Subscribers | Charities Management magazine | No. 142 New Year 2022 | Page 1
The magazine for charity managers and trustees

The implications of donor journeys changing

Overall donation levels continue to be lower than average. This makes it all the more important to understand giving behaviour, and how it has evolved during the pandemic. Charity marketers cannot simply continue as if nothing has happened.

Campaign structures must be adapted to new patterns of giving, to give them a chance of achieving maximum success. To understand these new behaviours, marketers need to go beyond the “what” and investigate why behaviours are evolving.

If one analyses changes in consumer behaviour since the beginning of the pandemic one can see key trends and how they impact charity fundraising.

Older donors using digital

The pandemic propelled cashless purchasing and the same was true of donations. Online donations doubled during the pandemic which is not surprising in itself; however, it is interesting to note that digital giving was also on the rise among older donors. The proportion of donors aged 65+ who gave via a website or app in the past 12 months increased from 14% in 2019 to 18% in 2020, while among donors aged 55-64, 25% gave via a website or app in 2020 compared with 17% in 2019.

The pandemic pushed this age bracket online, allowing them to stay connected with family and friends, and introducing them to online tools and apps which they may never have thought to use. It is unlikely that these more digitally aware older users will go back to being offline in completely the same way. Given that this is traditionally a more generous demographic, charities must consider how to readjust their use of marketing channels to reach this group as effectively as possible.

Integrated online and offline

There is a tendency to overlook direct mail as a marketing channel, but historical research findings show that direct mail tends to sit in the home for around two weeks and typically is looked at by three people in the household. Direct email, on the other hand, is more likely to get buried in a busy inbox and never opened. In fact, research shows that postal marketing can generate greater incremental revenue than email, while a combination of both produces even greater reward.

It has been found that when a consumer receives a direct mail piece, around a third of respondents go to the web to check out more details. For the charity sector, this could be information on the charity or a specific campaign. Of those who convert following their online visit, around half tend to make their purchase digitally, while the remaining half went back offline, perhaps visiting a store or an event.

Both online and offline channels therefore have a key part to play in consumer/donor journeys, and charity marketers will need to understand this ratio for their own donor population.

Pancreatic Cancer UK combined the power of direct mail with the convenience and speed of online response. For a matched funding campaign with a limited two-week deadline, a QR code (3D barcode) was used on the outer envelope and donation form sent by post to potential donors. Recipients could then donate securely and rapidly using the QR code, ensuring that the donation reached the charity within the time limit.

The use of QR codes is now widespread out of necessity but may previously have been unfamiliar to older age groups, who are typical direct mail donors. The campaign raised £28,000 using the QR code, and £53,000 overall thanks to matched funding.

Shorter consideration but visibility

The period when a donor is considering making a donation (doing research, reviewing budget etc.) seems to be shorter. Simultaneously, with time spent online higher than previously, more of this thinking time is visible through web journeys and visits. However, the right tools must be in place to track this activity.

There are many tools available which allow charities to build a full 360o view of the donor, meaning they create a complete picture of the journey to donation, including key online and offline triggers along the way. This could be email, newsletters or a piece of mail triggered by online activity. Charities can then clearly see which interactions nudged the donor’s decision along and adjust campaign marketing accordingly.

Higher uptake of content

Increased online activity also means increased consumption of content included with direct mail or email. Charities have already invested in presenting their work through their websites, outlining the importance of donation, displaying successful projects, the effectiveness of contributions, and so on.

Now there is a need to focus on continual engagement through marketing, not only throughout the active consideration phase – which may itself have been inspired by direct mail or email – but also during the research phase, when donors are considering where to allocate their philanthropic spending.

More time to consume content may, however, create a greater duration between receiving the content by post or email, and taking action. A direct email may be bookmarked for later, for instance. The takeaway for charities is that content needs to be more compelling, and they should be equipped to track and manage delayed conversion.

Increased consumption of content is also reflected in higher open rates for emails. The volume of clicks have gone up, with more online research and donations, but the open rate is up even further since people have more time for content than before. Lower open to clickthrough rates may therefore be misleading, as they may be based on previous metrics. Rates need to be put into perspective and reassessed in this new context.

Acceleration of behavioural trends

The behavioural changes outlined in this piece are not all completely new to the sector, but they have been accelerated by the pandemic. Some post-pandemic behaviours may become permanent, while others are temporary; charity marketers need to be agile to stay abreast of these changes and respond accordingly. A clear lesson from this analysis is that all channels should feature in fundraising campaigns, guided by evidence-backed analysis of donor preferences.

One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic was an increased trust in charities and their work. This good will, along with new modes of giving, presents charities with an opportunity to overhaul their usual approach, and get more out of their marketing.


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