Should we make deliberate mistakes and trickery to get emails opened?

I’ve noticed a trend in email subject lines over the last 12-18 months. Many start with ‘Re:’ or ‘Fwd’ to try and get you to believe the e-mail is part of an on-going conversation or a personal communication.

I fell for this every time in the early days, but I’m becoming increasingly immune to the technique. I now tend to think less of any charity or company that overuses this in their subject lines. I don't like being tricked.

Similarly, I’ve seen one organisation (I’ll keep them anonymous for now, but a prize if anyone can guess!) who almost without fail send me a follow-up mail within 24 hours saying there was some sort of error or broken link in the original e-mail.

Again, this worked on a couple of occasions, but now I’m beginning to question the competence of those involved!

I remember blogging about making deliberate mistakes in direct mail in 2009. It now seems to be a popular e-mail tactic.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you tried these techniques? Did they boost response? Do you have any e-mail pet hates?

Of course, people using these techniques will argue they work and they may well boost open rates. However, like many direct marketing tactics, if they are overused then they can stop being effective. For me personally, that point is approaching.

The reason for asking these questions, is that on 5 March I’ll be speaking at Rob Woods’ Breakfast Club about e-mail marketing.

Over the last year I’ve been working with a number of charities on their email marketing and boosting their donations via email.

I’ve made some mistakes, but also had some fab successes that I’m really proud of. I’ll talk through six tips and techniques that don’t use trickery and that have helped me smash some targets.  

I’d love to see you there, but if you can’t make it then let me know and I’ll be happy to send you a copy of my presentation.

Breakfast Club Details

We start at 8.30am and will finish at 11am. The venue is at The Office Group, The Stanley Building, 7 Pancras Square, London. N1C 4AG. You can see a location map here.

As always, Breakfast Club will help you network with senior peers, solve common problems and learn powerful techniques that increase income.

Places are limited. The last eleven Breakfast Clubs have sold out. This one will too, so if you lead your fundraising function, click here so you don’t miss out.


Fundraising Reading Round-Up

I had the pleasure of attending SOFII's 'I wish I'd thought of that' event last week. It is always a fantastic afternoon.

Great speakers. Amazing case studies. Fantastically organised (well done Open Creates). Plenty of emotion and a few laughs too.

Do check out the videos when they are on the SOFII website.

In the meantime, you can read about one of the ideas from last week. In my view it is one of the best executed direct marketing campaigns in the UK - Crisis at Christmas.

The start of the year always brings lots of great content that reflects on the previous year and looks forward to the opportunities ahead. Happy reading.

I'm starting off with a long read from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. It is a fascinating look at why many awareness campaigns fail to achieve any change in behaviour.

I've already seen lots in the sector press and blogs this year about the importance of diversity in our sector. This McKinsey report makes the business case for why diversity and inclusion is so crucial.

I really enjoyed Simon Scriver's TEDx talk on 'nuggets of love'. Simon talks about the power of random acts of kindness and shows how we can all make the world a little happier place.

It is always good to discover a new blog and I enjoyed the Sceptical Fundraiser's first post on crypto-currency and blockchain.

Donor Voice consider whether it hurts to ask for feedback.

The Fundraising is Awesome blog report on Mailchimp's latest research on the perfect email template.

Paul de Gregorio's 'Do something, anything' newsletter is well worth subscribing to. Without it I wouldn't have read this article on one of my favourite charities (and featured at #IWITOT ) - the ACLU and how they want to be the NRA of civil liberties in the USA.

Janet Levine on finding the time to connect with donors, even if you're lone fundraiser.

The Agitator blog with some great facts and figures on matched giving.

Barbara Talisman on fundraising v fundcatching.

It is better to be marmite than mediocre says Nick Thomas on Charity Choice.

Agents for Good share a lovely gratitude report from Oregon Zoo.

On the theme of 'thank you', Erica Waasdorp describes the results of a (disappointing) mystery shopping exercise.

Before Christmas Joe Saxton at nfpSynergy wrote two thought provoking articles: Is fundraising f***ed? and the brighter, the future for fundraising is rich with opportunity. Ben Rymer shared some thoughts on the articles that are worth a look.

