Charities are under an immense amount of pressure. In demand like never before but in many cases having to do more with less.
The cut to state funding meant many smaller charities suffered in the wake of the economic downturn. Coupled with the squeeze on household incomes and the size of the challenge for charities has increased.
Throw in the curveball of social media and the attention it brings to those causes that have the wherewithal, time and money to exploit it and the task for many charities gets even harder.
It is more important then for a charity to be savvy in their marketing. Cost effectiveness is still key. However, in the rush to cut through the noise at low-cost charities need to make sure they are not cutting corners.
The Fundraising Standards Board has just reported direct mail, telephone and doorstep fundraising spiralled last year. Notably, complaints against charities using addressed direct mail increased 36 per cent year on year to 16,966, accounting for more than a third (35 per cent) of the total and more than twice as many complaints as any other area.
The average complaint rate about direct mail also increased, up to 0.0005 last year from 0.0002 in 2012.
The FRSB did not offer any reasons why but the fact the growth in complaints outstripped the rising use of addressed direct mail does suggest there is bad practice.
Poor targeting as a result of bad, old or lack of data? Acting on a recipient’s failure to opt-our rather than an active agreement to receive? Or just sending uncreative mail too much, too often?
The answer is not known but what is without doubt is that the increasing number of complaints creates a problem. Like with any brand, if you piss enough people off enough of the time, it’s going to erode brand equity.
Charities will perhaps be cut a little more slack than most but there is a limit to how many times you can get it wrong.
I wager that many of the complaints are about mail sent by smaller charities not as well versed in data techniques or resourced. It is here the help is needed.
The good news is there is acknowledgement of an issue. The FRSB has promised to look into the underlying causes to see whether industry standards need reviewing. It has already submitted recommendations to charities on how best to contact donors using these methods.
The FRSB does need to reach out to identify and help. It would do no harm for these efforts to be assisted by the direct marketing industry through the Direct Marketing Association.
DM is a cost-effective way to reach your target but if you approach campaigns with the mind set it is simply cheap then the end result will be more harm than good.