In Red Cross HQ this morning, I was filling out a donation form to my friends in the Irish Hospice Foundation, a cause that is very dear to my heart. I went to fill in the amount and I wanted to put €2, for reasons I’ll come to, but felt embarrassed at how little that would be, and instead wrote €5.
So far so good you’d think: victory to the Irish Hospice Foundation and the excellent work done by Ask Direct on their direct mailing packs – my gift went up from €2 to €5.
The problem is that I also have mailing packs on my desk from Concern, Focus, Oxfam, CBM and the ISPCA. (Not to mention working on our own latest appeal). Now partly this is for professional reasons – I like to learn from what my peers are doing – but also I’m a Buddhist , and one of the 5 precepts that all Buddhist try and live by is generosity, that is, generosity as a conscious practice.
So what’s the problem?
Well same as everyone else’s: negative equity, two mortgages, crèche fees, tax increases, interest rate hikes (ouch) – take your pick.
I like giving, but I find I’m now reluctant to give too little, as it would embarrass me somehow in some vague ill-defined way.
The channel is clearly an issue – I wouldn’t feel bad chucking a two euro coin into a bucket – in fact I’d feel quite generous if I did that. But ask me to fill in €2 in a response form? I’m slightly embarrassed again.
And yet I know that if I got €2 regularly from a donor – regular cash that is – I’d be thrilled. Thrilled by the commitment – thrilled to keep the relationship alive – and trusting that when times were better that donor would give me more.
So what to do? Do we lower the ask? But that is the last thing I want to do professionally speaking – my whole aim is to drive the average gift up. Yet historically that would have been based on past giving. Someone could quite happily have targeted me for a much larger figure than €2 in the past – even using a formula of + / – 25% and I would have given most likely. Now I would just laugh.
I don’t have the answer. I’ve been professionally fundraising for close on fifteen years now and I’ve never encountered an environment like this where past behaviour seemed so unreliable in terms of predicting current behaviour.
As I’ve said on this blog before, answers on a postcard!
By Ronan Ryan, Head of Fundraising and Communications, Irish Red Cross