Typewriter with paper and donations printed on it

Is it time to upgrade?

Upgrade campaigns – we know you know about them, but when did you last run one? If it wasn’t in the last 12 months, why is that?

Perhaps the thought of asking your valued donors to put their hands in their pockets at this strange time is a bit much. Perhaps it’s a high risk strategy which could offend, upset or annoy your supporters, resulting in the cancellation of regular or one-gifts, or even prompting letters of complaint. Perhaps it’s just easier to rely on signing up new donors and supporters, rather than asking existing ones to increase their support.

But as we’re sure you know, asking existing donors to upgrade their membership, or donation, or frequency of gift is the single most natural way to increase your annual revenue.  The people most likely to give to your charity are the people who gave last year, not new people.

So how do we approach this at QTS?

Firstly, we prepare guidelines which really appeal to the donor. Donors tend to upgrade because they believe in the charity’s mission (which we emphasise), because they trust the charity to spend their money wisely (which we demonstrate), and thirdly because they are being asked to (which we do!).

Then we telephone the donors – who might be regular givers, members, lottery players, and genuinely thank them for their support. Alongside providing them with an update from the charity, we ask whether they are in a position to offer any further help by increasing their regular support. If an upgrade is not feasible for a supporter, we often provide an alternative ask which is non-financial, like getting involved in a virtual event for example, which is quite popular in uptake by supporters. And, we can even address gift aid conversion as part of the call.

Laura Larrett, Individual Giving Manager for Education Support shares her experiences of upgrade campaigns:

“This is my second year working with Ben and the team at QTS and they have made the whole process very easy. We’ve had complete ownership of the call script, feeding into it with key messages and have been given the opportunity to speak to all of the callers before the campaign started to make sure they have all the background information they needed.

“Our regular gift upgrade campaigns have performed far better than we expected thanks to the team. They’ve been calling our regular donors and asking them to increase their gift. Last year we saw around a 35% conversion rate, this year has been even better with a conversion rate at almost 39%. It’s also been a good opportunity to clean up our donors’ contact details, contact preferences and Gift Aid status.”

Her thoughts are echoed by Trevin Chengabroyen Campaign Manager – Regular Giving, Wood Green:

“Our recent upgrade campaign surpassed all expectations. After optimising our data selection, subsequently increasing the data by 10 times compared to the previous campaign, we were unsure if we would maintain efficiencies, especially given the current Covid situation. We however reduced our overall cost per action on the campaign, whilst increasing the average upgrade gift AND converting 47% of the supporters we spoke to, which was nearly double what we saw on the last campaign.”

Alfie Wright, Senior Individual Giving Manager at Sue Ryder adds:

“Upgrade calls have been a fixture of the IG programme at Sue Ryder for many years (and in most DM programmes I have worked on). If done right, they allow you to deepen engagement with your regular giving supporters while raising more income from your programme. We weren’t sure what the response would be like in the current climate, but we have seen record results and fantastic feedback from our supporters.”

Here at QTS it’s been proven time and time again that methodical upgrading techniques almost always result in substantial increases. Usually we’d expect to see anything between 18% and 25%, so to achieve 39% and 47% with just two of our clients is pretty amazing, but also perhaps reflective of the current generous mood of the public.

Laura confirms her earlier thoughts:

“I think what makes QTS so unique is that they take the time to have a conversation with the donors, which we know our supporters greatly enjoy. The calls we’ve heard have been of really high quality. Many of our elderly donors enjoy the opportunity to reminisce about their time as teachers with the callers and share their reasons they started supporting our charity. Also, giving them the opportunity to increase their regular gift makes them feel like they’re still part of the teaching community and making a difference to their colleagues.”

Have we made donor upgrading sound more appealing? Let us know – and if you’d like us to work with you on a campaign, we’d love to hear from you.

About the author: Ben Suffell

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