The first recorded case of Covid-19 was just over 6 months ago. In late June, the number of confirmed global infections passed 10million. The pandemic has decimated economies and left many worrying about their futures. Since the lockdown began, the UK public has been incredibly generous in supporting frontline services. Sadly, this shift in supporting NHS charities means that donations to children and animal-related causes have declined.
Animal charities, such as World Animal Protection, are actively fighting to address the underlying issues that led to the global pandemic that we find ourselves in. The exact origins of the coronavirus are still being debated. But there is a consensus that the virus originated in bats, before moving to another mammal and then onto humans. This process is believed to have been exacerbated by the illegal trade of exotic animals in wet markets. The illegal wildlife trade is worth over £15bn annually. World Animal Protection is calling on world leaders to back a wildlife trade ban to help prevent a future coronavirus at the G20 meeting in November.
In April, I wrote a post about the importance of Individual Giving. In 2018, 73% of World Animal Protection annual income came from individuals donating money. These donations help the World Animal Protection tackle a number of issues facing wildlife. Their latest appeal aims to help feed elephants in Thailand that are starving from the lack of tourist trade.
I wanted to speak to Adam Stricker-Morecroft, who sounds like a superhero character from Marvel. Still, upon reflection, he is a hero. A fundraising hero. Adam has helped Diabetes UK, Marie Curie, NSPCC, and the British Heart Foundation grow their income through individual giving (IG). He is currently the Head of Individual Giving at World Animal Protection UK. I worked closely with Adam during his time at the BHF, and I was very sad to see him leave. Still, I know that if one man can help World Animal Protection UK raise funds needed to protect animals, Adam can.
Adam, what would you say are the biggest challenges facing individual giving?
It’s a mindset thing. For years IG teams have been focussed on volume and scale, deploying business models that are essentially interchangeable with insurance or mobile phones. We’ve relied on mass-market channels like face to face to bring lots of people into the organisation, and then predicated their future value on retention, upgrading and cross-selling through telemarketing. That model led to some very public failings in 2015, hasn’t ever really recovered, and certainly hasn’t been replaced. Organisations have seen mixed success using that model, but what’s clear now is that it isn’t a path to future growth.
Instead, we need to be smarter in our marketing. We have to talk about problems that people can see, hear, or feel. And we need to be the bridges that connect their desire to change the world with the outcomes they want to see. We can only do that properly by developing propositions that speak to the heart of a donor’s desire to support – and then find new ways to tell our story to them.
Our biggest challenge is moving away from a model that recruits 100 people to retain 10 of them in 5 years’ time. It’s about empowering 10 people to change the world, then keeping them informed, engaged, and empowered to do so over the course of their life. This is going to require a lot of innovation, intuition, and a lot more bravery.
How have you been helping your team to navigate the pandemic?
By practicing what I just preached! In the first few days of lockdown, I launched an innovation team. We all knew the world was changing around us, and we needed to have people focussed on understanding and navigating that change. They’ve done great so far and I have high hopes for the future!
Beyond that, I’ve focussed on helping the team make brave decisions to cancel events, increase DRTV budgets, and focus on the changes we can make for animals. The first few months of the pandemic were full of death and devastation. Among all of those awful headlines, and the changes in circumstance that they brought, it was important that the team felt empowered to do things differently. We’re refusing to be victims of circumstance, and we’re committed to going further, faster, into the new world that lies at the end of this pandemic.
As one of my favourite drag queens puts it: “If you stay ready, you don’t gotta get ready!”
You’re a strong advocate of Agile and Lean methodologies – can you explain what these are and how you use them?
Absolutely! Though be warned, I tend to go on a bit about these!
