The ecampaigning forum event is always one of the highlights of the year for me, either in Austria in the autumn or Oxford in spring. And this year's Oxford event - expanded to include fundraising, digital leadership and the future forum and attended by nearly 200 people - was no exception.
6 key lessons from ECF
Here are the key things I learned over two days in Keble College:
1. The testing debate is moving on
Every other ECF event I've been to has reminded me of the importance of testing. And when I say testing I mean testing everything - email subject lines, email content, web page layout, forms... The list goes on, and all with the aim of maximising response rates and optimising pages, design and user experience.
But now the debate is starting to move on to how get the most out of testing - how to get the most meaningful results from testing and how best to run your tests. There’s no doubt that the message has really sunk in – testing improves results significantly.
2. Supporter journeys are getting more and more complicated
The concept of a supporter journey has been around for a long time, with models like the pyramid and ladder of engagement used to show how people can increase their involvement with an organisation.
But there are now so many different ways that supporters can get involved – such as via social media, campaigning, donating, attending events, joining local groups, to name just a few – that these models really don’t best reflect the opportunities.
And maybe even more importantly, they don’t put the supporter at the centre of the journey. They’re very top down, organisation-centric models.
So what’s the solution? A new model? Some suggestions included a double helix model or a framework of questions putting the supporter first. But perhaps the most intriguing option is to crowdsource supporter journeys – find out from supporters what they want to do next, even let them help shape the campaign strategy step by step themselves.
3. Crowdsourcing activism
And speaking of crowdsourcing and supporter journeys, it’s always been a challenge to try and move people from taking online action to taking action offline, for example joining a local campaign group. But what about the possibility of crowdsourcing activism and using crowd-based activities as a way of bridging the gap between easy online actions and making the commitment to join a local group?
Some of the ways supporters could get involved is by helping to analyse data, reporting on what’s going on in their local area, fundraising… In fact the list of ways people could get involved in campaigns in their local area like this is potentially limitless.
But connected to this also came the revelation, thanks to Dr Chris Priest from Bristol University, that leaderboards and competitions may not be the best way to drive participation and engagement in online actions. They can actually lead to a real loss of motivation, for example if someone else has got a really high score that you feel you’ll never beat. The real key is self-competition – give your supporters a way of competing against themselves to beat their previous best can be a strong motivation.
4. Apps – are they useful for online campaigning and fundraising?
I first came across Gather at ECF this year – a tool that can be used to create campaign actions that supporters can download as an app and take part via their smartphones. It looks really interesting but raises lots of questions: On average people only use 4 apps on their phone – how do you get people using your organisation’s app regularly, and definitely more than once? And is it just a gimmick or can smartphone apps really help make the difference for your online campaigning and fundraising?
5. Politicians are fed up with email
Whether or not you see this as a bad thing depends on your perspective. There’s no doubt the MPs and MEPs are drowning in campaign emails from a whole range of different organisations. How do you make yours stand out? Ensuring the action is timely and relevant and there’s actually something politicians can do about the issue is probably just common sense.
But there’s also a technology issue here – it should be much easier to quickly stop contacting MPs and MEPs who’ve already agreed to support your campaign to avoid annoying them and risk eroding their support for the issue.
This ECF was especially memorable for me too, coming just days before the launch of Campaignion, our brand new ecampaigning and online fundraising tool. I’m really excited to see how organisations start using it as part of their suite of digital tools.
Look out for the next ECF in Austria in November 2014!