Earlier this week, I was intrigued by a post on the Devon Air Ambulance Trust Facebook page in which they responded to a question about costs.
It appeared eyebrows had been raised about how much money Devon Air Ambulance was spending showing off its brand new helicopter instead of immediately commissioning it straight to the business of saving lives.
Usually, businesses shy away from sharing any financial information with the caveat that it's 'commercially sensitive' information. However, the Devon Air Ambulance Trust did the exact opposite. In fact, they published, not hidden away on their website, but right out there on Facebook, that this exercise was costing them £3194.73. They then explained that, in fact, these costs had already nearly been covered by sponsorship and that the associated fundraising activity would probably generate even more money.
The Facebook status also reassured the public that, in fact, the month spent flying the new helicopter around Devon was important 'familiarisation training' for the crew, which would need to take place anyway. So why not, take advantage and let the public come and see what they had paid for through their generous donations?
By being so open with the public: posting on Facebook and encouraging debate, rather than simply posting a dry corporate statement at the business end of its website, Devon Air Ambulance has taken a potentially damaging question and turned it into a PR win.
Rather cleverly, posting the exact cost of the tour down to the final 73 pence, indicates that the charity is indeed very careful with its donations and suggests that every penny counts. Furthermore, by suggesting that the costs were almost covered by sponsorship, they opened the door for any other potential sponsors to get in touch. It's a much more satisfying prospect to help a charity 'break even' than it is to add more funds to a project.
Best of all, this tour of Devon is helping the Devon Air Ambulance Trust say thank-you to its supporters. In business terms, this would be called customer retention. But here, it's about encouraging people to give again in the future.
The activity is further supported via social networks, with video and photographs of the event, encouraging those who attended to see if they can spot themselves and then share it with their networks.
This is 'best practice' 101. Well done DAAT.