use for your end of year campaign. I prefer to get one out in the next couple of weeks, just so that I can get a match fund as well in between and ask my major donors, but I don’t need to do that because the major donor follow-up a lot of that would be on the phone and in person and very quick.

And we do find asking people to contribute to a match fund is a really, really quick way of getting those directions in. Time as well. Time is always an issue for us fundraisers. We haven’t got time. I think the way to do that is step back and go, “What is it that I am spending my time on that is more important than actually asking the beautiful, wonderful people who support my cause why they care about the different areas of our work?” And what is more important than that? And what is more important than finding people who say, “You know what? I might give you a really big donation.” What’s more important than that?

Data entry. This is actually probably one of the biggest barriers. I thoroughly recommend that you use a caging agent or somebody and a business who specializes in entering data for you. And there are survey entry companies around the country who you can basically ask them to put the data in for you. It does mean that you might pay between $1 to $2.50 per data entry. I can’t imagine a case where that’s not good value because that is really, really, really good. If you’re really small, perhaps with less than 3,000 donors, so you’d expect perhaps 300 or so responses, then you might do it yourself. But then I would definitely do double entry, so one person enters and the other one just checks stuff, just make sure it’s right.

So there’s a bit of a pain to do that, but I have had charities who’ve said, “We’re probably had to get 150, so we’ll do it ourselves.” And then they’ve got like maybe 700 or 800 and are like, “I wished we would’ve outsourced this,” and then they had to hire some temp stuff, which is okay. It’s always a nightmare because somebody is got to manage that temp staff.

And then the easiest way for data entry tends to be . . . you would have a digital version using software likes Survey Monkey or something as well as a mail version. So you would basically just type the data into your digital one. It’s the easiest way of capturing the data.

In terms of capturing that data and putting it onto your own database, there are some issues along with data storage. And if you are using a paid version of survey data, then as long as you are making sure that you enter the unique reference number, you would be able to give that file to your mail house who would be able to make sure that they can use the data from the survey as well as the selection data from your normal database to do it.

But if you are using a smart database such as . . . let’s talk about Bloomerang, then I would make sure that you talk to whoever you’re working with there to make sure you can get that data stored in a usable way. One thing I do see people do is type in this data in notes that is practically useless. Don’t type it in notes. You would need special fields to be storing this data.

Budget. Simple but worth it. Yes. When you’re budgeting for this, make sure that you plan this thing well, and you do appreciate that it costs a little bit more than a direct mail usually because it’s a bigger package, usually. In print and it might, in some countries, take you over the limit. I’m actually going to show you a fantastic version of one I’ve just got from the United States when we finish the presentation and we’ll go to full screen video for that. And I’ll show you a cracking one that I received from the U.S. And you can see that . . . I think the postage on this one was $4 or something because it was coming to Australia. But I imagine that they were spending the best part of a dollar even within U.S. to post it [inaudible 00:36:24].

The other thing is getting teams. So if you’re a bequest officer, you’re thinking, “I definitely want this,” but you probably haven’t got the budget for it and if you’re a direct marketing person or direct mail people, you’re personally going to go, “Oh, I want this, but how am I going to fit it into my already crowded timetable?” And what about if you’re the major donor person? Then you’re also thinking, “Well, I really want this, but I don’t even know how to make a direct mail.” And that is not a criticism. You shouldn’t need to because that’s not your job to project manage direct mail or even email campaigns.

So we really need cross team buy-in. We need whoever is the bequest person, whoever is the major donor person, and whoever is the direct marketing person to work together on this, knowing that most of the impact won’t actually be for that direct marketing person, but they’re going to have to do most of the work. So that’s where we really genuinely need that teamwork that you all talk about, but we need it to actually really happen with this thing.

And another barrier is, do not underestimate. You might think, “Oh, well, we won’t get that many responses.” And you go and get far too many responses and you’re like, “Ah.” And then I have heard people say, “We didn’t do the survey every year because we had too many major donor leads.” Oh, my gosh. Just put that in context. Just think about how completely insane it is that you’re saying we don’t do a survey every year because we don’t have enough resources to follow up people saying, “I want to give you more money.” But you genuinely will hear that from people. And you’re like, “What?” And the fundraiser is almost crying because they say, “I know, Sean. I know, but I can’t get the boss to give me more resources.”

