Joe Jenkins is Director of Supporter Impact and Income for the Children’s Society. His previous role was building the engagement programme for Friends of the Earth, and prior to that he worked at a marketing agency for the charity sector, and at the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
Putting your supporters at the heart of what you do cannot just be a slogan. When we thought about value, we wanted to think about that in the round. Yes, financial contributions are important, but how do we enable people to pay the fullest role that they can — you need people to volunteer their time, you need people to bring their voice, their networks, their ideas, their social capital, everything that they can bring to bear is what it’s going to take to achieve some of the goals that the organisation has.
You have to change your business model and metrics. We have put a lot of effort into defining lifetime value as the overarching metric that drives our programme. And what we’ve developed is a model that looks at the different dimensions of the way that supporters can contribute to The Children’s Society. So we’ve looked at both time and voice as well as financial support, recognising what people’s motivations and interests and preferences are and providing them the best means to be able to engage in order to increase the contribution that they make.
You have to have everyone on board. What we are all working on is how we square the financial model with the lifetime value, making sure that what’s driving the programme are the right objectives, the right perspective, the right long-term ambition. And to have a long-term view of that financial plan, so that the agreement we have with trustees, with the senior leadership team, including our finance director and so on is this is about building value over the long term.
We’re at the beginning of the learning curve. I should say that we’re not ten years into this programme. We’re in the first year of it. So of course, we’re learning as we go. The last year has been about both getting that alignment I was describing amongst trustees, senior leadership and the wider organization, and setting the framework, the direction of travel and so on, testing and learning as we go.
There are two types of conversation to have. They are personal and personalised. Our personal conversations are one to one, sitting face to face, you know the person. And you build a relationship on that basis. Where we have a much larger group of people than we can sit down and get to know individually, the experience we want to have is one that’s personalised. So to all extent and purposes, we’re still able to reflect that we know who they are, we know what they care about.
A conversation is sequential and two-way. Let’s say I send you a charity appeal and it was about a young carer. Next time, I’ll send you another appeal about something completely different. You might then get a campaigning ask and it is like different people are speaking to you. We’re changing all this and the experience we want for our supporters is to feel like they’re having an ongoing conversation that much more tailored and relevant to them.
GDPR breaks the maths on the quantity model. If your model continues to be based on high volume, then you’ve got some real problems. Regulations like GDPR [the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation] break the maths behind the model. The model we’re building is one in which it’s really focused on quality rather than quantity.
New regulation is going to create perverse incentives. Some of the least popular forms of communication — unaddressed mail, face to face, door to door and so on — won’t be constrained by GDPR and FPS [the Fundraising Preference Service] So there’s a perverse incentive to put more money into them in order to build volume. But I guess my view is that volume isn’t the business model of the future and therefore I’m less concerned about the constraints around GDPR and other regulation because I think it will be about quality of relationship.
Cause & Effect is a series from Hope, in which leading figures who have been involved in building and promoting good causes tell us what they’ve learned from their experiences. Interview by Michael Isaacs.