Lean is about process efficiency – it’s about reducing waste. Lots of people, upon hearing about Lean get worried… Does reducing waste means we’re looking to reduce headcount? For me, it’s never about that. In fact, it’s the opposite – one of the ‘wastes’ in Lean is personal talent and potential. I’ve seen too many fundraisers slogging away for hours doing work that isn’t creating value for supporters, because a process has built up over time, and no one has encouraged them to review it. If ‘work tends to expand to the time available,’ then Lean’s the antidote
For Individual Giving, the real gain here is understanding what work is creating supporter value? Is it creating something that makes them want to start giving or increase their support? And if it isn’t, then why are we doing it? If the answer isn’t clear, it’s time to remove the personal biases and decide if it’s still worthwhile.
‘Agile’ means a lot of things to a lot of people, and the ‘Agile Manifesto’ can be applied to different areas of work to varying success. For me, it’s about being clear on a big, audacious, insight-driven goal that you need to achieve, and then being very flexible about the way we get there. Measuring what matters along the way, and never being afraid to change course or even start again if you aren’t moving closer to your goals. In practice, this usually means deciding a direction of travel, getting something in the market as quickly as possible, and then building it from there. This helps keep the pace up, and leads to more work being delivered than through a traditional waterfall approach.
I’ve been really lucky in my career to have bosses who have trusted me to get on with ‘being Agile,’ rather than sticking to an inefficient annual operational plan. Now I try to be that kind of boss (and am hopefully achieving it) – but it takes a lot of trust.
In practical terms, this means moving away from that big annual plan, to a prioritised list of deliverables that you are constantly adding to and reprioritising – ensuring the right work gets to the right audience at the right time, taking all the benefits of fresh information and context into account.
You use insight to create new products, propositions and campaigns to drive growth, how do you source this insight and what do you do with it?
The best thing about charity fundraising is that insight is everywhere. And it’s not found by copying others’ efforts in the sectors. Instead, it comes from your staff and supporters. Supporter Care teams speak to your supporters every single day and are veritable gold mines for insight. People pay thousands of pounds for focus groups – which have their place! – but you’ve got passionate professionals not too far from your desk who know more about your supporter case than you ever could. That qualitative insight is invaluable.
Another underutilised source of insight in fundraising is social media. Notwithstanding current boycotts on social media advertising, throwing a couple of ads up on to Facebook and seeing what happens is much cheaper, and more valuable from an insight perspective, than going through a huge product development process to then see the thing fail because an assumption was wrong (and believe me – I’ve been there!).
For instance, we recently got a counterintuitive result from Facebook when talking about elephants that needed support during the pandemic in Thailand. We know our supporters are passionate about animals, and expected emotion-heavy adverts to perform best.
We were surprised to discover that our supporters wanted detail! Yes, they cared about the elephants, but they were keener on understanding the specifics of how their support would help. And that nugget of insight for us has led to thousands of more pounds to feed those elephants.
What advice would you give to charities that are moving away from emergency coronavirus appeals to traditional fundraising appeals?
That’s an interesting one, because I think there’s been a real difference in the way that people have approached Coronavirus appeals. A lot of organisations have thrown an ‘EMERGENCY APPEAL’ graphic up in their corporate branding and said that they need support. Of course, you need support! We all do. But why should that complex, multifaceted supporter choose to give you their donation amongst the cacophony of causes desperate for support?
So my advice for post-Coronavirus fundraising appeals is coloured by that. This pandemic isn’t going anywhere, and compassion fatigue will set in if you can’t make a more specific offer to your supporters.
These are people who are willing to give you money to solve some of the biggest problems our world faces. They deserve more than a generic communication. They deserve an honest account of the problems out there and real, tangible ways they can solve them. As an IG team, you need to champion the voice of your supporters and empower them to change the world, one appeal at a time.
“I’m a creative, confident and innovative manager who is fluent in English, German, and Dutch. I’m passionate about using insight to create new products, propositions and campaigns to reach critical audiences, increase profit, and exceed organisational results. I’m enthusiastic about Agile and Lean methodologies for marketing and product development – and I’ve led award-winning teams by capitalising on them.”