Charities to debate donor experience

Charities in the UK were urged to debate the future of the donor experience at a PRCA Charity & Not-For-Profit Group event in London.

Speakers from the Commission for the Donor Experience, Copper Digital and former government minister Paul Burstow, all claimed that charity public relations and communications plays a vital role in the future of fundraising and re-building trust in the sector.

Richard Spencer from the Commission on the Donor Experience argued that in the future charities will have to adapt to a climate of reduced trust in charitable organisations and move away from a “Victorian-era” donation system where broadcast messages are relied on to deliver returns. He said:

Over saturation and aggressive fundraising in the past has resulted in people believing that the Olive Cook front pages could be true and most people have crossed the road to avoid a fundraiser.

The Commission on Donor Experience is trying to close the disconnect between the discussion and development of best practice and the front line delivery of fundraising.

Beneficiaries need to be at the heart of what is communicated by charities.

Simon Francis, Co-Chair of the PRCA’s Charity & Not-For-Profit Group, said:

Potential donors now experience an excess of information from charities, but suffer from a dearth in time to pay attention to communications. This means charity communications needs to be less broadcast and more hard working.

At the same time, charities need to recognise the long-term consumer journey on the path to donation of money. The innovative charities of the future will also spend more time looking at the “supporter experience” from engaging on social media, through to volunteering and financially supporting a charity.

All these are donations of influence, time or money and all are equally important to charities.

Putting supporters at the heart of communications was backed by former government Minister, Rt. Hon. Paul Burstow as part of the solution to improving charities’ perception with MPs:

Since the formation of a Tory government, everything that the sector might traditionally try in lobbying doesn’t work.

The best way now to engage with MPs is for charities to provide the logistical and infrastructure support to enable those with real experiences, such as volunteers and beneficiaries, to speak to those in power.

This is especially important at a local level – that’s where the door to hearing from charities is still very much open.

Tim Kitchin from Copper Digital is leading the Commission’s review into Media relations and the public face of charities. He added:

While there may be lots of cause to be despairing about the reputation of charities the vast majority of media coverage is still positive.

The greatest stories are personal stories, the stories from the grassroots and these are lapped up by the media.

We’re encouraging all communicators to feedback on our review and specific recommendations.

To contact the Commission for the Donor Experience, visit

For more information on the PRCA’s work on charity reputation, visit

Preview image: Flickr / Creative Commons / Dave Catchpole

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