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Why effective fundraising and marketing is about more than just targeting a postcode

22/11/2011

No effective charity or business wants to waste time and money or deliberately upset customers or supporters.  That’s why targeting has long been a mainstay of the marketer’s and the fundraiser’s toolkit.  In my simple world, it helps us to achieve two things:

  1. Communicate only with the people most likely to act upon our messages in the way we want them to (assuming we match the target group’s wants and needs to our messages)
  2. Save time and money by not communicating with audiences who are least likely to act in the way we want them to.

I appreciate that there are further subtleties here, like recognising that our organisations will have different messages which will appeal to different or the same audiences at different times, so one general rule of targeting simply won’t fit all situations.

But in the last week alone I’ve observed three examples of the consequences of all this targeting being done independently by multiple, well-meaning organisations:

Targeting postcodes for charity bag collection

Several contributors to the LinkedIn Group, Charity UK, have been sharing their experiences of receiving multiple collection bags – from several every week to 3 every day!

How did the charities concerned pick these particular letterboxes?  Probably via postcode-derived targeting, usually offered by the distribution companies or other database service providers.  Nothing wrong with this in principle but where’s the common sense overlay?  If this was a direct marketing ask, most fundraisers would be looking to apply a recency and frequency variable to the targeting to ensure that they weren’t communicating too frequently.

If an area meets charity X’s target criteria for collections, then it’s very likely it will meet other charities’ criteria too.  So now several organisations are chasing the same letterbox concurrently.  Moving forwards I think we need to know whether the streets we are considering are being ‘hit’ by every other charity under the sun before we pay to have bags delivered there.

Targeting sociodemographics for cold-calling

Most charities and businesses take their data protection responsibilities seriously.  My in-laws donate to several charities and no, they have not No cold calling zone - Fundraising UKgone back in to the various systems after donating or written to a separate department to have their names removed from outbound fundraising.  Why should they have to?

Instead they are called literally every evening of the week, sometimes after 9pm by fundraisers asking them to increase their existing gifts or to donate to charities they have no previous connection with.

The same thing is happening as with the collection bags.  My in-laws are financially comfortable, ‘empty-nesters’ who live in a nice area and who do regularly give to charity.  So they meet everyone’s target criteria!  Consequence?  They stop giving to charities who call and support their favoured causes in other ways.

What analysis is being done to see if certain target audiences aren’t in need of a ‘rest’ from such activity from the sector per se?  Is it even possible without a central activity log being held somewhere?

Targeting easier pickings for street fundraising

Not two hours ago, I saw street fundraisers following members of the public who were giving very obvious signs that they weren’t interested, tens of yards trying to elicit a positive response.

Apparently, females are statistically more likely to give than males to street fundraisers, but is it sensible to have male team members well over six feet tall pursuing women along the street whilst trying to delicately walk the line between assertiveness and aggression?

Equally, is it sensible to subject the people of Redhill town centre (it’s only a small town) to teams of fundraisers as frequently as every other day?  I know it’s not down to individual charities to keep tabs on other organisations’ activities but wouldn’t this kind of recency and frequency information be a useful addition to truly effective targeting?

So, distributors, data companies, charities and town centre planning departments; here’s our challenge.  How about we put our thinking caps on and come up with some form of targeting tool, that you could even sell if needs be, that protects the interests and time of the public AND helps charities to market more efficiently AND in the long-term, more effectively.

In fact, get in touch as I have a few ideas you might like.

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