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September 2009

Seven Tips for Making the Most of Conferences

For many people conferences offer a break from the office routine and a chance for a free lunch and a gossip, however I think they should be seen as much more than this.

As I was typing up my notes from the Institute of Fundraising conference last week (first round up to follow tomorrow), I thought about the things I do to try and get the most out of the presentations - networking in breaks/lunch is another subject all together.

Here are a few of my thoughts.

  1. Prepare in advance: look at the topics/speakers, think how they relate to your job and what you want to learn from the session.
  1. Take a good pen and notebook and write down thoughts as you listen to the speaker.  It is amazing some of the triggers that a good speaker can spark off and if you don’t jot notes down you can lose the thought.
  1. I like to turn my notepad landscape so I can 'mind map' as I listen and for some reason I find writing on landscape paper makes it easier.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – take advantage of the opportunity to ask the speaker questions and learn from their experiences. If you don’t like asking in front of an audience then go up after the presentation and ask them directly. 
  1. If a question comes up after the speaker has left then drop them an e-mail.  Every person I’ve ever e-mailed after a conference has always got in touch and been happy to help.
  1. Say thank you.  If you’ve really enjoyed a presentation then send the presenter a note saying so.  From experience, it will be greatly appreciated and can lead to further dialogue and insight. 
  1. When you get to the office review your notes and action any of your ideas.  After Friday’s conference I amended notes I’d been making on major donors, passed on information on door to door fundraising, asked a question about MOSAIC codes and e-mailed out training team with an idea about a session for my team.

If you got any other tips for making the most of conferences then please let me know…

Good fundraising stuff from past week

I was surprised by the reaction to my post on SOFII & the FRSB last week.  Thanks to everyone who got in touch and retweeted the post.  It was by far my most read post ever and seemed to strike a chord with people.

I attended the two IoF half day conferences last Friday and hope to get some of my notes written up this week.

In the meantime, here are my favourite bits and pieces from the last week or so.  There has been a flood of interesting social media articles this week and i've listed my favourites.

First up The Agitator highlights two great articles.  First up is Smashing Magazine's 'Nonprofit Website Design', which lists 20 of the best nonprofit website.

Secondly, is a link to a free report (e-mail address required) about e-mail testing.

Jon Waddingham of Justgiving reminds people to watch out for jargon creep in your copy.

Harvard Business Review on the Boston Foundation's "Brave Act of Leadership"

Need some help with your social media guidelines?

Third Sector reports on a Barclays Bank that refused to take a charities cheques.  A sign of the future? (Log-in required)

Interested in improving your writing skills?  Here are the ten best blogs for writers.

If GM's CEO can get social media, why can't yours?  Maybe this video interview will help...

Eleven interesting points of view on the changing business landscape at the Herd blog.

A great slide-deck on measuring social media impact.

Using google as a cheap market research tool.

Should your employees be your best evangelists?

Should we scrap the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) and give the money to SOFII instead?

I've professed my love for SOFII before (so have others such as Tom) and their latest e-mail got me thinking.

The update asked fundraisers for help:

"There are five things you could do that will cost you just a little time but will help us hugely.

 1.     Continue to use and enjoy SOFII’s free service.

2.     Tell us if there is something you particularly love or would like to see added.

3.     Submit an exhibit. Share what worked – and even what didn’t – with each other, so that we can learn together.

4.     Help SOFII’s fundraising by donating a little of your time and expertise to help us find and develop potential donors.

5.     Promote SOFII with our special email signature (see the new logo and message below – just paste this into your email signature folder, and send it in all your emails to other fundraisers). Set yourself a target to recruit at least ten fundraising friends who will email Carolina (at) sofii(dot)org and get registered."

It was number four that got my attention and it seems like SOFII needs some money.

So on the basis that prevention is better than cure why don't we scrap the FRSB and give the money to SOFII to continue to share best practice in fundraising?

The FRSB has been criticised in numerous quarters (here and here for example) for being toothless and i'm sure bodies such as the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) could sufficiently police the sector if they were given a few more powers e.g make it a condition that any charity that wants to do face to face or door to door fundraising is a member of the PFRA.  The PFRA could then boot out any charities that attract numerous complaints thus effectively banning them from using F2F.

The extra money could then allow SOFII to share even more examples of fundraising, promote good practice in fundraising across the globe, run workshops etc, etc.

Wishful thinking? Probably, but I know which organisation will do more to improve the standard of fundraising.

p.s. make sure you do a couple of the suggested actions!

Congratulations Child's I

Last month I wrote about the Child's I Foundation and how I thought they were a great example of a charity using social media to successfully communicate, engage with, and involve their supporters.

Well it seems I'm not the only one who has been impressed and Child's I have just announced that their founder, Lucy, has been chosen as one of the Vodafone 'World of Difference' winners for 2009.

'World of Difference' connects individuals with charities and gives people the chance to spend a year working for their chosen cause.

Check out the website as there are some really inspiring stories (including Lucy's) and I think the scheme is a fantastic idea.

Fundraising News Round-Up

A bumper round up of articles that i've read recently. 

Why you should use the word 'charity' in your fundraising communications rather than 'non-profit'.  Same probably applies to 'Third Sector' as well?

Bryan Miller looking forward to the launch of 'See the Difference' in the UK.

Adrian Sargeant on the language to use in legacy marketing.

A great resource for all aspects of social media.  I've already sent this round my charity and had some good feedback.  Thanks to Allyson at Frogloop for the tip.

