Sightsavers’ Fundraising Director shares the importance of accountability and engagement with Sightsavers’ supporters, and the impact this has on her work.
As an organisation we couldn’t exist without our supporters. Every single one of them is important to us and every day we strive to keep those relationships positive and make our supporters proud to be part of Sightsavers. This is more important now than ever. Times are changing around regulation and transparency, the public and the media are asking more questions, and fundraisers are having to rethink the way things have always been done.
Honesty is the best policy
Our approach to transparency and accountability isn’t a secret. Good relationships are built on honesty. As fundraisers we need to be honest with ourselves and with our supporters, and if I’m honest with you this hasn’t always been easy. Balancing the need for income, and the need to ask, with what our supporters want has always been a tricky one.
The way I see it, it’s all about reasonable expectations. My team are briefed to be able to talk about our fundraising and the campaigns that they are working on with confidence – confident that they are the best they can be, and confident that it’s the right thing for both the organisation and the supporter. That symbiosis is critical to our ongoing existence.
Over the past 18 months we’ve had to make some difficult decisions in order to keep both sides of the relationship happy. We’re mailing less people, less frequently – this has had an impact on income because we all know ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’, but I’d like to think that it has created a better supporter experience. We’re more measured in our approach than we may have been a few years ago, and are always asking the question ‘what’s right for our supporters?’
Award winning supporter care
The other focus for us has been around supporter care. Every interaction is an opportunity for us to speak to our supporters, and understand their concerns and queries. Last year I was incredibly proud that the team won ‘Best Charity’ in the Top 50 Customer Service awards. They work hard to keep up our high standards and are personally invested in looking after each and every one of our supporters.
Our memberships of bodies like Accountable Now, the Fundraising Regulator and the Direct Marketing Association all help towards our drive for transparency and accountability. We’re striving to do the right things for the right reasons.
Whilst I firmly believe that people in the fundraising profession are in it for the right reasons, and actually we’ve all had a bit of a hard time of it over recent months, I also feel that we may have lost sight of who, and what, is important. Clearly we only exist for our beneficiaries, to make the world a better place – to end poverty, cure cancer, beat child abuse, or save sight – but we also have a responsibility to those who donate to us, and put their trust in us to spend their donations wisely, to ‘do good’ and think about the pennies. Honesty is always the best policy.
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