7 October 2011
David Martin from WaterAid explains how they integrate supporter feedback into their fundraising processes.
Like all charities, WaterAid simply could not deliver our aims without the commitment of our fantastic supporters. We recognise how important supporter care is in developing and retaining donations which enable us to bring clean water, sanitation and hygiene education to some of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable people. It’s therefore vital that we communicate in a manner which not only is appreciative, but also fully engages our supporters in our work. We want them to know that, as a direct result of their support, the charity is having fantastic results in the communities we are working with.
WaterAid has grown rapidly and to ensure our supporters remained a core focus within this period, our Senior Management Team created and invested in a Supporter Care team which has now been in place for seven years. Now six-strong, our Supporter Care team has a fantastic opportunity to speak to our supporters directly and gain an excellent insight into what motivates them, as well as any areas where they may have concerns.
Integrating supporter care feedback into our fundraising strategy and processes.
What we do
Our supporter care team is hugely valued. Through them, the organisation can listen to our supporters, understand their concerns and address any issues.
Supporter care and the team itself is now integrated into all aspects of our appeal process. Before any appeal goes out, a member of the fundraising team will give us a briefing so that we are fully prepared. We provide specific campaign feedback from supporters for both planning and end of campaign meetings, as well as checking appeal drafts just to make sure there are no areas which may cause misunderstanding or concern. This integration ensures the team are aware in advance of all communications to our supporters and provides an excellent opportunity for new staff to broaden their knowledge of fundraising techniques.
A system for recording all feedback, both good and bad against the fundraising activity is really important. This means feedback is actual, rather than anecdotal, and will have more influence. It is easy then to report back on particular campaigns and feed into the development of forthcoming ones.
Each month I produce a complaint report which includes a brief summary of the issues raised, highlighting the key themes and how these were addressed. This is published on our intranet so all staff are aware of how we deal with complaints and the topics supporters are concerned about.
We run a bi-monthly Supporter Care Focus group featuring staff from the supporter facing fundraising teams. This is a great opportunity to look through the complaints report to identify areas that need to be addressed, and to communicate key supporter care initiatives. It also helps us build and strengthen relationships, ensuring that the Supporter Care team and our ethos is thoroughly integrated into our fundraising activities.
Share as much feedback as you can, from end of campaign reports, to monthly complaint reviews, to notice boards for positive comments from supporters. I encourage my team to talk to our fundraising teams face-to-face, to build and strengthen these relationships and to look out for new members of staff in the fundraising teams so we can give them a supporter care induction to tell them all about the work we do, find out more about their roles, and build those relationships right from the start. Relationship building between the supporter care and fundraising teams is essential to make sure we’re fully integrated into their work and are able to make sure our supporters’ voices are heard.
From my experience, the key to exceptional supporter care is those who deliver it. It’s easy for Supporter Care teams to feel that their role is just one of support, but it’s so much more than that. By helping them feel close to our country programmes, they can really feel, understand and believe in the work we are doing. This enthusiasm and knowledge is conveyed in their conversations with our supporters.
By being fully integrated into the fundraising process, our Supporter Care team is well informed and our fundraisers are as committed as we are to the value of delivering excellent supporter care.
For example, we know that some people really worry how charities use their donations. To alleviate any concern, all of our cold inserts include our expenditure pie chart. People can see that we are transparent in our use of donations, cost-effective and the result is that they feel confident about our work and that their donation is going to where it’s needed. Our supporters are also keen to have the choice and some prefer not be mailed. Again, our cold insert carries a statement thanking for all current support and asking if those who kindly already support our work could pass the insert to friends or family to help spread the message.
Wherever possible we call those who have returned mailings to complain that these are a ‘waste’, to confirm we won’t mail them again and reassure any concerns over our cost effectiveness This personal touch is not often expected, and is invariably hugely appreciated by the supporter as it not only shows we care about them as individual but gives the opportunity to discuss the issue. In a huge number of cases, the supporter is very appreciative of the call and more than happy to continue their support
The investment in our Supporter Care Team has seen consistently improving KPIs across all aspects of our work. For example we are now constantly achieving our targets of replying to emails in one working day, answering calls in three rings, and replying to letters in three working days. Really showing our supporters how much they mean to us.
“It is vital to have strong relationships and communication channels between fundraising and supporter care. At WaterAid, we really believe that raising the funds and looking after supporters are two sides of the same fundraising coin and that each team can only do their job part as well without the support of the other.”
David Martin, Supporter Care Manager, WaterAid
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