Happy GDPR Day! Charities, your big challenge starts now.

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Happy GDPR Day! Charities, your big challenge starts now.

Okay, we know. It’s the 25th May and we’re guessing there are four little letters you probably never want to hear again, let alone read about. 

You’ve likely lived and breathed GDPR for the past 6 months, with not a day going by without today’s much-hyped deadline and what it means for your supporters’ data on your mind. 

And now, naturally, we’d all like to have a bit of a rest and not think about consent, legitimate interest, personally identifiable information and all the other intricacies of the new laws. 

Well, sorry to break it to you, but dropping the GDPR ball now is the last thing anyone should be doing - especially charities. Today is just the start of the consent process - not the end of it. 

Your charity will have spent a lot of time getting databases in order, policies written and permission granted for communications to existing supporters, but you can’t afford to rest on your laurels now. GDPR will (quite rightly) mean that every individual is more aware of their data rights, and they will be more likely to turn off this consent if their relationship with an organisation gives them reason to do this.

Charities must take this opportunity to leverage the momentum that has built up over the last few months by continuing to improve their long-term supporter relationships.

Understanding supporters better will help charities navigate this brave new world

To achieve this, charities will need to consistently give something back to the supporter, rather than value being a one-way street (ask, ask, ask). You can do this by connecting with supporters about the issues that matter to them most and giving them a strong reason to continue to stay engaged.

Call it what you like; a two-way relationship, stewardship, CRM - it’s the same thing. It all boils down to understanding what your audience cares about and how you can connect with them on a deeper level, and crafting content that reflects that.

Get this right and you’ll create an even stronger relationship than one based on ‘doing the right thing’ and donating. For example, the new supporter relationship could be built on showcasing inspiring, personalised examples of how donations are being used, or finding new ways to share your organisation’s expertise that provide tangible value to the supporter. 

How can charities make this happen? 

This is a big shift, but a series of steps (some big, some small) is the best way to start. Here are a few ideas that will hopefully be helpful:

1. You’re not going to do this on your own

It’s likely that, in many instances, your charity will need to make changes internally. In the brave new world we live in, supporter engagement shouldn’t be just a job for the fundraising department. Acknowledging this is crucial. 

You’re going to need to break down internal silos and get teams working together across brand, marketing, IT and digital to make this happen. You need to be part of a connected team to make this change, not work on your own. 

2. Focus on what success looks like

The next step is to set a vision and re-evaluate how your success is measured. Prioritise supporter experience as well as income.

Designing better relationships with supporters will mean consent shouldn’t be a barrier. But it also offers much wider benefits - higher engagement and increased satisfaction, for example.

Get this right and the income targets should take care of themselves. 

3. Be practical and pragmatic - work out where to start

Think big, start small, and act fast. Identify the first audience or products that have the most to gain, e.g. regular givers, and test here, before layering into other supporters or products. 

4. Get the building blocks in place

Supporter centricity, stewardship, CRM – they’re all the same thing, and the key to better supporter relationships is the sweet spot between:

  • Who you are (the brand), and
  • What your audience wants.

Do you have a clear understanding of the parameters of the brand? Do you have quality insight in place which shows what the audience expects and needs? Use this insight and overlap as the basis for your strategy.

5. Content fuels the fire

Once you know what your supporters need, you have to make sure the content is in place to continually serve them this information. How good is your organisation at gathering this information and, critically, sharing this information? 

What great stories can you share about where donations are going, what tips can you provide to help supporters with their problems? Content forums where people share internally are a great start.

6. Technology is the enabler

Charities are bound to fail if we try and manage this change with manual data extracts and traditional creative briefing processes.

Embrace the automation technology that will make delivering this supporter-centric approach quicker, easier and more scalable - lots of CRM databases have this functionality. 

7. You’re not going to get this right straight away

Give yourself breathing room to try new things and permission to fail. The key here will be to test and learn from the results quickly.

Set plenty of tests that enable you to figure out the answer in the real world, then make sure you’ve got analytics in place and a team who can quickly huddle around the insights and look for ways to do better next time.

Conclusion: GDPR is just the beginning

Supporter consent is not a ‘tick box exercise’ that can be dealt with once and forgotten about. We’re talking about living, breathing people whose goodwill can never be taken for granted. It needs to be valued and nurtured long-term. 

The new laws that come into effect today provide a solid foundation to ensure we are dealing with people’s personal data in the right way. But it’s how charities build on these basic guidelines in creative ways that will set them apart and ensure their long-term success.  

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