One of the things that we’ve begun to use over the last two years to use this survey to help with is to convince the budget, the purse string holders, that this survey is the thing that can help you get those extra resources. And I’m just kind of giving you an overview of it. I am going to show you a survey and I want you to go . . . If have time with . . . I want to answer some questions as well. And if we have time, I’m going to show you some advanced survey techniques as well that you could weave into your survey. Some really smart ideas, but we’ll see if we have time. But I am here to help you. And I do free calls. So I’ll give you a URL as well for the free calls so you can just have a connect with me. But if you do that, bring the purse string person on. I’m not going to talk to you because it’s no point because you’ll never get the budget unless we can all talk together.

Okay. Now, to do the survey. I’m not trying to sell you my services, by the way. I’m just trying to convince you to get this survey out. What about this survey right now? One of the issues that we’ve had now is we actually recommended to our clients that in March they suspended their survey plan and got emergency campaigns out. The reason for that was not from a donor’s perspective, it was from a staff perspective. Basically, there was nothing more important than getting those emergency campaigns out, those emergency radio advertising, which just had the best results ever, or certainly since I’ve been in fundraising since the ’80s. Newspaper ads, you know, basically the highest priority was to get COVID emergency campaigns out. Now that they’ve all done and nearly all of them are really working on of those new donors they got on board, they’re trying to convert them to monthly giving, which is working ridiculously well with highest penetration rates in phone call ever. So some really good stuff there.

But why would we send a survey now? Because haven’t, we got . . . and not even just us, but haven’t our donors got other things to do? Aren’t they worried about the jobs, their family, and they might have lost loved ones? You know, there’s lots of things that might be affecting them right now. So this actually comes up and it’s like, “What we’re saying here is . . . ” the charity by saying that is saying, “Our donors, these beautiful, wonderful people with so much love that they just give my organization, whether that’s a theater, or a cancer organization, or a mission, or whatever it is, an environmental organization looking after the local lake, whatever you are when you’re going, “Haven’t our donors got enough things to do right now?” let’s give them the choice for stop, but also why do you exist?

Of course they want, they care about you. They’re the ones that funded you in the first place. They want you in the community. And the answer, as we’ve seen from arts campaigns is that arts might be the least relevant thing in some people’s minds in terms of COVID. But emergency campaigns around arts are just rocking it at that moment. Really fantastic results. Like Sydney Theatre Company and the organization [size 00:41:13]. They might be double or triple their normal annual campaigns income. So haven’t our donors got other things to do right now? Well, the answer is maybe, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not going to do this and they are going to fill in this survey for you and we want to be relevant.

Another big one comes around bequests. Well, hang on a minute. People are dying in huge numbers. Should we be talking about bequests right now? The answer to that, of course we should. But we need to be sensitive and we need to really think about this, but bequests and will writing is up in every country that I’ve seen data from. More and more people are putting charities in their will right now than ever. I mean, bequests, you know, people putting charities in their will has been on a general gradual increase, but in the United Kingdom, they reported, it’s up 30% in that first few months. In March, April, and May, it was that 30% to normal. This is huge. So, yes, we should be talking about bequests because we have a responsibility to do that.

There’s this organization called Rogare, or I don’t know . . . or Rogare, which is a fundraising think tank and loads of super smart people from all around the world. And then what they are doing here about this is if a charity declares that its needs are not as great as others during the pandemic and choose not to fundraise, it is taking the right to choose from the donor. This is not donor-centered fundraising. I imagine that every single person watching this webinar, whether live or on the recording believes that they should be a donor-centered fundraising organization. Well, if you’re not asking your donors about themselves through surveys and about whether they’ve put your charity in their will already, if you’re not asking them now, you’re not a donor-centered fundraising organization.

And they last one. Shouldn’t we be concentrating on emergency funds? If you haven’t done an emergency appeal, then just hang up right now, get off this webinar and put your bloody emergency appeal out right now. I can’t imagine any organization anywhere in the world that shouldn’t be doing a COVID emergency campaign. So get your emergency campaign out. But if you’ve done that already or you promise to do that immediately after this webinar, then don’t hang up yet, and make sure that you do this survey a little bit later. I would say that, yes, your emergency campaign, if you haven’t done it already is a higher priority. But this will help you survive. The survey is the most powerful tool that will help you survive.

So just a little reminder. I’m hoping that we’re going to have time for some questions, but just a reminder to do this every year. So please don’t think that this is a one-off. You really do need to do this every year.

In terms of what next, well the next thing to do is you want to decide on who your champion is going to be. It’s a team product, as in you’ve got to produce this across your organization, really. They’re never any good if just the bequest manager works on it or just the major donor, but sometimes they do it because they give up and they just do it themselves because they couldn’t get the direct marketing people to do it.

