“Dare to ask donors how things can be done better” - Jolien Pardon, responsible for prospection and acquisition at Belgian Red Cross-Flanders
16 February 2021
Jolien Pardon has been responsible for prospecting and acquisition of new donors (individual and monthly donors) at Belgian Red Cross-Flanders for two years. Before this, she worked for four years in communication and marketing.
"Fundraising fits in well with my previous experience, as you often use similar techniques in marketing and fundraising. Through professional actions I help ensure that Belgian Red Cross-Flanders can always help vulnerable people, which is what drives me in my work. I get the most satisfaction from positive reactions to our fundraising campaigns. When a donor lets me know that they are happy to support our activities. Or when I see what local departments can achieve thanks to a successful campaign."
"I find the support of fundraising, both internal and external, an obstacle in the job. Fundraising does not always have the best image - the word 'begging (bedelen)' will sound familiar to any fundraiser - although it is an indispensable part of any NGO. So we regularly communicate this to our volunteers. Without donors, we cannot provide the help that is needed."
More focus on digital, but face-to-face remains important
For Red Cross Flanders, face-to-face recruitment to find monthly donors is an important fundraising method. "A personal conversation helps to convince someone to support your activities in the long term. But since every donor is unique, with their own preferences, every communication channel is important. We want to focus more on digital fundraising, without replacing offline channels," Jolien clarifies.
Negative and positive impact of the corona crisis on fundraising
During the corona crisis, face-to-face fundraising (both in the street and door-to-door) was forced to stop (during the lockdown in spring 2020 and the current lockdown since late October). "Also our well-known sticker campaign could not take place in April because of this. The alternative action, in which we handed out stickers with the appeal to support the local chapter with a donation, did not have the same success. With only €700,000 compared to €3.2 million the year before, it was a financial setback," Jolien says.
"Nevertheless, we noticed that there was a lot of sympathy for the Red Cross during the corona crisis. We were immediately on standby in the fight against the virus, and we still provide a lot of support today. We received more media attention, which turned out to have a positive effect on one-off donations. The exceptional 60% tax deduction for donations in 2020 will also have played a role in this. We highlighted this favourable measure on our website, in our letters, e-mails...".
Red Cross-Flanders shifted gears to other fundraising methods during the corona crisis. "Ways in which 'live' contact is not necessary, such as telemarketing, direct mailing and online donations. Since 2020, we also have a revamped online action platform."
Strong campaigns by fellow fundraisers
"I think it is important to follow the fundraising campaigns of other organisations to see how they communicate. Personally, I like to follow the campaigns of WWF and Greenpeace. I have been a monthly donor to WWF, among others, for years. They have a rewarding topic: animals and nature conservation. These are issues that are close to my heart. Greenpeace had a nice Facebook post during Black Friday, referring to the 60% tax deduction: "Exceptional offer for GREEN Friday: -60% on your donation!" Then I thought: damn, if only I had thought of that." For Red Cross-Flanders, we also regularly look at the communication of similar organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Doctors of the World. They have strong and recognisable campaigns. That's why I also think it's important to be a member of the FAB, to always learn new techniques, benchmarking, cases, etc. And you stay in contact with fundraisers from other organisations."
An advice for fellow fundraisers? "Dare to question your own functioning and actions. Be critical of yourself. Ask partners honestly how they can do better, or even better: ask your donors. Not every action will be equally successful, do not be discouraged by this, but take these learnings with you", Jolien concludes.
Belgian Red Cross-Flanders
Belgian Red Cross-Flanders forms part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Our mission involves three strands, namely to defend the interests of vulnerable people both at home and abroad, to be proactive in emergency-management, promoting self-reliance and organising blood supplies, and to care for vulnerable individuals.