The Blog

Street Collections to Slacktivism, a Conversation With Ben Carter of Response One

Times of austerity and highly savvy consumers mean challenging times for charities. In order to keep existing supporters and attract new ones, charities need a sound understanding of customers' buying behaviour, attitudes and habits. This is where Response One comes in.

Times of austerity and highly savvy consumers mean challenging times for charities. In order to keep existing supporters and attract new ones, charities need a sound understanding of customers' buying behaviour, attitudes and habits.

This is where Response One comes in. Part of the St Ives group, the dedicated marketing agency uses "data insight to help clients find, win, keep and grow their most valuable donors/customers".

From BT, Burberry, NatWest and Cineworld to Plan International, Battersea Dogs and Cats home and Sightsavers among others, businesses and charities turn to Response One for vital customer/donor information. The data analysis they provide goes to reinforce existing donors' trust but also helps win new ones.

I talk to Ben Carter, Response One's head of charity development about the new challenges facing the charity sector, data gathering and analysis, Slacktivism and a world turning mobile.

Q The difference in various age groups' approach to charities/donations, as revealed by your infographic is very interesting.

A Yes, it tells us that older givers remain the most important however few are looking to give to even more charities so success with this group will hinge on making the most of charities existing older supporters through good stewardship. Recruitment activity should be very focused to avoid wasting money and charities will need to work hard to make the case for why their cause is the one that deserves extra support.

It also tells us that younger givers don't give much right now but they plan to. Low cost engagement is key - avoid wasting money but still build brand associations. Fortunately digital channels are preferred and cheap. That said all marketers know this so the digital world is swamped with engagement opportunities. So charities need to be clever and engaging while remaining genuine. I like Ihobo, Koni2012, though with reservations about the aims, Bee Savers Kit (which is actually a traditional 'Premium pack' for the mobile age) and the Red Cross House Party

Lastly, the infographic shows that everybody is online, even if the channel is a mailing the first thing most people will do before giving is check out the cause online. Anyone younger than 50 is almost certainly going to do this on a mobile device. I don't think that enough charities have grasped this. Fundraisers finding themselves wondering why an appeal has fallen flat might want to take a look at their web analytics and see how many bounces they had the day the appeal dropped.

Q You speak of 'understanding what customers think and how they behave', how is this understanding achieved?

A Customers attitudes are identified using research data, while behaviour is identified using transactional data such as how much is given, the method, frequency, what is being responded to etc.

The sources of this data will be a combination of the client's own database and external information. For example we might look at a charity's existing database, identify their 'best' givers and profile these using lifestyle data. We would then use this model to select the right media for acquisition appeals.

Q Is it safe to say that any business/organization dealing with clients/users/customers could benefit from your insight?

Yes, though there is a degree of separation within the business as to how data is handled. We would not cross share information without client consent so businesses won't have access to a charity clients insight (nor the other way around). We do run Reciprocate which is a charity donor data pool - a large collaboration product in which member charities pool data and we use this for analysis, feeding the results back to charities to allow them to improve fundraising selections. This is a really excellent example of charities working together to improve fundraising income. As you can imagine there are strict data controls in place and Reciprocate is only open to charity clients.

Q What are the challenges you face with regards to different age groups's use of technology/the Internet/social networking?

A As you probably know, the traditional charity donor is typically older, retired and often female. These supporters have been incredibly generous throughout their lives and continue to be the backbone of most charities' voluntary income but the more time passes the smaller this group becomes and the less that each person can give.

Where the challenge for many companies is often seen as promoting themselves to the young, many charities need to concentrate on the 35-65 band first (whilst not ignoring younger potential givers).

Shifting audience is as much about message as it is about channel. Older givers are motivated by a sense of moral obligation to give and in a sense fundraisers need only provide the right opportunities to do so. This is why Direct Mail or Door Drop works so well for the older audience - it is a direct, simple message that is easy to respond to. Gaming products such as prize draw or lotteries are also popular with this audience - allowing them to take part in a fun activity that helps their favourite charities.

The 35-65 group tend to be more demanding and questioning. Potential donors in this group are still generous but they will want to see that their contribution has a direct impact. Giving is much more specifically focused and feedback on gifts will need to demonstrate impact whilst remaining low cost.

Regular Giving and membership or sponsorship products are key to this audience as these can be specifically targeted and reported back on. Best channels will be Inserts, telemarketing, targeted email and street fundraising. Direct Mail works better when combined with another channel. Also growing is the use of SMS giving advertised on commuter lines - a good use of new technology in a traditional way, simple messages that are easy to respond to.

The young, 18-34 group although important is not the top priority for many fundraisers simply because this group do not give as much to charity. Key engagement channels are social media, mobile and events though these will often be communications for brand building or to support campaign activity rather than direct fundraising asks. You may have already seen the ongoing debate about "Slacktivism". Broadly the worry is that charities are giving away their 'product' (the reward of giving) without actually getting any financial return. Personally, I don't think this is true but young people care about specifics and are less motivated by issues clustered into generic causes so charities will need to take this into account.

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