Do your fundraising communications work instantly?

by Christiana Stergiou

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Greenpeace Australia Pacific recently developed a good looking and effective suite of welcome materials for it’s new regular monthly givers. The great news is that they’ve already reduced the number of those cancelling their monthly gift in the first three months by 36 per cent.

Chris Washington-Sare, Head of Fundraising and Marketing, recently shared the experience of developing Greenpeace’s welcome process with an eager audience of knowledge-hungry fundraisers at the Australasian Fundraising Forum.

But I was curious and wanted to know more. So when I asked Chris to share even more, he didn’t hesitate.

How a background in typography helps make for a bloody good fundraiser

For many fundraisers, fundraising is their second or third career. Some started as journalists, some as teachers, some as nurses, but Chris started his working life as a typographer.

In case, like me, you have no idea what a typographer is, Chris explains that typography is the graphical arrangement of words and letters to communicate effectively.  It’s the analytical side of design.

“And the challenge is being able to not only have that analytical side, but also the free-spirited creativity that comes with really, really good design. I think the challenge I found with being a typographer was being able to be creative and spontaneous while also being able to communicate effectively.”

So, I imagine that a background in typography is, amongst countless other talents, going to stand you in good stead when you’re the Head of Fundraising and Marketing for Greenpeace Asia Pacific.

The main design mistake that nonprofits make (does this sound familiar?)

For Chris, it’s a very simple call: “If I can’t pick up something and get the essence of exactly what it’s saying within a heartbeat, then for me that communication has failed. It’s the whole idea of a single-minded proposition. What does this communication intend to do? If I don’t get it instantly, then there’s a problem.”

This guiding principle may frustrate those around him, and often the response is that you’ve got to give people the time to read through the materials, or to understand the complexity of the subject. Chris believes all this can all be done later. First things first: “do you get the essence of the message instantly?”

How one question can answer so much

Clarity of message was one of the key challenges when Greenpeace undertook to re-engineer its welcome process. Chris admits that the materials suffered because Greenpeace has so much to say, and therefore the materials reflected that and lacked coherence.

“In fact, the primary thing we needed to ask ourselves was, ‘What was the purpose of the welcome process’? And that was to stop attrition, specifically in the first three months. We then asked, ‘What is the essence of message we want to communicate?’ And that, quite simply was to say, ‘Thank you for being a Greenpeace supporter’. Once we clarified that, it became a lot easier to decide what we need to achieve and how we should go about it.”

From that starting point, Greenpeace brain stormed the problem and identified the need for external input to address the problem. As a result Greenpeace asked three agencies to tender for the project.

Chris’s primary criterion for selecting the agency was how well they answered the brief. Secondary criteria included the experience in working with nonprofits, experience in developing welcome and retention programs and price.

Chris says, “I really don’t believe in free pitches, so I don’t look for creative work; what I’m interested in is seeing their strategic approach to the problem.”

Chris’s tips to help you better understand and engage with design:

  1. You don’t need to have loads of money. Good process design actually comes from an understanding, in minute detail, how your business operates. It’s for you to question, ‘Is that the best way of running things?’ (As part of the welcome process, Greenpeace completely re-engineered its back office, including its database so staff spent less time stuffing envelopes and more time fundraising.)
  2. Develop a design brief. To make it simple, these four key questions will pretty much cover any creative brief: Who are we? What do we want to do? What do we require? And to whom are we talking?
  3. Develop an appreciation and knowledge of good graphic communication. You should be able to say, ‘I like this piece of marketing material, and I like it because it does this.’ That goes a long way in being able to communicate with the designer. And it doesn’t mean you’re asking a designer to imitate a piece, but it will help to steer them in a certain direction.
  4. Build a catalogue of the design, brochures, websites and graphics you like, and challenge yourself to be clear about why you like them. You can bookmark, categorise, keep notes and share with friends on an online bookmarking site like delicious.

Inspiration is everywhere

To help build your library, here are some of Chris’s favourite ‘inspiration’ resources, ranging from news to street art to record labels. Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, StumbleUpon, Wooster Collective, boomkat, Inspiration Room, as well as charity sites like Humane Chain and charity:water. (And one of my favourite is Greenpeace’s Dirty Kev micro-site. I’m sure modesty kept Chris from mentioning it.)

Want more?

Take a look at the Greenpeace Welcome Pack Exhibit on www.sofii.org, which will also link you through to many of the components of the Welcome Pack.

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