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Saint Michael's Hospice, Harrogate

The compelling reason to use donorflex Lottery

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Saint Michaels-logoIt was a phone call that underlined, if that were needed, donorflex Lottery’s growing status as a compelling option for lottery operations across the UK.

It came during the long run-up to 2012’s Hospice Lotteries Association conference. The caller was to-the-point.

He said the time had come to explore replacing his fundraising team’s non-donorflex CRM software and the separate database upon which the organisation’s lottery office relied. He was after efficiency and flexibility. Most of all, he wanted to avoid duplication and look forward to a future of greater opportunities to target lottery players and supporters in a structured, systematic, 360-degree way.

In no more than a couple of short sentences, there it was, our own tag-line being quoted back at us – ‘one cause, one database’.

Forward thinking

Tina Holroyd was already the best part of two years ahead of him. The ‘one cause….’ principle was what drove her to call time on Saint Michael’s Hospice’s Sterling Pathway service and unify her lottery players on donorflex – naturally – with the Harrogate organisation’s general supporter population.

That was in late 2010. In common with the rising tide of hospice and air ambulance sector clients who’ve seen the same light, the forward-thinking Director of Funding has moved on from that opening principle. She’s now busy overseeing the work that epitomises the meaning of donorflex Lottery’s new tag-line – ‘expand your horizons’. We love it when a plan comes together!

Life before donorflex Lottery for Saint Michael’s had a rhythm that – with variations of scale and procedure – will ring a loud bell in fundraising offices around the UK.

  • On a Friday, Lottery Manager David Archbold would finish manually inputting on a spreadsheet and send it to Sterling, ready for the following week’s draw
  • Anyone who joined the lottery after that point would also be recorded on donorflex with an entry in a comment field – and, later, an attribute – but they would have to wait another week for their opportunity to play
  • Any amendments recording the fact that someone had asked to leave the lottery – or had died or moved address – were also entered manually in a spreadsheet and sent to Sterling by email
  • The draw was run by Sterling the following Thursday – a lag of six days. After the winning numbers were drawn, Sterling sent back the printed cheques and letters. Which David and his one administrator had to post out to winners

Those four, stark bullet-points – together with the opportunity to reduce their expenditure by moving the lottery system in-house – explain what drew Tina and David to join a group of donorflex clients at the north-east leg of a series of special donorflex Lottery roadshows. In one day, a brave new world was outlined.

One of the first

Fundraising Support Manager Claire Cheeseman had joined the Saint Michael’s team six months before the transition from Sterling to donorflex Lottery. She can tell you without a moment’s hesitation the thinking behind the move, and she can just as quickly list the other criteria for the shift.

“Cost-efficiency. The cost of Sterling. Plus there was the cost of David’s time. He was spending quite a lot of time doing the administration, so we wanted to shift that pressure to the admin team. Control. Profiling. That would then help with better marketing. The collation of two different databases as well. Things were being updated with Sterling, but not donorflex. Which database was the master? If Sterling had one record and donorflex had another, how would you handle it? Which was the correct one? So it did throw up problems.”

The structure of the hospice’s lottery operation hadn’t changed much in 10 years when donorflex Lottery was implemented.

Nestling in a 500 square mile-canvas of glorious, timeless North Yorkshire – with Pateley Bridge, Ripon, Knaresborough and the northern edge of Leeds as its corner pieces – the population is around 160,000, which is very small compared with most.

Where there were once three collectors, they now have two running a small handful of what most lottery teams would regard as ‘traditional’ rounds – a mobile home park, an area around an old people’s home, and one that’s around two miles with 40 players in it.

The rest of the ‘round’ structure is determined by how players pay – standing order, or cheque – rather than geography.

Step-by-step approach

In tandem with the two database administrators, Claire has adopted a methodical approach since the Sterling service was consigned to history and – without a pause – donorflex Lottery took over.

“We took our time to get used to the processes,” she explains. “We followed all the same timescales and processes as we did with Sterling.”

With the donorflex Lottery routine long since second nature, they’ve started to reap the wider dividends of the shift from Sterling.

“We’re looking at bringing in a new lottery canvasser to work alongside David and starting to think a bit more about what we can do with that information,” Claire adds.

“Because the team were used to doing it in such a way for such a long time, it’s been step by step. But we’re all at a place now where we feel really comfortable with it. It’s given us a lot more control and the ability to change things easily.”

That approach has already included using the first six months of donorflex Lottery data to consider a big push on door-to-door sales, and using Power Search to identify all those 3,600 former players who took a step away from the Saint Michael’s lottery during the Sterling days, and who haven’t engaged with the hospice’s fundraising operation in any other way before or since.

The donorflex team also ported over players’ win histories, which has been a boon and enriched their targeting needs.

