Tim Longfoot: Getting mobile with fundraising

Tim Longfoot is regarded as one of the UK’s best and brightest charity direct marketers, and he’s on his way to Australia to present at the Australasian Fundraising Forum. Jeremy Bradshaw recently interviewed Tim to get his views on how fundraising is changing, and what charities need to do to adapt and be successful. 

Over 18 years Tim Longfoot (right) has developed a reputation as one of the UK’s most innovative and leading charity direct marketers.

He was one of the early members of the well-respected fundraising consultancy Bluefrog which he helped build up into a thriving agency. His next career move was to co-found a new consultancy called Open Fundraising four years ago, which is now the UK’s fastest growing fundraising agency with more than 30 staff.

Along the way he has helped develop a wide variety of direct marketing and fundraising campaigns for some of the world’s best-known charities such as UNICEF, Save the Children, WWF and Oxfam.

He is constantly travelling throughout Europe helping clients with a range of projects, and Tim’s approach is first and foremost data oriented, which then drives campaign strategy and creative development. He is equally at home with traditional fundraising methods such as mail and telephone, as well as the many new digital and social media channels available. 

In more recent times he has helped pioneer the use of mobile phones in fundraising. In fact, he has developed programs that recruit regular givers via mobile, and his work with clients has recruited more than 1.8 million donors through mobile campaigns. 

Tim and his agency have won several awards from the UK’s Institute of Fundraising including: 2012 – Best Use of Face-to-Face and Best use of Telephone; and in 2010 – Best use of Direct Marketing. 

F&P: As a UK and Europe-based fundraiser, what broad fundraising trends are you seeing in your part of the world?

TL: Channel diversification is a major trend at the moment. A reliance on face-to-face forms of recruitment has meant too little innovation in other channels. This is now a problem for many organisations who are struggling to find good agencies to take on their work.  

This year text giving has helped breathe new life into traditional channels that were otherwise in decline. We've seen press working outside of emergency and a whole new opportunity in outdoor advertising.

We're also seeing more and more organisations looking at how best they can communicate their stories through mobile channels and what impact this can have on donor loyalty and attrition.

F&P: What do you think is driving these trends?

TL: There is a real capacity issue with face-to-face channels. When a market like the UK gets so competitive you have to innovate in order to maintain a market position. This can only happen if you have a commitment to investment and a well structured test plan that has flex in it that will accommodate failure.

F&P: The UK and Europe are continuing to experience a difficult economic climate – is this impacting on charity fundraising results? If so, have charities and nonprofit organisations changed or altered their fundraising strategy/tactics?  

TL: There is evidence that donors are becoming more expensive to recruit. This suggests people are less inclined to start a new relationship with a charity - which might be due to the economic climate. However, I also see a lot of poor creative badly targeted.

Where we've seen success is with the use of text micro donations and low-value regular giving propositions. This success is a combination of easy payment mechanisms, novelty and a low price.

F&P: When it comes to integrated (or multi-channel) fundraising campaigns, which UK and European nonprofits are doing these well and why? What are the common elements to achieving success with integrated campaigns?

TL: Multi-channel integration is essential. Our donors no longer communicate in specific channels. You used to be able to write to a donor and know fairly conclusively that that would be their preferred channel. You might also call them a couple of times but not much else would happen.

Now we need to be thinking much wider. If we want our donors to consider us outside of a purely transactional relationship then we need to be more relevant and we need to be part of their network. We need to be actively involved within their social networks, offering bite-sized engagements, opportunities to share, products that answer their needs.

This isn't easy and plenty of organisations get it wrong – trying to crowbar their 'push' messages into Facebook when it's all about 'pull' and dialogue.

But integration is more than having a social component to a campaign. Recent recruitment drives in the UK have seen charities like Shelter use face-to-face, outdoor, radio, press, search and PR as responsive channels and using social networks such as Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook to amplify the campaign.

This is clever stuff as the noise that this can generate for a relatively small budget can not only help drive response but drive engagement. If things go well you then start to get donor inspired content and with a bit of curation your campaign takes on a life of its own. WaterAid is another organisation that has executed well-integrated campaigns.

F&P: When it comes to donor acquisition in the UK and Europe, have charities and nonprofits been modifying or changing their strategy and tactics at all in recent years? If so, how and why?

TL: Regular giving is still king. However two-stage recruitment is on the increase. This is where donors are asked to engage in a small one-off interaction (whether a gift or campaign action) and using this initial engagement as an opportunity to talk about the wider work and need for regular contributions.

Entertainment is also proving to be a great driver of response. TV telethons such as Soccer Aid, Stand up to Cancer, Comic Relief and Text Santa are attracting millions of new donors.

F&P: You’ve been working a lot with mobile technology in the last couple of years, what have been some of the key developments in this space for charities and their fundraising and marketing.

TL: The UK government does not tax charity mobile services and we are fortunate enough that the networks pay out near on 100% of the donation. This has meant that Premium SMS (PSMS) is one of the most cost effective payment mechanisms. Coupled with this is the speed and ease of a text and you have a winning combination.

The growth in the UK has been explosive. We now have the regulatory environment which allows for regular text donations. This has created an alternative platform for regular giving (to direct debit) and this has opened up new audiences as well as channels.

F&P: What do you think is the potential for charities and nonprofits to leverage mobile technology for fundraising and donor engagement purposes?

TL: Mobile is a rare thing. It accommodates payment and communication in the same device. It's a gateway into social networks. We all have one. We all use it compulsively to run our lives. This is not a fad. It's not going away. If you don't make this central to your fundraising program you will become obsolete within the next few years.

Tim Longfoot will be sharing his insights, knowledge and practical tips and ideas at the Australasian Fundraising Forum in Sydney on September 4, 5 and 6. This includes running a half-day Integration Immersion and a session on some of the pioneering ways in which mobile technologies are now being used to acquire and retain donors. For more information go to www.fpmagazine.com.au/AFF/