Nicola Kaufman, Head of Donor Services at Plan International, shares how her organisation overhauled an overly complex system of recording donor communications preferences.

Plan needed to resolve how it could balance what donors want with what would be most effective for fundraising communications.

Plan needed to resolve how it could balance what donors want with what would be most effective for fundraising communications.

Hannah, one of Plan International Australia’s experienced Donor Contact Consultants, answers the phone and listens to a donor’s complaint.

Mr Smith has been donating to Plan for 10 years and tells us that we are sending him too much mail. He is concerned about the environment and wants to reduce his carbon footprint. Hannah assures Mr Smith that we share his concern and marks him do not contact.

Hannah has not been at fault. She has learnt over time to distrust the process and knows the only way to be 100% sure we don’t keep sending mail to Mr Smith is to place a blanket opt out over everything. However, Mr Smith is now less likely to give, less likely to increase his giving and will now never hear back from his Sponsored Child.   

We recognised that a giant clean-up was in order. We had to connect the best interests of our beneficiaries with the best interests of our donors. We needed end-to-end processes that enabled great fundraising and a happy donor experience. We needed to have engaged conversations with our supporters about our shared mission, to be able to understand what they really wanted and to be confident when we spoke to them that we would do as we promised – and we needed to grow our supporters’ trust.

The Supporter Contact Preferences Project brought together a small cross-functional group, bringing expertise in donor experience, process design, data and systems. Our ambition was to operationalise relationship fundraising, to simplify and clarify our processes and systems to place our relationships with supporters and our shared purpose at the centre.  

It was an agile project and, as we discovered more and more about our data, we had to make more complex decisions. What does this data mean? What should it mean? How many preferences are too many? Too few? Will we be able to adjust or scale up? How will we use the system? Is the functionality easy to use? Are the preferences easy understand and explain? Do the preferences offer alternatives to no contact? What does no contact mean? Do we opt out? Do we opt in?

We continually considered what the impact would be on a donor’s experience and ability to support Plan International Australia. Guided by our ambition to create the best relationship between Plan and our supporters and ensuring a positive outcome of our beneficiaries, we were able to make value-driven decisions in the face of highly complex data and systems alternatives. Also, we ensured our choices were compliant with Australian Privacy legislation.  

Get more insights from Plan International at the Fundraising Forum

At the 2019 Fundraising Forum on 21-23 August, Nicola Kaufman, Head of Donor Services at Plan International, will reveal more about how Plan International balanced what donors want with what would be most effective for fundraising communications. Click here for more information and to register.

Our first result was identifying the ideal preferences to offer our supporters. We decided to separate instructions and preferences. Instructions, where our supporters specifically and clearly do not want to receive something from us, translate as mandatory opt outs from our outgoing communications and fundraising. Preferences, where donors might prefer a channel or a communication about certain aspects of our work, can be used by campaign managers to segment or speak to supporters as best suits the campaign outcomes. These alternatives have helped us to ask questions like: Do you want to never receive mail from us or would you prefer us to email when possible? Would you prefer to receive fewer appeals?

We certainly cleaned up our data. We analysed over 500,000 data points and removed 302,690, creating 210,406 instructions and 23,963 preferences. We identified where supporters has provided and opt out that we had recorded in two or more ways in the system and could combine, for example replica do not emails. We identified where the preference simply made no sense. Mail only for an e-newsletter? In the bin. We found the contradictory instructions and identified the correct and most recent request. With do not email and email only, we were set up to fail.  

We designed a user-friendly interface within our CRM that puts relationship development at the fore. It is simple to see what a supporter has requested so far while focusing on what the best choice for the supporter is now, with tips and tricks to guide the user and avoid errors.

This project demanded a significant amount of internal resource to execute. We have seen some impact so far. For example, identifying the donors from previous telemarketing campaigns who declined a campaign and those who requested no further campaigns helped us claw back 63% of these regular givers to approach in future upgrade campaigns with resulting income in the region of $200,000.

A huge outcome for us had been the visibility and reporting capability we have achieved. We are able to recognise trends and issues and remediate quickly. We are able to develop the capability of our frontline staff and to see the behaviour of our supporters in response to our campaigns. It was a hard journey to get to clarity and has been thoroughly worth it.

At the 2019 Fundraising Forum on 21-23 August, Nicola Kaufman, Head of Donor Services at Plan International, will reveal more about how Plan International balanced what donors want with what would be most effective for fundraising communications. Click here for more information and to register.

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