WWF-UK and Scope came together to explore whether the way in which they each fundraise could impact on their donors’ willingness to support the work of the other charity. So, for example, might it be that the way in which WWF-UK engages its supporters around conservation has an effect on the level of concern that those same supporters express about disability?
This is a very important – and overlooked – question. Could it be that some approaches to fundraising – while perhaps effective for an individual organisation – actually serve to erode concern for other charitable causes? Conversely, might it be possible to identify approaches to fundraising which actually strengthen donors’ motivation to support the work of other charities? And in this, how might a fundraising communication, optimised for strengthening wider concern, impact on a charity’s own fundraising objectives?
Working with social psychologists Greg Maio at the University of Cardiff and Netta Weinstein at the University of Essex, we predicted that an understanding of cultural values, and the way in which a particular fundraising communication engages with these, would have an effect on motivation to support a wide range of social and environmental causes.
To test this, we designed a trial in which we re-engaged lapsed Scope and WWF-UK supporters through regular text giving. We designed material which engaged a particularly ‘intrinsic’ set of values. Intrinsic values relate to connection to other people and to nature, a sense of helpfulness and community. Some supporters were provided with this material, some with ‘business as usual material’, and some with control material.
First, we examined the effectiveness of this material in re-engaging lapsed supporters.
Encouragingly, both lapsed WWF-UK and lapsed Scope supporters were more likely to re-engage when they were given material designed to connect with intrinsic values. This result seems to confirm the argument advanced by the academics with whom we are working: values matter in motivating giving.
But what about those supporters’ concern about other issues?
The trial still has six months to run, so we don’t yet know the answer to this question. As I write this, we are just finishing off the first of our ‘cross-sell’ tests: calling up all the participants in the trial and asking them if they would like to donate to Scope, and vice-versa. As can be imagined, this is a test which runs against the grain for many fundraisers – and it certainly couldn’t have happened without Nesta’s support! We’ll be able to report on the results of this trial over the coming months.
Fundraising communications are crucially important in shaping most people’s attitudes towards giving, and even their response to social and environmental problems more generally. It is essential, therefore, to take time to step outside the competitive framework of our individual charities and ask: what wider effects are our fundraising communications having? The Innovation in Giving Fund offered us the opportunity to do this – so far as we know, in the first ever collaboration between WWF-UK and Scope!