Cash asks

Over the years we’ve had many discussions with clients on the role of ‘cash asks’ to inspire new support, especially in relation to DRTV and digital. We support the long-term, lifetime value focus on regular giving, which for years has been the mantra for most supporter recruitment. And rightly so. But has this been at the expense of an audience with the potential to give, and to give generously? A large audience that wants to support your cause, but in a way that suits them? We suspect that some in the sector are ignoring the potential of cash givers when they should be a critical part of the mix.

As you know, some in the sector claim that cash givers aren’t committed donors. But then again, RG can often rely on inertia. Committed? We also know that some claim a disproportionate number of bequests come from their cash file, which makes sense. And we also know that some organisations truly appreciate the value of serial cash givers. Other organisations have built vast warm cash files and some organisations have for years developed hugely successful cash propositions. That’s right, Fred Hollows — hats off to you.

And yet many in the sector think cash is a dirty word. We’ve had clients ask us to end a call if someone wants to give cash and we can’t get them to set up a direct debit. Now we’re not suggesting that the sector drops RG and focuses on cash. But we are curious about how much we’re missing as we think it’s pretty substantial. And we know that fundraising in the next few years, for most charities, is going to be about maximising income and cash flow.

We have a feeling that the sector is beginning to fall back in love with cash, but the vast majority of supporters have always been smitten. Since early 2020, we’ve seen a resurgence of one-off cash programs. Driven by us because we could see it was what donors wanted. In campaigns we ran before the pandemic, cash programs have done very well for various propositions and for varying levels (from $6 UNICEF hats to $200+ Sightsavers operations). We’ve seen really strong results in cash-focused campaigns on TV and digital this year and will be running more tests over the coming months. There is also a wealth of data to back up the importance of cash.

Occasional Gifts graph
Occasional gifts most common contact. (Source: Invisible Legator pilot survey, May 2017)

As one brilliant Australian fundraiser said to us: “Our obsession with RG is exactly that, our obsession. If people don’t want to lock into a monthly program that has a poor value proposition and exchange, then who is at fault? Them, or us for serving up something that largely suits our needs? We need to listen to our audiences and adapt our offerings rather than blindly push a set-and-forget model because it suits us and our Boards.”

Along with our partners at Wood For Trees, we’ve put together ‘7 reasons why it could be time to fall back in love with cash’.

1. Instant ROI

Depending on the ask and cause, you can expect anything from 0.4 to positive ROIs. We have seen many cash-positive recruitment campaigns this year. Even at the lower end of this scale the results we’ve seen show a progression to positive ROI.

2. Cashflow v RG

Average cash donations are $80-$150, so the equivalent of a year’s RG donation up front with no first-year attrition. This probably wouldn’t happen with low cash premium SMS (PSMS) but is more likely with a non-PSMS ask where prompt amounts can be higher depending on your cause.

3. ROI with RG follow-up via telephone

You can add between 0.15–0.3 to your ROI by following up with a conversion call to RG.

4. Lifetime value

We would expect at least 15–30% of cash givers to give again to a warm appeal in their first year, and this can often be higher. Cash givers are also more likely to respond to ‘other asks’ (raffle/warm appeals) than regular givers. This will build to positive contributions and help sustain your appeal programs in the future.

5. Rebuild your donor/warm base following the GDPR

Often, we see between 1.5–3 times the response with a cash ask vs RG. This can mean thousands of opted-in names for follow-up/warm appeals — volumes you ordinarily would not get with an RG-only ask.

6. Positive impact on legacies and high value giving

Cash givers tend to be older and often come from a higher socio-economic group, so make good legacy prospects. Some data shows that a legacy is more than twice as likely to come from an occasional cash donor than a regular giver. For many of the programs we work on, cash givers overwhelmingly feed mid and major donor pools.

7. Different audience = widen your support base

In the UK, we think there are as many as seven million cash givers we’re not reaching with a regular giving ask. In Australia, around two million forgotten folk are looking to share some love. The pre-Christmas season of goodwill is a time when people love to make cash gifts. Despite the economic impact of the pandemic, good people still care, but they may be less willing and able to commit to a regular gift. Overall, we see a case for looking at adding more cash asks alongside your regular giving asks. 

We’d love to hear about your love of cash donors. Maybe contribute to our Whatever Inspires Cash research program or just tell us about your secret affair. Your secret is safe with us. 

Alex Wordsworth is Executive Producer and Senior Strategic Planner at DTV. He has helped create successful DRTV and digital campaigns for many causes around the world. Peter Muffett is CEO and Founder of DTV Group, Trustee at Tibet Relief Fund, film director and devoted parent to Duffy the Dog! Film is at the heart of his fundraising campaigns on TV and online.