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August 2011

Weekend Reading Round-Up

It was great to see Ken Burnett's latest blog on face to face fundraising receive good coverage and feedback.  I'm hoping to post some thoughts next week and I have enjoyed Amanda's and Jonathon's musings on their respective blogs.  Mark shows why it is so important,as he blogs about the rise in direct debit cancellations.

My main thought - which charity is going to take a risk and try some of these ideas?!

Elsewhere, here are some of the articles that have caught my eye recently...

Pamela Burk on donor centred thank you letters.

Karen Zapp on retention.

Kevin on why your audience is at the heart of your fundraising, communications and innovation.

Jeff on how to fry your file in fundraising.

Jonathon talks about the emotional and intellectual index.

Alison with some thoughts on what is important to donors.

Aline on the brilliance of George Smith's writings.

Marc on how to find new donors.

The Agitator on integration.

Stephen shares a great video on how to listen better.

Lucy continues her adventures in innovation series.

Hugh with some more thought on 'social objects'.

Drayton Bird on determination

Finally, here is a feel good story about a guy who shares his business profits with his community and gets back much more in return.

How You Can Go Against The Crowd To Achieve Success

I love stats.  Always have.

I love the way data can throw up surprises and challenge conventional thinking.

That's why the latest free Kindle download from the Domino Project is like an early Christmas present for me.

Called 'Zarrella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness' (in the US you can download it here) it is packed full of data analysis, which the author uses to confirm and refute some common social media misconceptions. 

It's a plea to use science and data to plan social media use and to avoid the 'unicorn and rainbows' advice that pervades.

Avoiding the Clutter with Contra-Competitive Timing

One of the key myths that Zarrella busts via data is the best time to send e-mail.  Conventional wisdom (and something I've been told on many occasions) is that you shouldn't send e-mails on a weekend.

However, his analysis of nearly 10 billion e-mails shows that messages sent on weekends had click-through rates twice as high as messages sent through the week.

His theory was that there was a lot less clutter on weekends (people following the conventional wisdom) and they had more time to read e-mails properly.  Similarly, his analysis of Facebook shows that stories published on a weekend get much more shares than during the week.

The rest of the e-book is packed full of interesting stats and findings, including the best time to tweet, the most popular Twitter words, when to blog for comments or links etc, etc.

Applying this to Your Fundraising

In terms of fundraising, it can sometimes work to try something different and not follow the 'rules'. 

For example, I've been told many times that mailing in August should be avoided.  Yet two of the most successful appeals I've ever done have been in this month.

I'm sure your charity will have similar myths that have grown over time.  Why not take time to see if you've got the data and analysis to back these up or if they are little more than fundraising urban myths.

Using E-Mail Autoresponders to Take Donors on a Journey

My team have just set up a series of e-mail autoresponders to send to donors recruited by face to face fundraising and I wanted to share some of the learnings from the experience.

The idea of the autoresponder is take the donor on a journey from signing up and communicate to them about some of the people that their donation will be helping.  The theory is that by engaging people before their gifts start, then the attrition will be much lower.

I use MailChimp for our e-mails and it is very easy to set up an autoresponder on there.  Basically, once we upload the e-mail (with the correct database coding) then the donor will automatically receive a weekly e-mail for the following five weeks.

Here are some of the main advantages:

  • Once an autoresponder is set-up it will automatically send the e-mails based on the rules you set.
  • It allows you to send personalised e-mails on a regular basis without you having to spend time sending each one.
  • You can test and tweak subject lines, content etc to maximise the open and click through rates.
  • Donors can respond at any point with comments, share it on social networks and engage with our cause.

The main downside for us, is that currently our e-mail system isn't integrated with our fundraising database, so we can't record the communications on their record and remove bounced e-mails etc.

How You Could Use Autoresponders

I think there are a number of ways that fundraising teams can use this technique to engage donors.  Here are three to begin with - let me know if you have any other examples:

  • Event participants - take them on a journey from signing up to the event with updates on sponsorship, training tips, competitions etc.
  • Fundraising appeals with deadlines - send a series of e-mails counting down to the deadline and create a sense of urgency (though you need to make sure that those who've donated are removed/receive a different e-mail once donated).
  • Campaigns -if someone signs a petition then you can automatically send a series of e-mails updating them on how things are going.

