Wood for Trees on The Science of Engagement

December 5, 2017 News, News & Opinion

At last week’s Institute of Fundraisers Insight in Fundraising conference, themed “The Science of Engagement”, Wood for Trees made two appearances on stage – on each occasion partnering one of our consultant analysts with a client to demonstrate how our analytical input has delivered beneficial effects to their fundraising.

Andrew Sargent appeared with Jane West of Centrepoint, the homeless charity, to talk about the way the charity has been able to make use of econometric analyses. Sam Stafford took a session with Symon Russell of Barnardo’s, to show how analysis has delivered a strategic approach for their cash and raffle programmes.

Centrepoint uses a wide range of fundraising channels, each aimed at different audiences. They needed to be more accurate in attributing how overall fundraising performance was affected by these individually. Each activity is measured, but taken as a whole, they sometimes become more than the sum of their parts. So: how to evaluate the cumulative effect of different activities such as large-scale media partnerships – and how to optimise that in future?

Econometrics provides an analytical basis for measuring the relative effect of activities, alone and in combination, on the bottom line. It enables Centrepoint to measure the effect of other external influences – such as the weather. For a homeless charity, one might expect the weather to have an effect on people’s propensity to give – econometrics shows whether the long-range forecast can become a valuable campaign planning tool.

Other features of their fundraising landscape also required illumination: How far does a big media partnership rub off on overall charity brand values? Do other previously unrecognised factors significantly affect fundraising performance? Do paid-for media activities cast a halo beyond their immediate response rates?

Econometrics enables Centrepoint to use statistics and analysis to test its hypotheses, and thence to predict future trends, providing them with the means to decipher the halo effect of many different activities and to look beyond ROI in terms of value to the organisation. It has been transformational in developing an effective strategy for modern-day fundraising.

Among the learnings for delegates from this session were:

  • Precise accountability of results enabled a stronger case to be made for increased investment in certain channels – eg DRTV
  • Econometrics highlighted external influences that could positively affect fundraising performance such as weather, Facebook ads
  • Digital is proving an increasingly important ‘harvester’ of activity – also underlining the importance of a clear, over-arching fundraising proposition

Sam Stafford partnered with Symon Russell of Barnardo’s to discuss their award-winning work to use analysis to develop a strategic approach to cash and raffle programmes.

This analysis is set against a background of cash and raffle appeal programmes that had seen increasing mailing volume over the previous four years despite decreasing gross income. Allied to this was a desire to ensure that Barnardo’s are delivering truly relevant content to supporters – mindful of the need to maintain consent to contact them as GDPR approaches.

A deep dive analysis of the cash and raffle programme provided a detailed, evidence based assessment of the performance of the programme across a range of different KPIs and supporter segments, which provided context for the supporter centric model development

By developing two separate sets of logistic regression models (one set for each programme) Barnardo’s were able to evaluate each supporter’s likelihood to respond to the different appeals and as such deliver a tailored combined programme for each supporter

Using the combined propensity models Barnardo’s could accurately forecast appeal results and target the campaigns to maximise both net income and response volume.

This work is considered an significant success at the charity, and it has laid the foundation for developing analysis in other areas. The direct and indirect benefits include:

  • Using new insights to extend the cash appeal programme by almost 15% to supporters previously not involved
  • Overall, significantly exceeded budgeted net income from appeals in 2016/17
  • On average forecasting accuracy has been 95% across the cash and raffle appeals using this approach
  • Maximising opportunities to engage with supporters and update their channel consent

At a very challenging time for the sector the charity has been able to develop a relatively aggressive strategy for their cash and raffle programme with confidence. This confidence is underpinned by the careful work with consent statements, and by the knowledge that the increase in the programme volume this year has not yielded any noticeable increase in complaint rates.


For more information about either session, please get in touch with Andrew or Sam through the website contact form. Many thanks!

Photos below courtesy of the Institute of Fundraisers Insight in Fundraising Conference

Jane West Centrepoint and Andrew Sargent Wood for Trees

Jane West of Centrepoint and Andrew Sargent, Wood for Trees

Sam Stafford, Wood for Trees, and Symon Russell, Barnardo's

Sam Stafford, Wood for Trees, and Symon Russell, Barnardo’s

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