If you’re a small organization and you are the major donor bequest and direct marketing person, hey, still complaining about it, you got the biggest advantage ever. You don’t need to argue with the other two about getting this thing out. But basically, even though it’s a multi-team thing, you really do need to work out who’s in charge and who’s going to be held to account, and when it’s going to go. And late August, September, if you’re watching this live in early July, is about the right time to get this out. It takes about as long as a normal direct mail appeal to pull together.

I’m just going to give you that reminder, please visit that now. Write it down or visit it right now, but go there and download the actual, very, very useful step-by-step guide. And as I said before, I am happy to do a free [inaudible 00:45:15] with that URL there. So most And if you just use that link, I’m very happy. It’s not like timeshare or something. And it’s only really useful if you have more than 500 odd donors really to save my time as well as yours, please. And bring whoever’s in charge of the purse strings. Or otherwise, you’re just going to go away saying, “Yes, I want to do this,” and then emailing me and I’m going to have to meet you again with this person. So let’s just cut to the chase.

We are in a rush here to get this survey out. So bring the boss, and I’m happy to do that. And I’ve done about 100 free calls during COVID. So, please, please use me. I’m here for you.

Whoops. I’m going to stop there with video only because I do want to show you this awesome survey. Hey, Steven. Thank you, sir. Hopefully, we’ve got some questions. Look at this. And, by the way, if you are in the speaker view or camera view, hopefully you can see this stuff. This is a survey from us, and. by the way, Americans, you’re really tight blokes. You always try to do everything cheap. This is an advantage of trying not to do this. So $4.37, it costs to post to me. I don’t know how much that would be in the U.S. Would it be about a dollar, a full letter size envelope with a package like this?

I’m guessing it wouldn’t be that cheap. And what they’ve done, their survey, they have four-page, five puppy pack. Puppy is great. If you work with a charity without puppies, find excuses of putting puppies in there. Like with homeless, have dogs in pictures. It really does work. If you work with cancer and you have somebody who’s got cancer, get a dog in the picture. It really does help. I’m not joking.

So we have the full-page letter. How cute it that? That’s the assistance dog. I mean, you are cheating with dogs. It’s not fair. Anyway, full-page letter, really strong letter telling me that pretty much the most important thing I can do other than eat and breathe is to fill in this survey for ECAT. And then here’s the survey, just to give you an idea of how they physically look, this is an eight-pager. I like six, but eight pages is good. So you got another letter on the front, which is really important explaining how you’ll use it. It’s good for data privacy, and things like that. And then we’ve got the questions, really big font because average age of a direct mail responsive donor is 72. Big font, really easy to complete.

Ticking all the boxes. They got a puppy and a kitten. They do a lot of PTSD dogs, so we’ve got our wonderful vet. And then we have, you know, more questions. And then the donation form is one whole side, which is what you should be doing . . . all direct mail should have a letter-size response form. And then they’ve got the details on the back. And what they’ve done is they’ve prefilled all my details. And when they haven’t done it, they’ve said, is this your correct mobile number, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine? And people are much more likely to correct that than fill in a blank. There you go.

One of the little cheats that a few charities have done is so that they’d say to you, Steven, “Steven, is this your email address,” And, of course, you’d say no, and you would put your correct email address. And a return letter. So that’s a cracking example. I do have some more advice, but I thought we might have some questions, Steven. How are we doing for time?

Steven: We got probably about 10 minutes. Sean, that was awesome. You were so generous. I don’t know if people appreciate the fact that they’re on a free webinar with Sean Triner right now. I just want to impart that on everyone. He’s so awesome.

Sean: Stop it.

Steven: He wanted to do this at 6:00 a.m. his time. And also, Sean doesn’t make a big deal about this, but I want to brag on him real quick. He’s a volunteer firefighter, folks. And he lives in Australia and they had big wildfires there. So that’s the kind of caliber person that he is. So I’m assuming everyone really enjoyed this because I was just loving it. I love surveys, so everything like this. So, Sean, you’re awesome. You got some questions.

Sean: I’m bubbling up a bit because I do do a full day as you’d imagine masterclass on the surveys. I love this.

Steven: Yeah. You crammed it in there, but that was nice. That was really good. A lot of people, Sean, are asking print versus digital. Have you seen differences in maybe response rates and in terms of the formats?