Weekend Reading Round-Up

It's been a strange old week in London.  I live less than half a mile from where some of the worse of the riots took place in Croydon (I could smell the smoke from our flat) and I went out to look at some of the devastation on an eerily quiet Tuesday night when there were hundreds of police on the streets.  It was a surreal sight.

Yet today, just a few days later the town centre is hustling and bustling like nothing happened.  However, it is going to take much longer for the small, family run businesses to recover from the looting and fires and it is those people I really feel for.

Whatever your views on the causes and solutions to the riots (and most of the analysis tends to massively oversimplify the issues), lets hope this weeks events were a once in a generation occurrence.

Anyway, what was meant to be a short introduction has turned into something longer, so without further ado, here is my fundraising reading round-up.

Why should someone support you?

Kev on 'computer says no' moments.  Something I've blogged about before as well.

The Agitator on what if we are wrong about relationship fundraising?

Jeff urges you not to make your writing too hard to read, even if your audience is educated.  As an aside, writing at the grade five or six level is really tough.  Have a go.  It requires real skill.  Jeff makes a similar point about beautiful design.

Love the latest Jerry Huntsinger tutorial on SOFII where he talks about mistakes.

Jen writes to Ms Nit Picker!

 Renier on making the 90 degree shift.

 "Attrition" and "Loyalty" in fundraising.

Put curiosity into your writing. 

Amanda with an interesting story about a donor who receives an 'upgrade' gift request and the emotions it provokes.

The Direct Mail Man shares a direct mail case study for a small charity doing it's first cold appeal.

Seth addresses the Heckler.

As a big Bruce Springsteen fan, I had to include this article on his creativity!

Is it time for your organisation to adopt the 'Modern Meeting Standard'?

The latest manifesto from Seth Godin's Domino Project is a rallying call against bad meetings, which has long been a pet peeve of mine.

Written by Al Pittampalli, it is a thought provoking hour long read that offers an alternative approach to Al's premise that a: we have too many meetings and b: we have too many bad meetings.

What are the results of this?

Traditional meetings create a culture of compromise and kill your sense of urgency to get things done.  Something I've definitely experienced at larger organisations I've worked at.

So, what does Al propose as the answer?

He has come up with the 'Modern Meeting Standard', which sets the following seven rules and characteristics of modern meetings.  According to Al, modern meetings:

  1. Support a decision that has already been made.
  2. Move fast and end on schedule.
  3. Limits the number of attendees.
  4. Rejects the unprepared.
  5. Produces committed action plans.
  6. Refuses to be informational.  Reading memos is mandatory.
  7. Works only alongside a culture of brainstorming.

The manifesto goes into more detail about each point and gives some practical tips on to how to implement it.

So, if you think you've got a problem with long, unproductive meetings in your organisation then I'd definitely recommend having a closer look at the book and seeing if you can try and introduce some of the principles in your workplace.

You can download the manifesto for free on the Kindle in the UK and in the US as well, though there is a hardback copy you can buy if you don't have one. 

Mail Media Cente Infobank: Another great free resource

I visited the Infobank Resource Centre at the Mail Media Centre for the first time last week and wanted to share what a great free resource it is.

Based in Holborn and run by the Royal Mail, it offers free access to a number of databases that are usually very expensive to use.

I went down to do some direct mail research and used tools like Marketline, Addynamics and Market Movements to find the latest direct mail appeals from blind charities and to see if there was any good creative I could 'borrow' from other charities.

I found some great examples and it's saved me a huge amount of creative brainstorming time.

You can look up how much various charities spend on advertising across different mediums.  For example, did you know the Smile Train was the charity with the biggest direct marketing spend last year and invested over £16 million? Neither did I!

You can also read detailed Mintel Reports and use the Target Group Index to produce detailed demographic reports.

To join up you need to attend an hour long induction, but after that you can come and go as you please and the centre manager Brenda is always on hand to help you find the info you need.

Overall, one of the best free resources in the UK and I can't believe it's taken me so long to go down there.