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October 2009

The Lion Guardians Present a Compelling Online Story

I loved this website about a number of young Maasai who are trying to protect lions in Kenya.  Traditionally lions were seen as predators, but in recent years their numbers have declined dramatically and so the Lion Guardians formed to try and protect them.

According to the GOOD blog:

"They’re tracking lions and radio-tagging them so herders can avoid them and, while they’re out in the bush, they help round up stray cows as well. Not only is it nice to protect lions for their own sake (they’re incredible creatures), but it’s also economically important for Kenya. If the country loses lions, its valuable tourist industry suffers."

However, to do this they need to raise money and I thought their blog and website was another great example of a charity using social media to directly connect the donors with the beneficiaries.

Not only does the blog present a compelling story (tracking lions can be quite exciting!) it also asks for money through a variety of methods.

You can sponsor a lion guardian, buy a range of one-off equipment and even buy  Christmas Cards!

The site is a great mix of fundraising asks, that are clearly linked to the cause and you can delve quite deep into the site and watch video, see some truly stunning photography from the Maasai Mara, learn more about the conservation and even track the lions on the cat map!

The site appears to be updated daily (take note other charities!) and people's comments are responded to with a sincere and appropriate reply.

All in all it presents a compelling case for support and is another great example of a  charity engaging and involving donors in their work through social media.

This Week's Essential Reading


I spent half of last week over in Lisbon watching the football (had a great time, apart from the result) and so had a mountain of reading to catch up on my return and have put together the following links that I think are worth checking out.

As for this week, I'm speaking at the Third Sector Forum on Wednesday.  If you're attending then make sure you say hello - it would be good to chat with you.

Happy reading!

Karl Howleger of telephone fundraising agency Pell & Bales provokes controversy over at Third Sector by suggesting charities should check whether people still don't want to receive phone calls.

Fans of the Freakonomics book should check out this free talk by the authors at the RSA, London.

The Fundraising Coach on writing good letters.

The Agitator on Charity:Water and their use of the web.

Nancy announces the winners of her tagline competition.  Really enjoyed voting and learnt a lot on how to formulate a successful tagline.

John Grain on the simple things in fundraising.

What your donors are really thinking...

A promising start by the new author of the Donor Power blog with this article on what it means to be a donor.

Fascinating debate on previously lauded Kiva and their loans.  Make sure you also check out how quickly and honestly they responded to the debate.  Very impressive.

John Haydon on how to control social media.

Mark Phillips on benchmarking the success of your e-mail campaigns

Scientific evidence of why bullet points don't work in presentations: better change my presentation on Wednesday!

Interesting report at GOOD on food waste in the U.S.A - sample quote: "in just one year the United States may even produce enough food waste to feed all of Europe."

Seth on avoiding and overcoming 'Trolls'

The DumbLittleMan Guide to Comma Use

Cracking down on rogue direct mail is great, but needs an adequate sanction...

It was great to read in Third Sector about the Institute of Fundraising's crackdown on rouge direct mail.  I was particularly pleased that it has written to 22 charities that it believes has broken its code of conduct and that it will report those who don't respond to the FRSB for further investigation.

It would be nice to know why the IoF decided they broke the code and to be given a few more details on what constitutes a breach.  For example, was it because they sent an umbrella through the post, as one charity did to a relation of mine recently?

What is not so great is the lack of sanction available to both the IoF and the FRSB due to a catch 22 situation. 

Both organisations can only punish members and most of the very fundraising charities giving the sector the bad name are not members.  Even more frustratingly the FRSB constitution doesn't even allow it to name the charities who are in breach, but who aren't members.

Whilst I think it's great that action is being taken, it's a real shame that there is no meaningful sanction (a fine / ban on posting via Royal Mail / public naming & shaming etc would all send a strong message) that can be handed out to the culprits who do untold damage to the sector as a whole.

Will Cancer Research UK take the 'Shine' off Midnight Walks?

The success of women-only Midnight Walks over the last couple of years has been a fundraising phenomenon i've never quite understood.  Whilst I can see the novelty of walking around the sights of London at night, doing the same in Stevenage or Sedgefield always left me slightly perplexed.

That being said they have been hugely popular with many hospices copying the success of the original Moonwalk and holding events around the country.  They've quickly established themselves as serious competition to CRUK's 'Race for Life' and in my mind are partly responsible for the cancellations and increased advertising that CRUK have been forced to use to maintain participation levels at the events.

Therefore it was really interesting to see the news in Professional Fundraising that CRUK are about to launch 'Shine' a new, night time walk around Manchester in April 2010.

Although they've only announced one walk so far, i'm sure there will be plans for a quick roll-out of the event across the country if it is successful.

