Daniel McDonnell: Time for charities to focus on long-term fundraising

15 Mar 2023 Expert insight

Unicef’s global face-to-face fundraising specialist explains why the charity has shifted its face-to-face-strategy from volume targets to supporter lifetime value.



This content has been supplied by a commercial partner.

As operations shut down across the world, many for six months at a time, 2020 and 2021 were devastating years for face-to-face fundraising (F2F), with thousands of jobs lost and donors left unrecruited.  

While F2F has now largely recovered, this almost complete standstill at a time when other acquisition channels were accelerating also provided an opportunity to reflect. What this revealed was an overreliance on an acquisition strategy that was becoming untenable.   

Like many other charities, our focus at Unicef pre-pandemic was almost exclusively on growing and optimising acquisition. But it’s an approach that invites F2F fundraisers to concentrate on volume rather than quality long-term net revenue. For F2F to add real value, the focus needs to shift further towards achieving sustainable revenue. And this means looking holistically at the entire F2F journey, so the emphasis is on recruiting supporters who are likely to stay long-term and providing them with an experience that makes them want to. F2F is the only truly large-scale push marketing strategy to recruit new donors and there must be an awareness of this. However, there is still much that can be done increase the lifetime value of a F2F recruited donor.  

At the start of 2022, recognising the need for a sharpening of our own programme, we made this shift with the launch of a new strategy that, for the first time, has no global target for volume.  

Using the new technology offered by modern CRMs and digital signups, we are working to deliver a holistic journey with a major focus on supporter lifetime value (LTV) and other quality focused KPIs. This means increased attention on the first 12 months of a F2F recruited donor’s life, where attrition and value loss for Unicef is highest. 

This means changes across the whole process, including: 

Eliminating ‘death by silo’ – encouraging all relevant stakeholders and teams to work together in understanding and analysing the entire donor journey. Using journey mapping tools, we identify and discuss pain points and opportunities in aquisition and ongoing donor communication to see where we can optimise. Then we test, test and test some more, with a focus on being audience focused. From ‘dropping’ donor journey touch points into a dialogue and measuring the impact that has on donor engagement, to changing the channel of the welcome message or creating typology surveys to better understand donor motivation, we are on a mission to improve the donor experience and break down silos. 

Being more data driven – by accessing historical data and understanding the lifetime value of F2F recruited donors, we can make informed decisions on how and who we need to target for the best possible return on investment for our beneficiaries. Most importantly, we can communicate to managers, team leaders and fundraisers alike what a donor is worth in the long term, shifting their focus to engage in the most valuable conversations.   

Training and quality control – we have built a best practice guide on how to engage our fundraisers from day one to month 12. This covers everything from training and refresher training, inspiration sessions, and feedback from welcome calls and signup surveys, to mystery shopping and KPIs, right through to celebration in success and personalised thank yous.  

Interactive and multimedia training covers global codes of conduct, fraud awareness, and child safeguarding – and delivers certificates on completion that can be attached as a badge to their LinkedIn profiles. We have also created the Fundraiser Support Interview, which involves interviewing a fundraiser, then quantifying it against a list of checkpoints to inform training needs. Most importantly, this turns fundraiser knowledge and skill level into a manageable KPI for our partner agencies and in-house teams.  

We want to ensure our fundraisers feel equipped, valued, empowered, motivated and inspired to deliver best in class conversations. 

It’s an approach that’s essential to ensure our F2F campaigns deliver the best possible return on investment for our beneficiaries, and experience for our fundraisers and donors. 

Daniel McDonnell is Unicef’s global face-to-face fundraising specialist. He will be speaking at the inaugural International F2F Fundraising Congress (#F2FCongress23) taking place in Vienna this 30 May to 1 June.

More on