Jeff Brooks on not chasing your donors away.

Pamela Grow showcases another charity:water gem.

Michael Rosen reveals the secret you know, but do not know you know.

Justgiving share five virtual reality campaigns from 2017.

Finally, the start of the year always brings about a flood of predictions and thoughts for the year ahead. Here are five of my favourites:


Criticisms of relationship fundraising (and why they are wrong)

At 13.00 UK today, I’m going to be interviewed on Facebook Live by Ravinol Chambers of Be Inspired Films. This is the third edition of the Institute of Fundraising’s #FRED talks and I’ll be talking about why relationship fundraising is more important than ever.

Do tune in and ask any questions you might have!

To whet your appetite, here is a short edited extract from Donors for Life: A practitioner’s guide to relationship fundraising, that looks at some of the major criticisms of relationship fundraising.

Three major criticisms of relationship fundraising – and why they’re wrong…

  1. Not everyone wants a relationship/you can’t treat everyone the same

The argument that not everyone wants a relationship with a nonprofit would be a valid one if you take too literal a definition of ‘relationship’ and compare it to that of husband and wife, brother and sister, etc. Similarly, some people take relationship fundraising to mean that you treat all donors the same and give everyone the same levels of service and personalisation regardless of their level of giving.

Let us be clear. Nowhere in the literature is it suggested, or even implied, that this is the sort of relationship you should try to nurture with all your donors.

The definition of relationship we use is much looser. A relationship exists (whether you like it or not) from the moment a donor or potential donor interacts with your nonprofit. Your job is to make sure that the interaction leaves a good impression and makes the donor want to continue to support your cause or takes him or her a step closer to making a first donation.

Different donors deserve different levels and types of relationship depending on their own personal values, needs, wants and desires. The good relationship fundraiser will be aware of this, will act accordingly and do nothing that will harm the donor’s support for her or his cause.

I’ve written about this over at Rogare when they published their review of relationship fundraising, which is well worth a read.

2 Relationship fundraising is too soft and woolly

Another argument we often hear is that relationship fundraising is used as an excuse for not asking for donations, or it takes too long to see the results so is not worth the effort.

Again, let us be clear, relationship fundraising without asking is like a Formula 1 car without petrol. They both look the part, but fail as the key component of their success is missing.

It’s  crucial that you measure and record the impact of your relationship fundraising efforts. This means you can demonstrate the improvement on lifetime value and return on investment to your chief executive and board. If you don’t do this, then short-term decisions can be taken that damage the relationship but boost immediate returns.

Remember, relationship fundraising is only worth doing if it raises more money in the long term than pursuing alternative strategies.

  1. Relationship fundraising is great in theory, but hard in practice

There is no doubting that relationship fundraising is challenging to implement. It requires hard work, focus and a commitment to create a fundraising team culture where long-term results outweigh short-term priorities.

We also recognise that there are other ways to raise money. Some of these can undoubtedly be successful. For example, we know of many charities that have raised millions of pounds by pursuing a very transactional, incentive-led direct marketing programme.

When donor recruitment costs are low there is also little incentive to improve the lifetime value of supporters and build long-lasting relationships. You can simply treat donors like a commodity and get some new supporters in to replace those who stop giving. Although effective, it is, perhaps, not very satisfying.

It’s our steadfast belief that soon charities won’t have a choice about whether to improve the donor experience and service. As donors stop giving in larger numbers and the costs of donor recruitment become ever higher, then the only way to fundraise cost-effectively will be by retaining donors for longer periods and maximising their lifetime value.

 


Fundraising Reading Round-Up - November 2017

Well, after a nearly a year off blogging I thought it was time to get back to it!

2017 has been an amazing year and the lack of blogging has been due to two reasons.

Most excitedly, September saw the publication of my first fundraising book, Donors for Life - A Practitioner's Guide to Relationship Fundraising. Co-authored with Paul Stein and with a foreword from Ken Burnett, it aims to give fundraisers ideas, tip and practical advice on how to implement relationship fundraising and improve the supporter experience.