Sean: Oh, yes. So the answer to that is that nearly always mail is going to get a better response than email, but, of course, costs more. And so this comes down to that scale, what does your organization want to do? Maximize net revenue is much more important than saving money basically. You know, I’d rather spend twice as much and raise twice as much than, you know, cut costs. So mail, never make that decision based on saving money. That is never ever the right decision. So make the decision based on which is going to get you the best net return. So if my organization was, say, Charity: Water where the majority of their revenue is from digital and email, then I would do a seven or nine email series around the survey. And, by the way, if you’re going to do digital, minimum five emails, otherwise just don’t bother, just go home and sulk. Five emails series minimum for a survey.

Whereas if you, if you’re going to do mail and email, which is the very best way to go, so I would take everyone in my database who has ever been mail responsive and I would send them the mail version. Or not ever, perhaps in the last two years. So I might choose to go further because he’s a good reactivation tool, but I know that someone who hasn’t donated for two years is very unlikely to respond. But it could help me reactivate them.

So if I was doing a normal direct mail appeal, and normally I would include that group to try and reactivate them, then I would reactivate them on this one. But I would send the mail to them, but I would also send for everyone who’ve got a mailing address, I said, “Well, if I’ve got that email, I would send them the five email series as well, slightly different.” The first email is a picture of the outer envelope. “I’ve sent you this letter, can you have a look out for me, please? It’s a survey, but if you want, you can click here.”

The next one would be a picture of the survey saying, “Did you get this? Can you complete it for me?” The next one would be a reminder saying, “I haven’t heard for you. You can click online.” The next one would be, “Click online. Deadline is in 24 hours, off in two days.” And then the last one, “Deadline’s in an hour. Please do that.” For me, the key there is minimizing your time writing those emails, so I would actually write the same email and forward it sometimes because that can actually really save your time because time is more precious, particularly for smaller organizations than costs. So I would do.

Mail everyone who is mail responsive. Email, everybody who is male responsive as well as the letter and email everybody who is email responsive, but not mail responsive. And then I would email pretty much everyone I legally can email, whether they’ve donated or not in the past, including volunteers, staff members, board members, ex-board members, everyone that I can legally and has in any way, interacting by email with your organization in any manner in the last six months.

So if you’re at a hospital foundation or an organization like arts and you have this tussle between marketing or in case of a hospital, you know, patients, this is one of the best acquisition products ever because often the hospital will allow you to email and mail this to past patients. And that’s really, really, really helpful. So I would include volunteers and what have you, sent me an email version. I’d like to test the mail one, depending on your resources and how big you are. But non-mail responsive people you could expect to not get huge responses from, but I would definitely come back.

Steven: Okay. So we got what you said on the frequency of promoting one survey, but how often should you be surveying people? Is it annually? Is it kind of on a rolling basis based on their individual recency? How often should people be doing this?

Sean: Well, in a perfect world, it would be on a rolling basis, but this administrative burden is too great and it doesn’t actually make financial sense in the end. So what I do is sort of a bit of a hybrid, so I would put it in the welcome cycle. So a new donor comes on board, gets a beautiful thank you, and then they get a survey, which is slightly different in the sense there are very, very tiny changes in the letter and the first question. So that would be my rolling cycle. So small numbers, after every acquisition from all sources, and that would usually be produced in-house, you know, just in time, unless you’ve got huge programs bringing in tens of thousands of new donors at once, if you’re just bringing in 100, 200 new donors, then I would probably just print them out, stuff in them envelops myself and post them out.

In terms of how often to the majority of you people, then I would aim for a minimum one a year. And if you’re a sophisticated organization with a really good database system and a smart person on the analytics and really know what your next campaigns are going to be, so basically an advanced charity, then I would move to twice a year. If you’re that advanced, then please spend some time with me before you do that because I’ll show you some . . . I mean, we’ve given you this sort of the simple version that will work for everyone, but there’s some more challenging versions that we could do that would have a greater impact. And indeed, in the PDF that I’ve sent to you to share with people, there are some advanced questions at the end, just to give people an idea about pairing questions.

Steven: Cool. Sean, you made think of something when you mentioned a new donor survey, but have you had any success with surveying lapsed donors, specifically along the lines of [inaudible 00:55:43] you, what would it take to have you come back that kind of thing?

Sean: Not like that. That isn’t that kind of survey, but just using this survey for that purpose with exactly the same questions. So I would just reactivate, I would just test it. I would be cautious, if it’s your first survey, that’s not the purpose of it. The purpose is to get to know your donors right now. But if you have a reactivation program anyway, I would test it against your other things.

