Traditional fundraising tactics involve inserting yourself into someone’s physical path, their doorstep or their phone, mostly unasked for, and without any personal basis for speaking to them. In the marketing world, these tactics are known as ‘interruptive’ – you’re reaching out and fighting for their audience’s attention, and under new GDPR rules consent must be taken into account.
While this style of fundraising has its place and time, something’s clearly not working: the latest CAF UK Giving report shows that regular giving has been on the decline for three years in a row. But despite this, the overall amount donated to charity has remained relatively stable, with smaller groups of dedicated donors giving higher amounts.
Charities like Greenpeace are taking note of this trend, testing approaches that instead attract and inspire those core supporters through the channels they want to be engaged with.
For lots of people, this channel is instant messaging apps. At the IoF Fundraising Convention at the beginning of this month, Greenpeace UK’s Head of Supporter Recruitment Grainne Callan explained how the charity has been trailling new methods of supporter engagement via Facebook Messenger.
The big advantage of using Facebook Messenger is that the supporters are already there – launched in 2011, the platform has a staggering 1.3 billion users sending 8 billion messages a month. It’s the second most-downloaded app next to WhatsApp, on both Apple and Android.
“The traditional fundraising funnel has two main channels: ain adverts and organic or social,” Callan explained in her presentation. “Traditionally you bring in people through adverts, petitions, and retarget them through to telephone or email. But the middle of that funnel had a bit of a gap, where if we were not able to bring them through to telephone or email we missed out. We wanted to see what we could do within that space to get deeper engagement with that middle part, and decided on instant messaging.”
A human connection
Much of the growth in fundraising through instant messenger apps has been through chatbots – Greenpeace has been ahead of the game already with its climate change chatbot, but they wanted to test the benefits of real human interaction when engaging supporters. Potential donors can talk about whatever interests them and they are passionate about, with someone equally as passionate as them. Having build that rapport, those human fundraisers can then refer someone to the bot to learn more information.
Each of the six instant messenging fundraisers on the team has four to five interactions on the go at any one time, and are trained and developed to respond quickly. Once someone clicks on a Facebook advert, they go straight into the instant messenger chat. Conversations can go on for anything from five minutes to two weeks (that is the cut off period Greenpeace has imposed for talking to any potential donor) and happen on the basis on that supporter’s own time.
Apart from this, as Callan explained, it’s very similar to face to face telephone fundraising in that it’s the fundraiser’s role to help guide the conversation and bring it back to the topic at hand.
At the beginning of the year, Greenpeace had around 25 regular donors each week. This has grown to 40-50 as the charity has improved its targeting and fundraisers have learnt how to improve their conversations.
Tony Charalamides, director of Huddleston consulting, who led the project’s proof of concept phase before moving in-house at the charity, said: “Greenpeace has a lot of experience on audience targeting, and that’s a really fundamental to making this work. We’ve talked to charities that don’t have such advanced Facebook programmes and they’ve struggled to get the traffic in at a cost that works.”
Callan continued: “It’s both similar and different to other dialogue channels, in that you don’t have voice or eye contact to rely on. But what you can do is share usefu information, send links to pages, and it’s as much about missions delivery as fundraising – how you can bring someone closer to the cause and give them something useful to tak away. It’s also different in that supporters actively choose to speak to us. We do have consent locked-in at the top – they’re clicking on an advert and choosing to interact with us. So when they come through to us they’re already really engaged and want to have a conversation.”
Chats are intermittent but they last much longer – a fundraiser might connect in the morning and not hear back for another 24 hours. For that reason Greenpeace has technology in place to track the chat history and ensure that, when different members of the team are connecting, they have that consistency of brand voice. Having the back-end infrastructure in place is essential, as the charity needs to be able to manage multiple chats and hundreds of incoming messages a day, track their impact and learn from the findings.
The other challenge is that, when users are choosing to interact on their own time, it’s even more important to make that content count. Social voice is important, turning fundraisers into brand advocates that are the true mouthpieces for the cause. Greenpeace fundraisers are “bold, direct, authentic, passionate activists” and must mirror that in all their interactions. There is no script but prompts are provided, and Greenpeace have taken a test and learn approach to finding the right balance.
Callan said: “User feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive. They’re a self-selecting audience, and it’s something that’s convenient for them, they can talk to us whenever they want about whatever they want, and it shows the real benefit of developing this channel moving forward.”
Just the beginning
Greenpeace generate betwen 20-30k leads a week through their campaigns, with high profile campaigns around a specific emergency or high profile event generating more (such as their campaign to prevent Shell drilling in the Arctic).
Through Facebook Messenger, the charity has hit just under 2,000 regular givers in the first year and will be growing its team of six instant messenger fundraisers to eight by the end of the year.
Callan said: “Ideally you’d want to make the sign up process as frictionless as possible. You can’t currently take donations within Facebook Messenger, so when someone wants to donate we send a URL which they have to click on and sign. It’s a little bit clunky and there is a drop off in that area, but it should improve as messenger evolves.”
“We’re very much at the beginning of the experiment, but we’re very excited to see how else we could explore instant messaging. For instance, can we use it in other departments such as legacy fundraising or research and insights? We may even just ask for cash donations at big appeals, rather than regular giving (which is all we’ve done so far). And as Facebook Messenger is soon to integrate with its current ‘competitor’ WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook), the target audience is set to grow massively.”