It has had rave reviews from the likes of Roger Craver at the Agitator and Pamela Grow. I'll be sharing some of my favourite content on the blog in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, you can order the book via White Lion Press or on Amazon in the UK or US.

Secondly, February saw me launch my new fundraising consultancy. The year has flown by as I've worked on a variety of projects with some amazing clients. If you'd like to know more, then check out the consultancy services page or get in touch for a chat.

Right, adverts over! On with the round-up.

November reading round-up

I've been thinking about segmentation, values and identity a lot recently. I've had the nagging feeling we've been doing it wrong as a sector. This recent series on the Agitator has really helped my consolidate my thoughts. It really is an essential read for anyone who wants to improve the donor experience. There are lots of posts on the subject, but these two are good summaries and starting points: Flying Blind Fundraising and Stop Telling Your Donors Who They Are.

Richard Turner has been another person who has had a big influence on my thinking in the last couple of years. Here he explains why 'Everyone is a channel' is not another channel.

SOFII's latest case study is the story of the NSPCC's Full Stop campaign as told by Giles Pegram CBE. A fascinating read for anyone interested in transformational appeals.

The Clairification blog shares a 3-Word Recipe Guaranteed to Raise Money.

Grammarly is one of my favourite apps. Pamela Grow explains why it is so useful.

Bloomerang take a close look at surveys with three examples from nonprofits and lessons from customer satisfaction surveys.

For Impact look at strategic plans v strategic clarity.

Donor Voice share tips for science based design.

Rogare's Ian MacQuillin argues that fundraising regulation needs to be better.

Paul Vanags takes a considered look at fundraising and comms integration. Spoiler: he's not in favour!

Tobin Aldrich ask how do we engage our board in major giving?

Would £10,000 motivate you to have a good idea? Lucy Gower with a lovely story about her dad and British Airways.

Joe Jenkins of the Children's Society is interviewed by the Hope Agency and explains about the changing business model of fundraising.

 Some lovely, heart warming stories from the winners of the 2017 Justgiving Awards. You can also read the first part of their best campaigns of 2017.

According to the Veritus Group emotional intelligence trumps strategy in major gifts.

The Fundraising is Awesome blog take a close look at Wikipedia's winning donation ask banner. Fascinating results.


Fundraising Reading Round Up

As the year draws to an end, I wanted to share one final reading round-up for you to enjoy.

Before starting though, I have three announcements to share:

  1. What was your favourite fundraising campaign/appeal of 2016? Please comment with your suggestions or drop me an e-mail at craig@fundraisingdetective.com - I want to write an article for SOFII featuring the best appeals from around the world.

  2. The 2017 Scottish Fundraising Conference has a call for papers out. I've heard great feedback about this conference and the organising committee have big plans for 2017.

  3. My wife and I are currently crowdfunding for therapy for a lady who lives near us and is at threat from eviction from the local housing association. Our daughter has benefited from the same therapy and this is our way of saying 'thanks'. If you've enjoyed the blog this year and are still feeling in the festive spirit then any donation would be hugely appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Thanks, as always, for reading and I'd like to wish you a happy and prosperous 2017.

Tom Ahern shared a fantastic e-book just before the Christmas break. 20 Questions shares great advice and solid research on 20 questions fundraisers are often asked from board members and senior colleagues. You can download it for free from Tom's website.

Another great free resource is The Data Playbook. Beth Kanter describes its contents.

Rob Woods on the two essential ingredients to create a change in culture.

Donor Voice take a look at the behavioural science behind Wikipedia's recent online appeal.

Rogare helpfully summarise everything you need to know about the recent ICO ruling in the UK.

Pamela Grow shares an e-mail from Ontario Nature that links to a direct mail piece. It is amazing how few charities do this.

The Institute of Fundraising has a run series on 'What's next in 2017?' Read the ones on data, direct marketing and innovation.

The Donor Relations Guru rages against her fundraising mailbox.

Lucy Gower explains the good and bad (mostly bad) of copycat strategies.

Amanda Santer implores us to do better.

Michael Clark reflects on 2016 from a legacy perspective.

Sean Triner describes the digital fundraising tipping point.

