By Caoileann Appleby - Nov 19 2018
In Ireland we are often compared – and compare ourselves – to the UK: in sports, the arts, or just the fine art of caffeine consumption (the UK is third in per capita tea consumption…but Ireland is in second place).
When it comes to best practice in fundraising, in the absence of robust and comprehensive information and stats on Irish charities, we often look to the UK as a benchmark.
And sure, we’re more alike than many nations are. But having worked in the UK and Ireland, I know from experience what works in the UK won’t necessarily work here.
And our similarities certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t also important differences that matter to donors – and anything that matters to donors matters to your fundraising.
In our second qualitative research project, conducted jointly with Bluefrog Fundraising earlier this year, we wanted to get to know the Irish core donors: those who set up direct debits and write cheques for modest amounts, the ~80% of your file. In all, we interviewed thirty supporters from five different charities (and these supporters gave to over forty Irish charities in total).
Here are two of the most important ways this study tells us that Irish donors differ from those in the UK (and USA):
1) Would you believe…
… that faith is a factor? Of course.
But it’s not as straightforward as the stereotypes about “Catholic guilt”. Very few donors told us that they were religious now, or that their religion had a direct impact on their decision to give (in fact, when directly asked, many explicitly told us they weren't at all religious!).
However, when asked why they give to charities, most of our supporters referenced a religious influence in their education and/or family life:
In the main it comes from upbringing, an approach we were taught in school. I had an education by the Dominican nuns so there would have been a big emphasis on looking after people.
You should be giving something towards somebody. From my ma’s head.
So it wasn’t that their giving is dictated by religious belief or practice, and it’s not about guilt either; it was more that they saw giving as a positive value, a social duty, something a good Irish person should do, because that’s what they were taught as children.
So what does this mean for you?
- If you’re a religious charity, this is good news (pardon the pun): we’ve had great success with campaigns which aren’t afraid to wear their religion on their sleeve, whether that’s using Biblical quotes in our copy or simply asking them to reflect on their values (like “the real meaning of Christmas”).
- But if you’re a secular charity, this is relevant for you, too: you can boost that sense of social, collective action in your messaging. And remember, even if you’re not a religious charity, you very likely have many supporters whose giving is influenced by their religious upbringing. Try using language that reflects that.
2) Location, location, location
You know that game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? It’s based on the premise that everyone in the world is only six connections away from anyone else.
In Ireland, it’s more like two.
It's probably three.
Buy me a drink some time and ask me how I know!)
For Irish supporters, they liked knowing their charities were embedded in the local area and community:
Once a week in the evening I drive up [past the centre]… by my choice that’s something I contribute to, to some small extent, and I’m glad it’s there.”
Some mentioned being reassured by seeing the charity on Irish TV or their spokesperson in the papers. They particularly valued being invited in to the charity to see the work and meet the volunteers (even if they don’t go): it contributes to a sense of trust. They know the charity has nothing to hide.
You can actually see [the work] because [we] have been down to look at what’s happening.
The other charities are always inviting me to pop in and have a look around... I haven’t taken any up just yet but I hope I will sometime.
How can you make the most of this?
- Invite supporters to tour your facilities or meet the team (just inviting supporters – even if they don’t accept – boosts donation response). Make sure supporters know that you’re Irish, local, and working in their area – especially if you’re based somewhere with a strong regional identity (like Cork).
- What if your charity is in international development or doesn’t do much work in Ireland? That’s okay. Find your Irish connections – whether that’s a local volunteer, or an Irish worker abroad - and use their voices in your fundraising. Relate your work to their lives. Our summer appeal for Trócaire from Sarah McCan – reflecting on the differences between farming in Tipperary and Zimbabwe – had core supporters responding in record numbers.
To be continued...
I'll be sharing the final key takeaway from our unique research very soon: if you'd like to be the first to have it in your inbox, subscribe here. And if you'd like to dig into what your donors really think, get in touch!
 Donors were randomly selected from files made up of (a) active regular donors giving at least €80 per year or (b) donors who gave two or more gifts of between €15 and €100 in the last 12 months or (c) both.