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February 2010

Saturday Fundraising Link Fest!

Attended the excellent Like Minds event in Exeter yesterday and got some interesting notes to write up.  Whilst I do that, here are several links to great articles that I've read over the last few weeks.

Kimberely has been on fire recently with a series of great posts, here are my two favs: Donor-Centred is just jargon and Stop complaining about your board of trustees and help them.

Jeff has been equally excellent and here are my favourite two of his recent posts:

Why making your fundraising easy to read matters and how to make fact trump opinions in meetings

Are you doing enough research? Based on the emotional power of soup!

Aline's Friday quiz I've missed the first two, but long may it continue. Good luck to Villa tomorrow...

How to creat buzz via social media: do's and don'ts

A sadly familiar story from a non-profit mystery shopping test

John Baguley on the art of storytelling

The six types of wealthy donors

At the nonprofit blog carnival top nonprofit gurus share their highs and lows of their careers.

Excellent commentary from Kev Baughen on uproar from Blackpool Hospice spending £50,000 on art.

I found the comments to this post about feeling guilty about giving to a donkey sanctuary on holiday really interesting.

Eaon's seven rules to foster collaboration with customers.

What you can learn about customer loyalty from Lady Gaga.

Will social media be the death of DM? HT to @gcohen85

Scott Berkun says good beats innovative every time.

Nobody wants to hear your sales pitch

So says Steve Yastrow in his latest newsletter (well worth signing up to) and his comments apply equally to fundraising:

“I don't care how amazing you are, how unique your product offering is or how much better you are than your competitors; nobody wants to hear your pitch. If you launch into your elevator pitch, your customer will tune out well before you're finished. He'll start thinking of his next appointment; he'll look for his car keys in his coat pocket, and he'll make a mental note to call his assistant to check on something, all while your mellifluous adjectives and well-turned phrases bounce off the elevator's walls, unnoticed by anyone but you.

“Instead, think of how to have a 30-second elevator conversation, in which you engage your customer and judiciously bring in pieces of your elevator pitch at appropriate times. This means that you can't tell your entire story during this short meeting, but that's okay. Your objective is not to close the sale, but to earn the right to have another conversation.”

How many of your communications and interactions with donors try to educate, preach or shout rather than converse, interact and engage with them?

Make sure you’re listening to what your donors are saying and then reflect this in your communication with them.

The Direct Marketer's Checklist (via Denny Hatch)

The ever fabulous Denny Hatch has come up trumps again with an excellent checklist that every direct marketer that should print out and check against before sending anything.

The full list of over 50 items is at his blog, but here are the first ten things on the list:

"1. Does your message employ at least one (preferably several) of the seven key copy drivers—the emotional hot buttons that make people act: Fear - Greed - Guilt - Anger - Exclusivity - Salvation - Flattery?

2. Does your copy contain some or all of the 13 most powerful and evocative words in the English language: You - Save - Money - Guarantee - Love - Results - Proven - Safety - Easy - New - Health - Discovery - Free?

3. Since “you” is the subject of every sales effort, is your promotion about “you”—as opposed to "we," "us" or "our"?

4. "The prospect doesn't give a damn about you, your company or your product. All that matters is, 'What's in it for me?'" —Bob Hacker

Are you emphasizing your product and what it will do for the prospect rather than yourself and your company?

5. “Probably well over half our buying choices are based on emotion.” —Jack Maxson

“When emotion and reason come into conflict, emotion always wins.”—John J. Flieder

Is your sales pitch emotional (rather than analytical and rational)?

6. "People want quarter-inch holes, not quarter-inch drills."MBA Magazine

Does your sales pitch highlight benefits (e.g., you get quarter-inch holes)—as opposed to features (e.g., buy a drill)?

7. "Your job is to sell, not entertain."—Jack Maxson

"Cute and clever simply don't work." —Nigel Rowe

Is your presentation cute, clever and entertaining?

8. Do you make an offer?

9. "You cannot sell two things at once." —Dick Benson

Are you giving the prospect too many choices?

10. “The right offer should be so attractive that only a lunatic would say, 'No.’" —Claude Hopkins

“If you want to dramatically increase your results, dramatically improve your offer.”—Axel Andersson

Is your offer the very strongest one you can field?"

Excellent, common sense advice, but it's amazing how many appeals/communications don't manage to check every box.  I include my own in this and will be working hard to get us ticking all the boxes.

Promoting the joy of giving: A fundraising revolution?

My article on the joy of giving on Monday seems to have struck a chord with people, judging by the number of re-tweets and high number of visitors to the site in the last few days.
However, I’m very conscious that commenting and pointing out where someone is wrong is very easy, but what is harder is coming up with a counter proposal or solution.

So here is my blue ocean strategy for revolutionising fundraising and promoting the joy of giving.  Feel free to shoot me down, constructively criticise or tell me what a god-like genius I am!

Is fundraising broken?

Fundraising at its best is inspiring and makes the world a better place.  Just look at the massive amount of money that people gave after the recent Haiti earthquake.

However, I believe strongly that a number of traditional fundraising techniques are over used and the market is becoming saturated with appeals/requests aimed at an increasingly disillusioned market.

But, as Jeff Brooks rightly points out, the problem isn’t the medium, it’s the misuse and bad execution of it that so turns people off.

Depending on what you read overall philanthropic giving in the UK is either in decline or at best static.

We need to do something to reverse the trend because the fundraising profession is approaching a crossroads and advances in print and computer technology provide a wonderful opportunity to improve how we go about raising funds.

A powerful force for change

There are two main spheres of influence that I believe combine to make a powerful force for change in fundraising.

Books such as Trust Agents, Wikinomics, Free and the World is Flat combine to make a compelling case of the opportunities that social media and the internet offer.

