What we learnt at the Third Sector Annual Fundraising Conference 2017

16 June 2017

I can’t believe it’s been over 3 weeks since I attended the Third Sector Annual Fundraising Conference 2017 to immerse myself in charity sector insight and share and discuss thoughts on trends with those working in it.

Over the two days, delegates learnt about connecting with donors digitally, how to create lasting relationships, joining forces with corporations and changes in fundraising regulation through opportunities to attend workshop sessions, talks and panel discussions. The hardest part was selecting which session to attend with so many interesting topics scheduled at the same time!

The conference was filled with industry trends, ideas and inspiration for charities on the topics of fundraising and marketing, we’ll definitely be back next year!

Here are my key takeouts from the two days:

1. Don’t let GDPR creep up on you!

The General Data Protection Regulation will replace the Data Protection Act on 25th May 2018.

Conference goers were told ‘let’s start having conversations with those on our database now.’ With a glass half full mentality, charities can use the need to communicate changes in fundraising regulation as a positive opportunity to really engage with donors, rekindle lapsed relationships and show supporters they are listened to.

Ask your donors now how they would like to be communicated with – via which channels, what content and how often.

In the meantime, the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS) is expected to launch in July 2017 to give control back to donors and allow them to decide which charities communicate with them. This will be a website service allowing members of the public to end all direct marketing communications from a specific charity.

A support helpline will also be set up for those who don’t have access to the online service.

2. Marketing is an artful science… there’s room for both creativity and numbers

To implement a successful campaign be it to raise awareness, drive action or somewhere in between, Yasham Ahmad from Accord told us it was key to:

1. Know your audience like a personal friend – understanding your current supporters and those who could become supporters in the future and how media influences them

2. Understand your market and competition – keep your friends close and your enemies close – what channels do they use to communicate, when do they use them and what are they spending?

Social media was the stand out channel for campaigns, working across all stages of the donor journey – awareness, interest, desire, action, advocacy, no other channel did so!

3. Who’d have thought charities could learn from speed dating!

This was my favourite session. Adrian Sargeant from Plymouth University was captivating and gave us a crash course in how theories of dating from Social Psychology can actually be applied to relationships with donors.

Dispositional Mindfulness

We are drawn to those mindful of how we feel and our needs (think personalisation of communications – what do your supporters want, what motivates and drives them?) plus, we need a spark if going any further (emotive communications are crucial at the start of the relationship).

Tip – Make people want to find out more through wording and imagery. For postal communications, envelopes are the first thing seen – can this be used to tease and entice receivers to open – hard hitting, emotive, hooks.

Remember this must be followed up with a demonstration that you listened or you’re on your bike – personalised comms show you care.

Self Enhancement Theory

We’re drawn to people who tell us they see us as better than we see ourselves, so appreciate your supporters by telling them just how good they are and can be! ‘You can do this’, start a campaign, share the success with others.


What makes it hard to end a personal relationship? Past investments both tangible and intangible such as shared secrets, experiences, joint purchases, who keeps the pets?! But more importantly planned investments!

So how can this be applied to your relationships with supporters?… If you have specific plans for the future, be it a fundraising event or activity, planned donation, volunteer time, a voice to spread the word about you and your cause and they know the importance of your relationship in the future the more likely they are to stick around.

Tip – Thank you communications are winning ways to put some of this advice into action, engaging supporters further and developing relationships through personalisation. Tie future events and opportunities to get involved to what each individual has been involved with so far e.g. Race for Life – what other active, sporty events are coming in the future?


4. Expectations from donors are a changing

The public are increasingly wanting to interact with brands because of their social value, using products as an expression of their self-identity.

Dr Beth Breeze, University of Kent, shared Forbes top 7 qualities of a social brand – Trustworthy, Personal, Unique, Caring, Responsive, Thought-leader, Valuable to audience.

Do these look familiar? Many are your qualities as a charity! You own them, don’t let the private companies encroach on your space. When interacting on social media, the key is to stay relevant and let supporters and potential supporters know what’s in it for them.


5. Donors of the future

Understanding how to connect with younger audiences, the donors of the future, was a hot topic over the two days.

This group are more savvy, increasingly wanting to know how their money is being used.

They trust peers more than older generations and read reviews… cue social media influencers, bloggers, YouTubers.

This group are more involved and are innovative – give them opportunities but allow them to use own ideas and problem solve.

Tip – give a blogger your key messaging but allow them to adapt and fit with own style and language etc.

Tip – Make personal connections through sharing something influencers post – engage, strike up conversation

Tip – Continue the conversation with volunteers after their experience expressing how they could be an ambassador/shape the future – encourage them to share information and experiences, get others involved, peer recommendations


6. We could all learn something from brands and retailers 

Have you ever had an email from a brand telling you your shopping basket is still waiting? Me too!

Whether annoying or appreciated, it’s a good strategy for retailers to ensure the decision to stop the transaction was deliberate rather than the result of life’s distractions or internet glitchs.

Email marketing company Adestra shared the figure that currently around 20% of charities use abandoned donation campaigns but data learnings from the private sector suggest it could be a way to reclaim a significant number of donations that otherwise would be lost.

Tips –
1. Simple subject lines are crucial
2. Emails must be timely
3. Copy must be personal
4. And the ask must be simple to complete