Following the release of an UK e-campaigning benchmark study, Duane from fairsay asked a group of practitioners the following question:
"By now, many of you have dug into the 2009 eCampaigning Review (http://fairsay.com/ecr09). You will thus have noticed that there are a few areas where *many organisations are doing very poorly*. *Why do you think that is?*
50%+ of supporters had not taken any action in the last 18 months for almost half the organisations
70% of /active/ supporters had only taken 1 action in the last 18 months
The discussion on the list was interesting reaching from "the issue is capacity" to "the issue is strategy as well".
Below is my contribution to this discussion which was based on my experience in the past couple of years ...
Due to the nature of Duane's research, we are in danger of falling into a trap of silo-ing people into 'Campaigners'. If we look at our supporters in this way, then yes, it is a problem if they only take ONE action in 18 months.
But we know that it is entirely possible that a supporter will engage in other ways over years - by attending an event, filling in an action card, donating, purchasing merchandise/virtual gift, running a marathon, donating in memory of someone, filling in an order form, etc, etc...
Now this points to few related and common problems in charity communications:
- no integration between online and offline databases - therefore no 360 degrees view of a supporter. In other words, one person could be interacting with an organisation online as well as offline. But due to the lack of integration between databases where this data is being held and/or lack of enough data to de-dupe records, that individual might appear inactive. Or that individual could represent two, three, four different people - depending on how many disparate databases their data is held on.
- due to the lack of a full view of how a supporter interacts with an organisation, it's hard/time-consuming to decide what kind of retainment strategy should be developed. Therefore we could be communicating to a supporter who has only taken one online action as if they were an 'inactive supporter' because we are unaware of their 'offline' or just non-campaigning online activities.
- silos in the organisation - in order to create an overall, corporate, supporter development strategy which offers people a number of ways to engage, different teams in an organisation need to collaborate on it's development. Which can be hard because every team feels a little bit that they 'own' THEIR Campaigners, or Donors, or Teachers, etc, etc - basically the fact that one supporter could be all three is hard to grasp.
- going back to e-campaigning - As Andrew said "Not every campaign is well suited to public mobilization". And we still do it because, in our lobbying efforts, we need to show that there is public/voter support for an issue. But sometimes we need to create campaigns with the sole purpose of engaging less active lists or recruiting a specific age-group or retaining very active campaigners. And not every Campaigns and Policy team buys into this.
These issues are much harder to resolve in bigger organisations and working in a small organisation could actually be an advantage.