Communicating to Donors

Great at devising and communicating fundraising calls to actions, organisations appear less effective, if not negligent, in keeping donors informed about what they raise and how they use their resources. This is according to Simon Beresford, Head of Marketing & Fundraising at the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). During a recent interview with trade magazine, Fundraising, Beresford focused on the issue of communicating to donors and the public, and the concerns this has raised amongst third sector organisations and civil society.

Communication is never enough, even when you think you have explored all possibilities and involved all stakeholders. If we then consider charities’ communication to donors, the issue becomes even more delicate.

In the UK in just two months, the DEC, raised £300 million in support of Ukrainian refugees. The DEC will spend this money over the next three years. It also disclosed how £74 million of the funds raised will be spent over the next six months. Beresford, aware of the constant and necessary effort on the part of the DEC to keep donors up-to-date on the progress of donations, encourages the entire sector to reflect on improving communication in support of fundraising.

Feedback to donors can be a sore point for many organisations

“Organisations’ communication offices often focus their efforts and energies on devising the best message or the best campaign to win new donors,” says Francesca Mineo, director of IFC Italy and president of the European association of consultants, EUConsult. “This is true for emergency campaigns, such as those supporting Ukraine or those in need during the pandemic. It is also relevant to other initiatives or projects for which financial aid is required. In my experience, communication plans, although in theory include the follow-up phase, in reality are not fully implemented: a new emergency cancels the previous one, and thus essential steps are eliminated both in terms of transparency and the relationship with the donor”.

Don’t alienate your organisation

Neglecting to report and care for donors, from a communication point of view, leads in the medium- to long-term to donor fatigue towards the organisation or a cause. It can even lead to alienation from the organisation itself. Donors begin to view the organisation as an entity capable of only asking and never of giving back and involving.

It’s all about trust

Fundraising has a very strong moral meaning,” Mineo concludes, “donors entrust an organisation with money because through this gesture, they ask to make themselves the medium, the expression of a belief, a value, an action that they could not perform alone. It is a very high gesture of delegation, moved by trust, and this deserves respect and responsibility. I will never cease to insist on these aspects, which pertain not only to the communication and fundraising plan, but to the ethics of the organisation”.