Despite being a blatant rip-off of the Midnight Walk concept, CRUK have added a couple of neat little twists to go with the slick branding and big PR budgets that i'm sure will make it a big success.

First of all, they've opened it up to men and woman.

Secondly, they've given a choice of distances.

Finally, (and the best bit) you can choose which one of twelve cancers you want any sponsorship raised to go towards and you'll be given a back sign representing the cancer you are fundraising for.

As ever, you can't help to be impressed by the speed and quality of the fundraising response by CRUK to the competition Midnight Walks has provided. 

My worst customer experience for a while: can you top it?

Although this isn't strictly about fundraising, I thought you might be interested in a comically bad experience a colleague had with a company in the last week.

He wanted to get in touch with the company to discuss potentially working with them and asking them to come in and have a chat (the company concerned was in the fundraising sector) about their services.

This is where the fun and games began...

First step, was checking out their website for further details and a contact number.  Unfortunately you needed the latest flash player and our IT team hasn't upgraded our browsers yet so we couldn't access the site.

Lesson 1: Make sure your site is accessible to people with older web browsers.

Second step, he decided to give them a call to speak to someone.  He got through to reception, explained what he was after and asked for a contact name in the sales team.  The receptionist refused to give out a name, contact number, e-mail address or put him through as it was against company policy and asked him to e-mail a generic e-mail address and that the e-mail would then be forwarded on.

Lesson 2: Ensure your reception team is trained in basic customer relationship skills and you are prepared to take calls from prospective customers!

My colleague is a determined fellow though and duly sent the e-mail, asking for a response by the end of the last week.  No e-mail was forthcoming...

Lesson 3: Respond to e-mails (basic I know, but these people seem to need such advice!)

Now by this point, he'd already decided that we'd never use this company, but he wanted to see just how high the level of incompetence went in the organisation.

He used a contact he has to get a number for one of the directors and decided to give him a call. Now to be fair, the director was highly apologetic and was embarrassed by the level of service we'd received.  He promised us he'd look into it and get back to him by the end of the day. 

That was Monday, my colleague is still waiting...

Can you beat that for a bad customer experience?

Will Bmycharity & Virgin Money Giving eat into Justgiving's record profits?

Here's my take on some of the interesting things that have been happening in the online giving market in the last month or so.

Justgiving Make Record Profits

Professional Fundraising magazine reported this week that Justgiving doubled it's profits to £1.4 million and, more importantly in my opinion, the amount raised through the site increased by nearly 50% to £150 million in 2008. 

I'll let others debate (or may post in the future) on whether it's right or wrong for a for-profit business to make such a large sum.  Personally I don't have a problem with it as they are providing a needed service and are transparent on the costs of it.

*Update* Check out this well written article at Third Sector on Justgiving profits.

For me there are two interesting points:

  1. Will Bmycharity or Virgin Money Giving (and other providers) eat into their profits in the coming year and force Justgiving to reduce their commission charges?
  2. Can the online giving market continue to grow at such a fast rate?
Hopefully we'll see the companies working together to increase the number of people giving online rather than increasing advertising budgets to compete for the same donors/charity partners.

How Will Bmycharity Make Money?

I've been meaning to write and congratulate Bmycharity on their bold decision to abolish commission charges for a few weeks.

It's an interesting move and anything that reduces costs to charities should be applauded.  Their blog outlines five ways on how they plan to cover their costs using advertising and affiliate marketing and I certainly think it's a model that can work.

Here is just one simple way they could make money that benefits everyone: they could partner with JJB Sports (or any sports shop) and offer everyone doing a sponsored run a money off voucher for a new pair of trainers and running kit.  JJB pay Bmycharity for the privilege of getting the custom of a target market and the person doing the run gets a shiny pair of running shoes at a reduced price. Everybody is happy! 

There are numerous other ways they can use their data to attract advertising and if done in the correct manner it shouldn't be a nuisance or distraction to the people donating or doing the event.

What does the future hold?

Increased competition can only be good for the sector as a whole.  It will hopefully drive innovation, lower costs and provide opportunities to do more research on increasing donation levels, such as this experiment reported at UK Fundraising.

I personally believe that there are still big growth opportunities in a number of areas for online giving. In particular I think we'll see more people giving in-memoriam online and giving repeat gifts, increasing integration with Facebook and Twitter, and finding easy ways to donate numerous small amounts in a cost effective way. 

Charities will need to make more of the technology that the sites offer and make their online presence increasingly interactive and interesting. I honestly believe that in a couple of years it will be the norm (rather than the exception) for these sites to provide feedback to donors through video, podcasting and other methods.

Interesting times indeed.