Another batch of great posts from the team at Bluefrog.  @markyphillips and @alinereed consistent insight and shared wisdom makes these by far the best blogs on UK charity direct mail (and fundraising in general).  Check out the following four articles:

The dangers of expounding 'best practice'.  Are you sure it's not just conventional wisdom waiting to be challenged?

Have you got your schedule the wrong way round?

Get over your obsession with getting younger donors!

How many of these barriers to implementing social media exist in your organisation?

Seth opens a can of worms about non-profits and how slow they are to respond to change.  Lot's of interesting response to the article with my favourite being this considered response by Sean at Tactical Philanthropy.

@chrisbrogan looks at how he can he can promote his book and social change.  Some really good suggestions in the comments that you might be able to apply to your charity.  I've just bought Trust Agents and hope to read it in the next few weeks.

What can you learn about crisis management from Beyonce's response to Kanye West's antics?

Andy Sernovitz's looks at marketing lessons from the Flaming Lips.  I've included it as they are one of my favourite bands, with 'Do you realise' being one of the greatest songs ever!

Finding your 'village of customers' - linked to my post about finding your true fans, advocates and ambassadors.

How do we root out bad fundraisers?

That is the question i've been thinking about this week after a few unrelated conversations.

First up were the comments from outgoing NSPCC Fundraising Director Giles Pegram who was lamenting the calibre of candidates for his replacement.  He was particuarly riled that a number of candidates failed to mention donors or children in their interviews and said:

“There are people who regard fundraising as a process you go through and they have no sense of the relationship with the donor or the end result for the beneficiary.

“I think it is very sad indeed that people like that can get very senior positions.”

Personally I think Giles should name and shame the candidates so no other charities are lumbered with these snake-oil salesmen like fundraisers.

Secondly, I was at a leaving do for a colleague and we were recounting some of our recruitment disasters over the years.

Some of the people we employed came with impressive looking C.V's, a track record of supposed fundraising success and they interviewed really well, but when they started it was quickly apparent that they were as useful as a chocolate teapot. 

Inevitably when we tried to move them on (as an aside, why does it seem take so long to get rid of under performers?) they ended up at another unsuspecting victim charity often in a better position and with a nice pay increase.  We laughed at the misfortune of the next charity and gave a sigh of relief that they'd gone.

However, it is the sector at large that loses out and untold millions must be lost every year by charities who recruit unsuitable people. 

How can we stop it happening? 

Should we have a blacklist of bad fundraisers?  What would the criteria be?

Should we promote more evidential qualifcations like the CFRE that certify someone's fundraising successes?

Any other ideas?

Would love to hear your views...

As a bonus:

This is what Seth thinks about recruitment.

Also, read (at the bottom of the page) what Tom Peters says about the three 'E's' of recruitment.

How fundraising & altruism can help overcome loneliness

Attended a fascinating lecture at the RSA last night by Prof John Cacioppo.  It was entitled ‘Connected Minds:  Loneliness, Social Brains & the Need for Community’.

Prof Cacioppo presented some impressive research on loneliness and showed how being isolated increases mortality rates, both in humans and other animals.  He emphasised that it was perceived isolation that counts most and that the increase in single households and shrinking (meaningful) social networks have led to an ‘epidemic of loneliness’ in the western world.   This is demonstrated by the huge rise of depression reported, which the Professor argues is a symptom of loneliness.

So what has this to do with fundraising?

Well, there are three dimensions that are indicative of loneliness:

· Do you have someone who values you in life? Most commonly a spouse.

· Do you have many face-to-face connections?

· Do you have any ‘collective connectedness’? 

That is connections that might occur through shared experiences, such as supporting a football team or being a member of a club.

It is this last dimension that fundraisers should be interested in.  If through your interactions, communications and encounters with donors you can make them feel part of something and develop a sense of collected connectedness then not only will you raise more money, but you might also be helping someone break the cycle of loneliness and the associated social problems that it can cause.

Prof Cacioppo also argued that altruism and in particular volunteering can help people overcome loneliness.  Volunteering forces people to interact but in a safe environment where the beneficiary is likely to be grateful.  Therefore this increases the volunteers sense of worth and help ease them out of the downward spiral of increasing isolation, depression etc that loneliness can cause.

Prof Cacioppo has a book out which goes into much detail about this (I haven’t read it yet, but affiliate link to Amazon below) and his site also contains some interesting papers that you can download.



Donor Magic: Avoiding "Computer Says No" Moments


If you've ever seen Little Britain then you'll be familiar with Carol, the not very helpful travel agent.  If you don't know what i'm talking about then you can watch on YouTube.

Although Carol is a caricature there's no doubt that there is a grain of truth in the character and we all have 'computer says no' moments when we don't do our best for our donors.

These are moments when you feel like yelling at someone or when you want to hit something (or someone!) in frustration.  When you are unable to help a donor due to your database running slow or because of a system you have in place.

It’s absolutely imperative that you try to keep these moments to a minimum and avoid them at all costs.  These negative interactions can be hugely damaging for your non-profit. 

Whenever you encounter a donor then you've got to remember that you are the charity in the eyes of that person and you have a responsibility to act accordingly.

Learn to recognise ‘computer says no’ situations and look for ways to resolve them.  Let others know about them, so you can take collective responsibility for overcoming them.  If you can’t avoid a ‘computer says no’ moment, then at least make sure you acknowledge it and apologise for it happening.

I'm sure you can think of 'computer says no' moments you've experienced with other organisations (i've had a few with a certain insurance company that I won't name) and how they made you feel.  If you're like me you won't be using them again.  The same applies to donors and future gifts depend on you resolving and avoiding these moments at all costs.