Christmas, probably more than any other time of year, stimulates what might be considered a torrent of very professional efforts to get us to part with a little more of our hard-earned cash for the most laudable and deserving of causes with no need seemingly excluded.
A question might be, ‘how effective is all this and do current tactics have a shelf life’?
Also, what are the obstacles to giving and are they the same for charities as for political parties? It’s not easy to think of any other discreet collective group that receives most, if not all, of its funding via this mechanism so it’s worth determining what makes someone more likely to give an affordable amount and what things turn them off?
The major charitable organisations have opted, at the moment, for ever increasing heartbreaking scenarios with the most extreme situations portrayed in leaflets and particularly by television advertisements which shows the professional touch by following a strategy designed to maximise the contrast with our own lives. Other developments seek to create a closer link between the giving and the outcome which is favoured by animal charities, though not exclusively, and characterised by ‘adopt a lion, tiger, schoolgirl’ etc. Perhaps using this innovation for those causes deemed to be just a little less severe than a starving child occupying the entire television screen for several seconds at a time.
They have a lot of objections to overcome and will need to modify the messages as time goes on because simply repeating the same techniques will eventually create a numbing effect where, as soon as the music begins for that Save the Children ad, seen for the 10th, 20th time today we get up and make a cup of tea.
We know charities are simply businesses without profit sharing (but with preferential trading conditions) and retain all the other necessities of a business such as salaries (commensurate with the challenge and annual pot) and business expenditure and that as a result much of our giving will be sucked up in the business costs. We also know that advertising agencies want to create the most heart rending images so perhaps they ‘spice’ it up a bit with some set scenes, a little artificial hopelessness to drive the message home. After all its results that count, right?
There are many concerns we have about giving money into the ether when we don’t really know what it is to be spent on or even if it is deserved. The street tramp with the dog (they always have a dog) is easier to walk past because we know that some portray themselves this way by choice and we can’t really tell who is deserving and who isn’t. Some of this concern is transferred to the street collectors (does all the money really get to the charity?). So there are many concerns we all share about the right thing to do but critically the one thing that isn’t an issue, is affordability.
One novel approach I encountered in Portugal a few weeks ago occurred in a supermarket. The ‘collectors’ for the charity offered a plastic bag, we could purchase suitable items of food (examples given at the time on what would be best) put them in the bag and then return the bag to the charity workers before leaving the building. I was surprised as to how positive I felt about this form of giving as it eliminated many of the natural concerns mentioned above and it reinforces the notion that affordability is rarely an issue. If you take away the real obstacles people will simply give more.
It is clear that the charity world is pretty clued up on how to get the most from our pockets whereas political parties seem to be some way behind and following a quite different tack altogether. The two well funded parties gather some member and low level supporter donations but the principle sources are vested interests, whether that be simply an ideological interest or a commercial one. As a result these political parties generally ignore their members, take what they can from them, and resume efforts to attract wealthier sources where the money is much easier to acquire.
The problem for a third party like UKIP, though, is that we are massively outgunned by the huge financial movements to the Conservatives by ‘business’ and to Labour by the trades unions.
Does it not, therefore, make sense to look again at the potential for party funding from individuals in addition to our limited large donor resources and to learn some lessons from charity strategy when it comes to overcoming giving objections?
UKIP is really bad at this. There have been forays into the ‘something for nothing’ tactic of raffles and sovereign funds and constituencies do a bit of this fund raising activity but the balance of our pleading to those who support our ideals is simply by instruction; ‘donate’!
These images are from our flagship website (still woefully out of date and leading with a call to support John Bickley six days after the event).
The process in concept is relatively simple:
- Identify those people who would like UKIP to win
- Bring them into the fold
- Keep them informed
- When the time is right ask for a pitiful monthly amount (£1.00) automatically gifted
- When asking for additional monies tell them what it is wanted for
- When spent tell them what it was spent on
I rather see this (from the chap’s point of view, of course) as being akin to an eligible gentleman meeting a beautiful woman, chatting with her and realising that there is a mutual attraction. All his instincts should tell him that the next and most appropriate question should be ‘would you like dinner’ and not ‘would you like breakfast’? The obvious lesson being, ‘when you want something, get their interest first’, spend a little effort on the preliminaries, get to know them and reinforce the relationship at every opportunity.
It is always easier to get a donation for a specific item as people can identify with that and can see when it has been achieved so why don’t we also use this psychology in our fundraising efforts? We know that 3.8m people voted UKIP in the last election. We also know they all can afford £1.00 per month. Some will be members and some will be simply supporters (that we ignore completely). The way to draw them in is to make our flagship website a welcoming place whereas, at the moment, it is one of the worst websites I’ve ever seen. It simply is not member or supporter oriented and I note this as being just one example of its many severe limitations.
Regular readers of these pages may know that I stood, unsuccessfully, in the Executive Committee elections recently. One of the changes I would have liked to have initiated would have been be a revised and comprehensive supporter friendly web site and the development of a process that would specify why we ask for money and tell people exactly what their donation was spent on.
As it happens we already know this information.
Perhaps, these developments will occur anyway but, if not, let’s hope that this article might stimulate some thought.