An interesting research paper on how buying experiences rather than material items builds stronger relationships between people. Some interesting applications for fundraisers? (HT Martin Jervis)

Over at Justgiving, guest blogger Greg Harris looks at how to solve the non-profit employee disengagement crisis.

Any excuse to share a log post that references the Cure! Agents of Good implore you to get 'close to me'.

I'm always fascinated by the results of mystery shopping exercises. Bloomerang share their findings from donating $5 to 25 organisations on Giving Tuesday. Sadly, as usual, the results aren't great.

On a related note, Bloomerang also analyse 40 Giving Tuesday appeals.

Also on Giving Tuesday, Michael Rosen shares his hits and misses.

A good story on the importance of stewardship over at the Hilborn blog.

Flight of the Fundraiser on C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S cultivation.

The end of an era at 101 Fundraising, as founders Reinier and Jeoren hand over the reins to Resource Alliance. Thanks for six years of great posts!


Fundraising Reading Round Up

 December is looming and time to share another reading round-up. Thanks for reading.

Richard Turner attended the recent Justgiving awards and shares some of his favourite stories from the fundraising award winners.

On 101 Fundraising, Matthew Sherrington reports on the recent survey in Fundraising magazine's Men and Women survey. The comments are also well worth a read. Lizzie Hollis' reflections on the survey are also worth a read.

I've just bought Alex Ferguson's book on leadership (it was 99p on Kindle!), so was interested to read this article on the book and the idea of 'zooming out to lead' on the For Impact blog.

Stephen George shares one of the best charity videos I've seen for a while. Sick Kids v Undeniable.

Sean Triner takes a look at a fundraising appeal from Wikipedia.

Jeff Brooks describes how he diagnoses fundraising copy. I already use Hemingway app (highly recommended), but Latinometer is a new one for me!

Ian MacQuillin of Rogare looks at the use of beneficiary images in fundraising.

October's Nonprofit blog carnival is hosted by the Clairification blog and between the Halloween puns, there are some great resources for major donor fundraising!

Tobin Aldrich shares donor feedback - Indian style!

The Donor Guru rails against asking with a thank you (or thasking!)

Donor Voice on how the YMCA discovered what members really wanted and how to increase lifetime value.

Pamela Grow shares a beautifully integrated campaign.

Giles Pegram takes a detailed look at how fundraisers in the UK have reacted to the crisis of the last 18 months and how we can move forward.

It's about your donor's story according to Veritus blog.

Michael Rosen with some tips for actively listening to donors in meetings.

The New York Times report on how to ask for money. HT The Agitator blog.

Clairification has a blog on a similar theme: How to make donors happy to say 'yes' to your fundraising appeal.

 


Fundraising Reading Round Up

Time for another reading round-up. Hope you enjoy the fine selection of articles below. If any of you are going to the IFC then I hope to see you there! In the meantime, happy fundraising...

Rogare have been busy in the last month or so and their recent paper on ethical decision making in fundraising is worth a read. You can also check out commentary from the Agitator and thoughts on integrity from Ken Burnett.

Also, Ian McQuillin published this two part blog asking if being a donor the same thing as being a consumer and then looking at the new fundraising regulator in the UK.

Supporter journeys and experience is one of the projects I'm currently working on at Amnesty International. This compendium of articles from McKinsey has given me lots of food for thought about how we can apply lessons from the commercial world. N.B. there are two articles in the McKinsey Quarterly and the link to the compendium is half way down then page.

The Ask Direct Summer School in Ireland sounded fabulous. Mark Phillips shares some of his learnings. Tom Ahern gives his thoughts as well. Finally, Agents of Good on the importance of being earnest.

The Veritus group on why creating awareness is the first relationship step to getting meetings. Part of a series on the steps to getting a meeting.

'No-one strives for vanilla' says Lucy Gower.

Donor Voice have been busy blogging recently with lots of interesting content. 'How are you baiting your line?' encourages you to understand why a donor gives to your cause (and use that information accordingly!)

Clarification blog is hosting October's non-profit carnival. The topic is on getting and sustaining major gifts. September's was hosted by the Fundraising Authority with a selection of posts on finding new donors.