Eye-opening change

Gone are the days when it was a choice between handling the admin or selling the lottery.

The biggest change, perhaps, has been the most eye-opening and indicative of what the future can hold for Saint Michael’s – just as it can for every other donorflex Lottery user.

The draw is now made on a Wednesday, instead of a Thursday. The change was made, Claire reveals, because the local paper brought its publication date forward, and the winning numbers were required a day earlier.

It was a coincidence that the Harrogate Advertiser’s deadline shift came as the transition to donorflex Lottery happened, but the change of lottery system enabled them to take it their stride.

“We now have the kind of flexibility that means that, if we absolutely had to run it on a Tuesday night because of something happening on a Wednesday, we can,” Katy adds.

It’s just one example of what they might achieve by using donorflex Lottery’s in-built adaptability in the months and years to come. Here’s another.

“We do the draw on a Wednesday morning, so anyone who’s come in the post up to Tuesday is recorded, whereas it used to be the Thursday or Friday before. It’s so much better.”

Unify. Analyse, Inspire.

Profile. Target. Achieve.

One cause, one database.

Belief, trust and understanding

Like any successful migration, Saint Michael’s Hospice’s road to donorflex Lottery was a partnership built on belief and trust.

The donorflex team listened and supported the Saint Michael’s team when they explained their anxieties about the move, and they – in turn – trusted the donorflex support team to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible.

From Day One, the donorflex Lottery development has had a particular focus on the human as well as the system side of the move that means:

  • Supporting users through the technical build-up
  • Managing the cultural change
  • Helping users to adapt to a system that’s more feature-rich than the one before

From where Claire Cheeseman and Kay Glass sit, the transition was smoother than either of them dared hope. They spent some time with the Hartlepool & District Hospice team, who had already implemented donorflex Lottery, and then sat down with donorflex’s Brian Todd and Patrick O’Donnell to plan the process in fine detail.

“You were brilliant – very good,” says Database Administrator Katy. “I learn best by doing it myself. So, once we had the test database, that’s when it became real and I could play about with it and find out what I need to.

“Looking back on it, I can’t remember it being a long time. Once you’d got to grips with what you needed to ask of it, it was then fine. It was starting to do it for myself and then asking ‘What do I do in this situation?’ The answer came there and then. Just a little bit of hand-holding on the way.”

‘Oh, that’s easy!’

The stand-out moment for many donorflex Lottery-users is at the heart of the decision to switch in the first place, the unification of lottery and fundraising data. That’s when they find out – most for the first time – how many people are recorded separately in both databases.

The key to it is a donorflex record-matching utility that identifies the potential duplications. The organisation’s team members then eye-ball the details and decide whether they’re looking at the same person or a different supporter with the same name. What’s emerged from more than a dozen donorflex Lottery client implementations, so far, is that relatively few records end up with a question mark that needs addressing before the unification can be completed.

He understood, which was probably what stopped us from running before we could walk. We got that first draw out of the way and then, every time, it was just how to make it better

“There weren’t very many,” Katy remembers of that milestone back in 2010.

“You think ‘How on earth are we going to slot all these people in?’,” Fundraising Support Manager Claire adds. “I chatted to Patrick and, once he’d talked me through it, I thought ‘Oh! That’s easy’. You just have to make that decision on them as you go through.”

So, were there any other anxieties that it might not go well? Or did they have faith that it would work?

“No, I didn’t,” Claire admits. “No disrespect to donorflex, but I was quite worried. Only the anticipation up to doing the first draw. As soon as I realised it was all there and it went well….”

She also reflects positively on the way that the shock of the new was cushioned for David Archbold, who’d been the heart and soul of the old system for a decade or more.

“That was managed very well by Brian,” she says. “He understood, which was probably what stopped us from running before we could walk. We got that first draw out of the way and then, every time, it was just how to make it better.”

Information at the fingertips

Life with donorflex lottery since the implementation period has justified the decision to make the move.

“Very quickly, we managed to go ahead of the standard that we already had and do it better,” says Katy. “It’s a really easy thing to use. And an easy thing, then, to understand and grow with.

“When I asked David how he felt now, he said it meant he could have his finger on the pulse and that there’s no delay. It’s instant. So much easier. He has so much information at his fingertips about his members.”

That’s ultimately the whole point of ‘one cause, one database’, of course.

It leaves the Saint Michael’s Hospice cause far, far richer for having lottery-related data that can be used alongside demographics, and supporters’ preferences and giving history, as a key component of future profiling and targeting. Clearly, Katy’s in no doubt about how far they’ve come and how far they can travel towards their expanding horizon.

“As time goes on and we have this excellent data on there, it will just become more and more useful. We never used the data we had on the previous system. You could view it, but you couldn’t interrogate it or dig out people you wanted. Now we’re two years down the line and we’re really seeing the benefits.”

