I enjoy Lifehacker’s ‘just say what you’re thinking’ content and their amusing and strangely useful advice.

But a fictional ‘reader’s letter’ and rather snarky response they published about charity communications touched a nerve, reminding me (again) how enraged some people get about receiving the fundraising comms we create for our charity clients:

“Dear Lifehacker, I like to donate money to charities when I can, but it seems like this just opens the door for them to bombard me with junk mail and spam. Is there anything I can do to make donations but not be harassed by charities for the rest of my life? Signed, Damned Donor”

“Dear Damned,You know the saying, "No good deed goes unpunished"? Making a donation can feel like you've doomed yourself to solicitation hell…..”

A tad harsh. My role as a CRM strategy director for Signal involves putting a lot of thought and preparation into the best ways to communicate with people - whether that’s through personalised video or direct mail. So hearing the hard work we do described as junk or spam can feel like a personal attack.

But it’s making a valid point that reflects a real trend towards privacy and personal data protection. A recent survey by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) found that only one fifth of the UK public (20%) have trust and confidence in companies and organisations storing their personal information. 

This trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and with GDPR just around the corner, it will soon receive a significant legal stimulus.

It feels inevitable that once GDPR comes into force next year, many charities will have smaller, albeit more engaged databases of supporters who have willingly granted those oh-so-important marketing permissions.

But as this contactable group gets smaller, it's worth noting that the universe of charity supporters who are effectively ‘opted out’ of marketing becomes larger.

Surely this is an opportunity?

opt-inners and opt-outers

A growth opportunity

We’re a very giving bunch – 61% of adults in the UK give to charity.

It made me think.

All too often, fundraising efforts are directed at a shrinking group of opt-inners. And when that's not happening, all the attention is focused on trying to persuade opt-outers to be opt-inners.

As CRM specialists, we tend to spend very little time thinking about how to enable the growing universe of opt-outers to support our charity clients, whilst remaining anonymous. The barriers to doing so may well be what’s putting the other 39% of people off making a donation.

And if that’s true, then there’s a massive growth opportunity here.

Perhaps fundraisers are missing a trick and should work harder at going with the privacy trend, and not just against it. As well as developing better ways to attract more opt-inners, let’s get more creative in the ways we allow opt-outers to continue their support.

We must make it easy to give

Maybe making use of great technologies like contactless payments will help make it feels easy AND safe for people. Research shows that contactless spending hit £25bn in the UK in 2016 - an increase of 223% compared to the previous year. And one in three (30%) UK respondents to YouGov’s ‘Charitable Giving 2017’ report said they would be more likely to donate to charity if they could use contactless technology to do so.

If we embrace these new technologies in clever ways, we could even engage the elusive younger donor whilst we’re at it - over half (52%) of 18-34s said that a contactless option would make them more likely to donate.

The attraction of contactless payments for supporters is well described by Briony Krikorian-Slade of the UK Cards Association, who told Mapa:

"Contactless meets the donor’s needs of being as fast and anonymous as cash, and it gives people a choice in how they donate – card, mobile or wearable device." 

Animal charity Blue Cross cleverly ‘tapped into’ this trend with their canine fundraisers - dogs with contactless payment devices sewn into their coats.

As well as contactless, there are a number of other innovative tools and services available both on and offline that offer reduced friction and a chance for creative new approaches to fundraising, such as GoodBox’s Tap to Give gadgets (example pictured below), ApplePay, and Facebook’s donation tools.

Tap to give portable payment tool

A simple way to start

The desire to give anonymously is not new, and in an age where people have very real concerns about privacy and data protection, is only likely to increase. Charities who embrace this trend can only benefit.

I’m not advocating giving up on persuading people to opt-in, and I’m not forgetting my job title. But perhaps it’s time that both charities and the CRM specialists who serve them start thinking more divergently about supporter audiences.

We need to get the message out there that it’s perfectly okay to donate anonymously if that’s your personal preference, and not make people feel guilty for doing so. And we can continue to work on providing the best possible supporter journeys for those who do choose to opt-in.

Who knows, if people actually enjoy a hassle-free experience when giving anonymously, they might even begin to trust charities more and consider opting-in at a later date. But that’s up to them.

Either way, we should welcome their contribution. The most important thing for charities, after all, is to keep the fundraising wheels turning so they can continue their important work.

Paul Becque

CRM Strategy Director

Paul is CRM Strategy Director at Signal. He helps brands and people come together in harmonious and mutual relationship nirvana.

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