And by the way, I used to say, you need a couple of 1,000 donors to do this, and then an organization in the UK with 600 donors did it and got the most amazing results. So that’s why I’ve said you need 500 donors, really, to make it. And then since then I have had organizations that have done it with even smaller volumes, but I’m kind of like, why don’t you know all your donors? I mean, if you’ve got a database of 500 donors, really that say 200 people have given to you in the last two years, or a year, or whatever. You know them. Come on, you know them. Go say hello. So, yeah, even for that sort of level, for reactivation, if I was producing it for 500 people and I had 200 current donors and 300 lapsed, I mail it to all 500 simply because the cost of mailing is insignificant compared cost of my time. Time is the bigger cost there.

Steven: That makes sense. Is there a point where you might want to segment it, maybe based on like monthly donor?

Sean: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And certainly in your second survey, you would have different versions based on previous answers. But only if you have more than say 15,000 donors. Below that it’s not really worth the effort. But having said that, it’s personalized. So you don’t have to. If you don’t know how to, don’t worry, but if you know how to personalize stuff properly, then that major donor question might be . . . So the major donor question and this one, they have, “Within the next six months or so, do you think you could be in a position to make a special donation of $200 or more to participate in our matching fund campaign to help children who urgently need an assistance dog?” So that 200 bucks there . . . Can you see me? I can’t see me. The $200 there shouldn’t be personalized really, so it might be four times previous gift, which is, you know, and a minimum of 200 bucks, something like that.

Steven: And sort of algorithm based on their previous giving. That makes sense.

Sean: Yeah. If you know how to do that. If not, just put 500 bucks down.

Steven: I love it. Sean. Man, this hour flew by. I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but how can folks reach out to you later on? I’m going to send them that link, but is there a way to get in touch with you?

Sean: I’ll put it in the chat as well. But I did notice a question for big organization, how realistic is the individualized? I mean, that is what it’s for. It is very realistic and that’s what you should be doing, by the way, to answer that question. That is exactly what you should be doing. Anonymous, anonymous [moose 00:58:47]. I got to see if that works.

So the first link I’ve put up is how people can click that link. And you will email that for me, I hope and put it in the chat. But if you use that link, it will get you into my diary. Like thank you very much. It’ll get you into my diary and then you’ll be able to pick a time. There you go. And say you can pick a time with me and it’s in your time zone and then I’ll turn up on video and go, “Hello.” But only if you bring your boss, and I will ask you, is the boss coming? Oh, you’re the boss because otherwise it’s just not a good use of your time.

And then, yeah, indeed. The other link that you had there, if you click on that one, back from me on that one, there you can get . . . Oh, that’s just Join Moceanic. So if you go to, you can just download that. And we put that up. Christiana did that for you this week, Steven. So she put that up there. I think this will be really helpful for people who . . . particularly small or . . . actually, for all organizations, very, very useful guide.

Steven: This is awesome. Sean, thank you so much for doing this. It’s awesome to hear your voice and see you, even though you’re 50,000 miles away, or however many.

Sean: Yeah. And it feels like that, isn’t it? And thank you. It has been a very tough and emotional six months or five months of this year for many of us. I’ve really loved working with charities, the free and the non-free and going through that journey through COVID. Lots of tears. I’m sure you guys had that as well, but I wish everybody well. I wish you, your organization, your cause well, and thank you so much, Steven, for hosting this and doing this for free. It’s a wonderful gift from Bloomerang to the fundraising community. And thank you everybody else for turning up. You are making the world a better place. So lots of love.

Steven: Yes. Thank you, all. It’s awesome to see a full room. I know the fiscal year just started for a lot of you, so thank you. Thank you. Nice way to end the day. But like Sean said, we’ve got lots of good stuff on our website. I want to tell you about a cool thing we got going on. We’re giving away some scholarships to a coaching program. Email me about this if you’re interested. It’s a four-week coaching program, free scholarships, and we got some awesome webinars coming up next.

We’ve got two webinars instead of our usual one. We’re going to be talking about capital campaigns and about transitioning from a government grant support to individual fundraising. So it’s going to be a really good session. So just check out our webinar page. They’re totally free. Happening next week. You’ll get the invites. Don’t worry. If you’re on this, you’ll get the emails to those. And I will email everyone today’s session, the recording and the slides later on today. I’m just going to upload it to YouTube. I’m going to ride my bike home, and then I’m going to email. So be on the lookout. I promise you’ll get that today. But hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good week, have a safe weekend. Stay cool out there. Stay safe. And we’ll talk again soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.