The power of the Perfect Circle

The era of a unified database at the heart of the organisation hasn’t only given Saint Michael’s Hospice their first chance to see supporters in the round, it has also generated the kind of joined-up thinking that makes any organisation truly tick.

The combined fundraising-lottery operation’s step-by-step approach to integrating Lottery into the mix of donorflex modules has delivered them to the point where they can look up to scan their expanding horizon and ask questions like ‘Where do we need to go?’ rather than ‘How am I going to find time to do that?’

Just as donorflex Lottery means ‘unified database’, so ‘unified database’ means breathing new life into their strategic thinking and planning. From there, it’s what might be termed the Perfect Circle:

  • Expanded insight = more opportunities = better stewardship = greater fundraising potential = the case for more resources = more time = expanded insight, and so on

The time when the lottery and fundraising teams saw themselves firmly rooted on disconnected sides of the building is a thing of the past in a growing number of organisations. And the fruits of regarding supporters as belonging to the organisation, rather than one part of it, are clear for all to see and taste. Saint Michael’s is no exception.

The benefit of knowing

Database Administrator Katy Glass can give the ideal example of one of their £1,000 winners, who chose to donate her winnings back to the hospice.

Katy was aware that there was a campaign that involved a private company match-funding voluntary donations at the hospice.

Director of Funding Tina Holroyd took up the call. She knew the supporter well enough to suggest that, instead, she cash the cheque and then make a donation. It suited the matched funding campaign, and boosted the Gift Aid reclaim at the same time.

“It demonstrates (the benefit of) us having that history,” adds Claire Cheeseman, Saint Michael’s Fundraising Support Manager. “When it was Sterling, I imagine that the (winners’) cheques would come back and, from an admin point of view, they were probably folded up and put in an envelope. Now we’re all really a part of it. We get together. ‘Who’s won it? Have they won it before? How long have they supported us?’ You want to know that.”


Making plans for the years ahead

Strategically, too, they’ve made advances that will shape the cause in a positive way for years to come.

For instance, for the positive reason of growth, the part-time member of staff helping to run the lottery is now full-time. As this is written, they’re also recruiting a new part-time canvasser to add to the 3,624 supporters who pay for 4,260 plays a week.

That has enabled two dedicated administrators to explore how much more donorflex functionality they can use – in addition to Collecting boxes, Biographies, Communications, Attributes, Gift Aid and Regular Giving – to take their fundraising and stewardship of supporters to another level.

That, in turn, has given them the time and space to look at sub-strategies.

“There’s no point in me going away thinking about these sorts of things if the administrators don’t have the time to support and play around with donorflex,” says Claire.

As an example, they would never have just written to their lottery players or to talk to them in a different way.

"That’s very much where we want to go now. Campaign letters used to chase the same people each year – because you’ve done it before, or because you’re on our database. Now we ask if we need to segment these groups and look at how we talk to them. The ask might be the same, but we can acknowledge ‘We know you’re in our lottery, would you like to do this?’ or ‘You’re a regular giver, would you like to support us in other ways?’”

The community of donorflex clients

Being part of the donorflex community – in particular, the growing army of donorflex Lottery users – has its benefits too.

Claire maintains regular conversations with her counterparts at Hartlepool & District Hospice and St Oswald’s Hospice, in Newcastle.

Such discussions demonstrate that what’s right for one organisation isn’t necessarily right for another.

She also knows the profiling potential that comes with the unified database – and, let’s not forget, the enhanced data within it – is like North Yorkshire gold dust.

The new lottery canvasser will be able to plan the approach by looking at demographics within postcode areas, rather than just postcode areas for their own sake.

Smart targeting… proof of the power of the unified database

The Lottery module’s standard Tracker reports have also been an eye-opener, and a boon. They’ve enabled Claire to report to senior managers – and underpin proposals for future activity – with a depth and breadth of insight never revealed before.

She believes the investment that’s being made in personnel is proof of the power of donorflex Lottery and the unified database.

And her gaze has now lifted beyond the immediate. She has put together a plan for the next three years.

“Realistically speaking,” she says, “we’ll be ahead of that. Because of all the development that you (donorflex) are doing and we do as we evolve in our roles, it’s difficult to say even where we’ll be this time next year. It could be a whole different picture, perhaps. The three-year plan then might need to be revised.

“We’re starting to think about recording things like Acorn type,” she adds. “We’re thinking about the product. Why would you knock on someone’s door who earns £100,000 a year and ask if they want to buy a £1 lottery play? We should be approaching those people and saying ‘Do you want to be a major donor or a regular giver?’ It is smart targeting and not just a blanket. It’s given us that flexibility, which we wouldn’t have had with Sterling.”

In short, the power of the Perfect Circle.

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