Tobin Aldrich has written a two-part blog on where new donors come from that would have been a worthy addition to the carnival. Read part one and part two.

Future Fundraising Now on three things every donor needs from you.

101 Fundraising have a great series of posts ahead of the IFC in the Netherlands this month. I like this post from Rachel Hunnybun on change.

I liked this anecdote from Eddy Hogg at Kent Philanthropy on effective altruism. As someone who has supported Free Kicks as well, I'm with Eddy on its effectiveness...

I always love personalised thank you cards, so wanted to share this example from Flight of the Fundraiser.

Wild Woman Fundraising interviews Marc Pitman and discusses leadership.

Richard Turner on how you should tap into emotion.

Bright Spot Fundraising describe three ways to help your teams unite.

Michael Rosen asks do you know how to respond to criticism?

Sean Triner looks at language to avoid when talking to mid and major donors.

Jason McNeal on how he responded to a pre-emptive gift. A good lesson for fundraisers.

The Story of Telling share the three act structure for brand stories.


Fundraising Reading Round Up

At the recent IoF National Fundraising Convention a couple of people asked me 'where's the round-up gone?' The quick answer is time has beaten me, but I've resolved to get back to blogging at least monthly to the end of the year.

This round-up will share the best of the convention and a couple of other things that have caught my eye this month. Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Institute of Fundraising National Convention Round-Up

I had a great three days at this year's convention and loved the Barbican at the new venue. I've collected some of the stories and write-ups here:

I hosted two sessions on relationship fundraising where seven speakers spoke for six minutes each. SOFII are featuring some of the presentations. Richard Turner also blogged about his talk on why relationship fundraising is still relevant.

Zoe Amar spoke about the skills the fundraisers of the future will need.

Howard Lake of UK Fundraising organised 'Tip of the Pops' in the unconventional stream. You can watch videos from the session and read about some more links between songs and fundraising in David Burgess' summary.

UK Fundraising also feature nine short talks from 'rising stars' - see links to videos of eight of the stars here.

Lord Grade made some controversial comments at convention. Here is Mark Phillips' take on them. Talking sense as always.

Richard Sved shared a daily list of what he learned at convention. Read day one and  day two.

Jamie Parkin from Justgiving shares his presentation on how to harness technology for good.

Elsewhere...

I want to start with this post from the always excellent Agitator. Every fundraiser should read and absorb the lessons from this post on donor journeys. Taking lessons from McKinsey's work on consumer journeys it looks at why the donor experience is so important.

Also worth checking out on the Agitator is their eight post series on starting over. Food for thought for us all.

Flight of the Fundraiser is a new blog and producing some good content. I liked this recent guest post on customer service expectations.

We don't hear enough stories from donors on the giving experience. That's why I liked this article on 101 Fundraising from the self-styled Whiny Donor.

Lucy Gower gives some tips on crowdfunding.

The Story of Telling blog asks 'what is a strategy?'

Rob Woods discusses fundraising resilience. Rob quotes a TED talk by Angela Duckworth. It is well worth watching. I'll be reviewing her excellent book 'Grit' in my next post.

In a three part series, Jason McNeal explains his three most damaging fundraising myths.

The Donor Relations Guru takes a look at the fundraising office of the future.

What Veritus has learned about mid-level programs.

Hilborn describe the donor journey that leads to a legacy gift.

Tom Ahern is one of my favourite copywriters and his newsletters are always good. You can watch an interview with Tom where he talks about case statements courtesy of the Bloomerang blog.

The Rogare blog look at the concept of 'total relationship fundraising' and balance theory.

Demographics are garbage. So say Donor Voice. Discover why.

 As a Harry Potter fan, I enjoyed Wild Woman Fundraising's post on how to make a donor care about your writing.

Clairification shares a plethora of resources for you to enjoy for free.

Jeff Brooks on the unfair truth about disaster fundraising.

 


May Nonprofit Blog Carnival: Leadership in Fundraising

I have the pleasure of hosting May's carnival and I chose the topic of 'leadership in fundraising'. I believe poor leadership is one of the biggest threats to our profession, so I was interested to see what stories and posts I would receive.

