BirdLife and marketing

To: 'Paul Sullivan' <>
Subject: BirdLife and marketing
From: Stephen Ambrose <>
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 2015 04:10:14 +0000
For the last few years, a representative of the university from which I
graduated has phoned me once a year to ask if I would be interested in
donating money towards student scholarships.  Each year's appeal is preceded
by a letter from the university's alumni office alerting graduates that over
the next month we can expect a phone call asking for a donation. So there is
a warning that we will receive a phone call, rather than it being a cold
call.  The phone calls are made by student volunteers who, not only ask for
a donation, but spend about 15 minutes engaging in a informal chat enquiring
about the graduate's experiences as a student, how one's studies
helped/didn't help one find a career, and asking about what they could
expect if they took the same career pathway. The student volunteers are from
the same educational stream as the alumni they are contacting, so a
biological sciences student would speak to a biological sciences graduate,
an engineering student with an engineering graduate, etc.  Therefore, you
know that any advice you give to the student over the phone is relevant to
that student.  But it is not all one-way traffic, because it is also an
opportunity for the graduate to ask the students about their university
experiences, what they expect once they have completed their degree(s) and,
just as importantly, you can ask them directly how any money you may donate
would be spent.  On each occasion, I have found the student volunteers I
have spoken to over the phone extremely courteous, enthusiastic and
genuinely interested in the advice provided.  On a personal level, I have
found it an extremely effective marketing approach, the level of interest,
comprehension of advice and courtesy of the student determining the amount
that I donate each year.  If one agrees to make a donation, then the
university sends a personalised letter of thanks with details on how to make
a tax deductible payment.

Perhaps a similar approach could be taken by BLA. A letter could be sent out
to members/supporters alerting them that they would receive a phone call
within a month or two about an appeal to raise money for a specific research
project or conservation cause.  The calls could be made by designated
birding volunteers (not marketers) from the BLA head office or branches (if
it is for a national project), or just from the branches (if it is for a
local project). Two-way conversations could follow about each party's
perceptions of funding priorities for bird conservation & research and an
opportunity for the potential donor to question how donations would be
spent.  Perhaps in the initial letter to be sent out to members/supporters,
a tentative breakdown of the proposed expenditure of project funds (if the
target is met) could be provided, so that potential donors can see how their
money would be spent. This would give potential donors more confidence in
discussing the project when they receive the subsequent phone call that
requests a donation. If one agrees during the phone conversation to make a
donation, then BLA would need to send a personalised letter of thanks with
details on how to make a (usually online) tax deductible payment.

This approach is obviously labour-intensive, would have initial costs
involved (e.g. phone, mailing and printing costs) which should be covered by
the receipt of donations, and is bound to annoy some people. But it is a way
of communicating on a one-to-one basis with members of a captured and
(hopefully) interested audience.  The university that I referred to in this
email has used this fund-raising technique for at least the last five years,
suggesting that it is one that works for them. I don't see any reason why it
wouldn't work for BLA, provided that members/supporters have the option of
saying "no" to receiving a phone call once they have received the initial
letter alerting them of the appeal, and that the BLA does actually honour
the "no" request. Perhaps a scaled-down approach, if there are inadequate
resources, could involve an initial letter of appeal for funds being sent to
all members and supporters, alerting them that a subset (rather than
everyone) would be phoned, with different subsets being phoned each year, to
avoid the same people receiving a phone call every year.

Of course, the success of such an approach depends on the ability of BLA to
call upon enough birding volunteers to "man the phones", for two-way phone
conversations to be courteous and efficient, for members/supporters to be
tolerant of fund-raising efforts and willing to donate, and for BLA to be
upfront about how raised funds would be spent.

Kind regards,

Stephen Ambrose
Ryde, NSW

-----Original Message-----
From: Birding-Aus  On Behalf Of
Paul Sullivan
Sent: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 6:45 AM
To: Shirley Cook
Subject: BirdLife and marketing

It is not a defence, Shirley. I'm very proud of this organisation and what
it achieves with our staff and volunteers. All professional organisations
use emails as a communications tool. Why not buy a calendar for Christmas
and help BirdLife protect birds? The photography is terrific and it profiles
our work.

Thank you for all the personal messages of support. I will try and get to
them soon.

Paul Sullivan
Chief Executive
BirdLife Australia
0477 007522

> On 9 Dec 2015, at 06:20, Shirley Cook <> wrote:
> Oh, dear me!
> even this "defence" has a marketing message in the tail!!

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