Why I’m not going to give £2 a month to help beat cancer

I received a call from Cancer Research a couple of weeks ago. The guy on the phone thanked me for my donation I made this year. I couldn’t remember donating. He reminded me that I ran a half marathon this year and perhaps it had something to do with that. He moves quickly on to his sales script:

“Why did you choose to donate to Cancer Research?”

Interesting question. He’s keen to establish the motive behind my decision. Ok, but don’t forget: I can’t remember that I donated at this point. Understanding motives is crucial in sales and communication. However, I’m going to stick my neck out here and make an assumption. The forecast of 2013 is that 33% of people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer. So the chances are incredibly high that everyone he asks that question to is going to have either had or have cancer in addition they know someone they love who has or had cancer. With this in mind — there is no need whatsoever to understand motive on this call.

Furthermore, this script has now opened a can of worms (which, could be intentional)

I reply: “ah, right, I remember, there was a list of charities on the signup form and I picked you guys because my mum was diagnosed a few years ago”

…Phone goes cold…

He replies: “well, I’m very sorry if I’m crossing a line, is your mother — “ I break in and stop him: “dude, she’s fine, they caught it super early and she’s nearly out of remission and doing very well”

Imagine the possible range of answers anyone being phoned with this script could have to that question. At 1pm on a weekday. You’re at lunch at work. Not a great start to what’s about to follow.

He offers his best wishes and continues with “let me tell you about what we’re doing…” And then reads a statistical sell to me about impact of work vs funds raised. Then wraps up with — “Just £10 a month can make all the difference to this, are you interested?”

I stop him. I tell him I’m donating to a charity monthly that I chose years ago and that’s my deal. He then counter offers with suggesting a smaller deal, just £2.

Now you’re thinking come on Lawrence, you cold bastard, you’re not worth £24 a year for cancer research? More on that later.

This script follows the same old routine we all hear all the time.

It’s stale, lazy and really weak for their brand.


Here’s how the call should have gone:

“Hi Lawrence, I’m calling you because you ran Hackney half marathon last year. First off, well done and second, thanks for donating your ticket sale to cancer research, it makes a big difference.

Are you going to run Hackney Half again in 2016?

[Now, at this point I could have said yes or no, the script still works]

[Great] or [If you did run again] we’d love it if you chose us again, but what would really kick this out the park is if you considered sponsorship and ran for us and yourself. I’m sending runners a one-time email today, it’s 3 super powerful tips for those getting sponsorship, to help raise as much dosh and save you time and hassle.

How does that sound? Can I send you that email? [reassure them its not a newsletter]

[Let’s follow the close of the offer]

Give it a read, let me know if you have any questions, you can phone me or just reply.

Final thing you need to know, your race entry will be paid for by us and the money you raise makes a massive difference to our work and to so many lives. There’s a link the email about the details of what we want to raise and how it will save lives.

Thanks for your time and just drop me a line with any questions. We would love to have you board.


A few key takeaways for me here are:

  • They had my name, address, email, age, donation, if I sponsored ran, my finisher time (watch out for the DNFs) — use this data
  • Give your audience something useful that they can use
  • This script is old and stinks:
  • — “Have you got time today?”
  • — “Can I tell you about this?”
  • — “Do you care enough to help us make this change?”
  • — “All you need to do is sign a direct debit?”
  • — “How about a smaller direct debit?”
  • — “How about I try again next time?”
  • Lazy lazy lazy
  • Cancer Research outsourced this call to a 3rd party sales team (they had to tell me this) — why are they not thinking about their data and their segmentation before ‘just chucking people on the phones’
  • Building brand loyalty and success for charity is about reach and effect, this call was about converting a database entry into a direct debit. It’s done nothing for them as brand for me, I have no real connection there
  • They only wanted £120 a year, thats not much
  • They could have landed me running for them every year and getting my entire network to consider backing them and me in that race — which I would hope is way more than £120 a year and includes a message
  • Charities, companies, start-ups—whoever has a CRM—needs to think about why and how that data got there before they start applying what they think converts to the whole set
  • Don’t follow the “rule book” just because fundraising has been doing this technique for the last 10–15 years — why carry on with the rubbish conversion rate, linear sales pattern and brand damage?
  • Brands must think about service journey not sales charts

Finally and way, way more importantly:

  1. My mum caught her cancer early. Go get checked, if you’re in the age and risk zone. Just go get checked. Mum, I love you. I can’t promote that enough. I don’t even want to think about what I would be writing now if she hadn’t had the medical professionals and testing programme we have in the UK.
  2. I’m going to run for Cancer Research at Hackney Half 2016 — if you know me, there will be some kind of sponsorship, keep your eyes peeled and your wallets open
  3. I’m going to research the eyeballs out of fundraising techniques, I will summarise my research and then my effectiveness — hopefully I can tell you how to easily magic way over £120 out of thin air to back something thats important to you
  4. If you work for Cancer Research and you’ve read this, get in touch, this isn’t a bomb at you, it’s more an observation on the status quo of consumer charity sales. It sucks. Lets do something awesome with your data: email [at] lawrencebrown.eu
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