What i've been reading recently...

Another week flies by and thought it was time I gathered another selection of articles together of what i've been reading recently.

At work, October is shaping up to be the busiest month of the year. Planning and budgeting for 2010/11, signing off all the Christmas appeal direct mail and launching our first ever national raffle has made it hectic to say the least!  I can not complain though as I'd much rather have it this way than being sat round twiddling my thumbs...

Enjoy this week's round up.


Katya asks:Is philanthropy ready for the new consumer?  Also, a good slide-deck on marketing at the bottom of the page.

Interesting piece on the future of direct mail at the Beautiful World blog.

Are you looking after your in-memoriam donors properly?

Pamela has 6 great tips for collecting stories.

Alternatives to using overhead costs as a measure of your organisations success


Men with Pens look at what Walt Disney can teach you about writing

Some cool videos of how making things fun can change people's behaviour - can you apply this to your fundraising in any way?

Interesting look at how visualisation can help you present data

Chris Brogan on starting the case for social media in your organisation

How to Write Great Fundraising Case Studies

Great case studies that show the difference your charity makes to your beneficaries are absolutely key to successful fundraising.  They connect the donor with the cause and resonate on an emotional and intellectual level.

However, too many case studies end up being boring, stifle the story and use too much jargon.

Over at Fundraising Success magazine there is a great article on how to write outstanding profiles.

They highlight five steps to writing an excellent profile:

  1. Schedule the interview
  2. Gather your facts
  3. Get your questions together
  4. Find the "nut", i.e. the heart of the story
  5. Write the profile

The article goes into detail about each point and is worth a read or passing the link on to your communications team.

If you want to know more about crafting great case studies (and fundraising messages in general) then I would recommend the following two books:

Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

Robin Hood Marketing by Katya Andersen

They both contain some great tips and ideas on creating memorable stories and messages.

Book Review: Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacLeod

E-mail Hugh

First a disclaimer:  I’m a big fan of Hugh and his work. I have been reading his blog for well over five years and used his cartoons in a number of presentations and even printed some of them off to display in my tiny office back when I was working in Darlington.  

I love Hugh’s dark sense of humour and refusal to take bull and it is fair to say I was always going to love this book!

It is primarily a book that is aimed at artists and creatives, but I still got a lot from it.  It won’t help you directly fundraise, but it will bring a smile to your face and get you thinking about creativity in your organisation.

Here are five of my favourite quotes from the book:

  • "The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships.  That is why good ideas are always initially resisted.
  • You don’t get anywhere without hard work
  • Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.
  • Merit can be bought. Passion can’t. The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does.
  •  Whether you’re writing to an audience of one, five thousand, a million, ten million, there’s really only one way to truly connect.  One way that actually works:  Write from the heart."

It isn’t the longest book ever written (it shouldn’t take much more than an hour to read) but it is entertaining throughout.  It has a great combination of acerbic and witty cartoons, with pithy, entertaining anecdotes and insightful thoughts that together make it a must read. 

Be warned however, if you are easily offended or if you don’t like the cartoon at the top of this post then it probably isn’t for you.  However, I personally can’t wait for the next book:  Evil Plans.

You can find out more about Hugh at his blog or follow him on Twitter.

Categorising Major Donors and What Annoys Them About Fundraisers

I attended the Institute of Fundraising’s ‘Maximising Fundraising Potential for Long Term Results’ and 'Strategies for Supporter Retention’ half day conferences on Friday 25th September.

I’ve put together some notes and comments on my three favourite sessions and I’ll post them all in the next few days.

First up, Elizabeth Loudon from Prospero Partners presented some interesting research on major donors talking about fundraisers and what fundraisers don’t do.  The list is a bit of an embarrassment.

According to her research, in major donor’s opinion fundraisers don’t:

  • Listen
  • Report back
  • Say thank you
  • Take care of resources
  • Stop asking for money

 However, despite this they still tend to like us!

She also reminded us that fundraisers need to build relationships and not friendships with donors, as at some point you are going to have to ask for money and it can be hard to ask friends for money.

Elizabeth also provided a (basic) but useful framework for trying to classify major donors.  The framework helps understand their motivations and can help formulate strategies you can employ for engaging them.

Her four categories were:

  • Joiners: very sociable and affiliate themselves with a large number of organisations and don’t develop deep connections.
  • Saviours: give to try and save the world.  Respond well to emergencies.
  • Investors: people who want to see a social return on their gift.  Good reporting back to these donors is vital.
  • Dealers: people who might have non-philanthropic reasons for giving and look what is in it for them. Not necessarily bad as can open a lot of doors and have great contacts.

 A good session and you find some more useful downloads here.