I've been fortunate to work for some great leaders in my career. One of the most vivid lessons I was taught early in my career is neatly summed up in this Gaping Void image and associated post:

Gaping Void Leadership

Probably my favourite submission this month comes from Beth Ann Locke. She shares why her first non-profit boss was so good. Among the nine gifts Beth shares are trust, belief in staff and mentoring. How many of the nine gifts have people you have worked for demonstrated? Do you practice the same with your own team? 

Joe Garecht from Fundraising Authority explains how to be a great development director. According to Joe, 'Leading means being able to make decisions, take initiative, and bear responsibility for both successes and failures.'

Joan Garry shares the five attributes of a great executive director. She takes a closer look at five attributes that make Ellen DeGeneres such a strong leader.

Are you recruiting for a new development leader? Joan also shares some interview questions (and answers for the candidates) that you should be asking.

Jeremy Koch of Empower Nonprofits rightly states that everyone needs to recognise their ability to lead. He states we can all demonstrate everyday leadership if we choose to do so.

Christine Fuller answers some interesting questions about leadership for development professionals including an interesting take on how we can overcome our professions 'leadership crisis'.

Pamela Grow shares her gratitude for her first boss and what he taught her about courage, strength, grace and dignity.

As well as stories on leadership, I thought it would be useful to share some reports and resources that you can use in your own leadership efforts.

Sophie Penney is the Program Director and a Lecturer for Penn State’s online Certificate in Philanthropic Leadership. Sophie shared a great summary of Jim Collin's excellent book Good to Great and the concept of 'level five leadership'.

The Great Fundraising Report by Adrian Sargeant and Revolutionise is always worth another look and has some good leadership pointers.

Penelope Burk's Donor Centred Leadership is one of my favourite non-profit books. Read how much poor leadership costs through increased staff turnover and related loss of fundraising income. This blog post on making time to learn how to manage and lead gives a flavour of the book.

Finally, I have used a number of the exercises in the Emerging Nonprofits Leaders Playbook in workshops. It is a fantastic resource that contains lots of useful tips, tools and exercises. A big 'thank you' to Beth Kanter, Third Plateau Impact Strategies and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for producing such a wonderful (free) resource.

June's Nonprofit Blog Carnival

June's carnival is hosted by Nancy Schwartz author of the fantastic Getting Attention blog. Nancy is asking for people to share their experience of creating an all staff team of messengers. What are your experiences of doing this? What are your concerns? How do you ask, train and support your messengers?

Be sure to check out next month's topic on and see how you can get involved.


Nonprofit Blog Carnival: Leadership in Fundraising

I’m delighted to be hosting May’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival.

With the presidential primaries well underway and the UK about to vote in the biggest referendum in a generation, leadership is a hot topic at the moment. I have been reading and thinking about the subject a lot recently and thought it would make for a great carnival topic. 

I strongly believe there is a leadership deficit in fundraising. The evidence of this? High staff turnover at nonprofits, a focus on short-term planning and results and a dearth of strategic thinking. Of course, there are brights spots and exceptions to this, but they are not as common as I would like!

So, for this month’s carnival I’d love to hear your stories and ideas about leadership:

  • Which leader do you most admire?

  • Who are the best, and worst, leaders you have worked for? What made them so good/bad?

  • What does leadership mean to you?

  • How can you be a leader in more junior roles?

  • How can fundraising solve its leadership crisis?

  • What are your ‘go-to’ leadership resources? For example, do you have a favourite book or Ted talk on the subject?

How To Submit Your Blog Post:

Submitting your posts to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival couldn't be easier. Just send both the URL of your post and a 2-3 sentence summary of your post to: nonprofitcarnival@gmail.com by Friday, May 27th to be considered! I'll be reviewing all submissions and choosing ones for inclusion in a "blog round up" post at the end of May.

April’s Carnival

Hosted by Erik Andersen of Donor Dreams blog, the topic was ‘Advice To My Younger Fundraiser Self’. Read some of the funny, insightful and moving stories on Erik’s blog.