Secondly, business writers such as Seth Godin and Steve Yastrow and fundraisers of the calibre of Ken Burnett and Kay Sprinkel Grace argue that permission, great customer experience and feedback based on the individual's own needs are required to be competitive today.

The beginnings of a revolution…

The combination of both of these drivers has seen revolutions in the book selling, travel agency and newspaper industries (amongst others) over the last ten years and the time for revolution in the fundraising sector is nearly upon us.

Mark Phillip’s talks about some of the charities that have started to do this and names (amongst others) Kiva, Donors Choose, Charity:Water, but these still represent only a small percentage of philanthropic giving and are predominantly overseas development charities and niche (although extremely worthwhile) causes.

So if I was to start a fundraising revolution what would it look like?

A New Fundraising Model

First of all there are a number of fundamental principles:

• Individuals should be made to feel proud to give and inspired by the difference that their generosity makes.
• Complete transparency on where the gift goes.
• Feedback on the impact of the gift.
• Control of the frequency and type of communications.

In return I would ask two things of donors:

• To commit to give a minimum of 1% of their annual income.
• Increase this giving based on rises in their own income.  Perhaps using a mechanism like ‘Give More Tomorrow’.

I would achieve this in the following way.

First of all I would establish a foundation that would promote the principles of the 1% club.  People could choose to give direct to their own chosen charities or pay the money into the foundation and decide which causes and charities  they want to distribute their money to (much like CAF accounts work).

In return for giving to the foundation or pledging to give a minimum amount to charity every year, I would develop a suite of materials that made people proud of their philanthropy. 

This would include inspiring quotes, posters, stickers, badges etc that made people feel good about giving.  These materials would also encourage people to let others know that they are part of the club (hopefully without being too preachy or sanctimonious), so instead of feeling guilty when someone stops them on the street or they receive an unsolicited piece of direct mail they can respond by saying ‘I’m part of the 1% club and proud to give through them’.

The power of the masses & the importance of impact

For those who decide to give through the club I would try and harness the power of mass collaboration (a la Wikipedia) to channel their giving to those charities who have the biggest impact.  Check out this great article at Tactical Philanthropy on defining impact or this recent New Philanthropy Capital booklet.

Using a team of volunteers/paid staff I would get them to visit projects, report on the work that is being done and produce photos/video/newsletters that shows the donor where their money is going and the difference they are helping to make.

This would shift the fundraiser’s role in organisations who decide to sign up to the club.  They would be responsible (amongst other things) for providing feedback to donors, collating information on the impact of their work, putting on donor recognition events, engaging them in new projects and giving supporters the tools to become true fans/ambassadors of their charity, who will go off and recruit other donors.

If sufficient people sign up, then the fund could be a real driving force for change and good.  It would reduce the money spent on traditional advertising and fundraising and hopefully increase the overall amount of philanthropic giving.
I would not abandon direct mail, the telephone or other more traditional methods, as I still think they have a lot to offer.  However, I would insist that any use of these was permission based, interesting, relevant and inspiring.

So, what are the issues?

Critics might argue that creating such a foundation would be inefficient, as it risks duplicating work and having high administration costs.  However, by harnessing the power of volunteers and their networks (much of the recruitment of new donors would be word of mouth and peer to peer) then you would only need a small, core team to run the foundation and the sector as a whole would save money as it would reduce acquisition and marketing costs.

Another valid questions is ‘Why give to a foundation, when you can give direct?’.  That’s true for some people who are passionate and engaged with a particular cause or charity.  The problem is that many people don’t know the best places to channel their giving and are put off by current approaches to charitable giving.  A recent article by Beth Breeze from Kent University points out that many donors struggle to distinguish between charities and use a number of fall back strategies to decide where to give. The 1% Club would help overcome some of these problems.

Anyone want to join me?

Celina Ribero at Civil Society wrote about a similar idea today and also pointed out the marvellous example of Dr Toby Ord, so there’s three people on board – anyone else care to join us?

Should we promote the right to ask or the joy of giving?

The Institute of Fundraising announced in January that they are thinking of launching a campaign to promote a fundraisers right to ask the public for donations. 

It has promoted an interesting reaction with people coming out for and against the idea.

Personally, I much prefer their other suggested title 'proud to ask', but ultimately in it's current proposed state the campaign is doomed to failure.  It will be controversial (not necessarily a bad thing), counter productive, divisive and many people will claim an equal right to say no.

People have been arguing about rights and corresponding responsibilities and duties for centuries and the campaign could quickly get bogged down by philosophical and linguistic arguments. 

I'd much prefer that they concentrated on promoting the proven joy of giving and trying to grow the overall amount given to charity.

The benefits of such a campaign are two fold:

  1. It is scientifically proven that giving is good for you and is a pleasurable act, so it makes it hard to argue against.
  2. As a positive campaign it thanks the people who already give (and so doesn't turn them off giving again), uses positive deviance to encourage others to give and will benefit the whole charitable community by getting more people to donate.

At the same time that I was promoting the joy of giving, I'd also be promoting the impact that giving has and how those people who do give help to change the world. 

Over simplistic?  Possibly, but I'd guarantee that the positive campaign would have a much greater long term impact than taking a rights based approach to the problem.

What I've been reading this week

My first link round-up of 2010!  It's been a whirlwind start to the year and I've only just got on top of my Google Reader.  Hope you enjoy the selection of stories I've picked out this week...

Charities in trouble:  Barnardo's launches an emergency appeal - find out why New Philanthropy Capital think we should be supporting the appeal, whilst over in America, Sean Stannard Stockton features two posts on the crisis at Idealist.  Part 1 and Part 2.

Jeff Brooks says listening to donors will only take you so far.

Jonathan Grapsas urges us to make the most of the honeymoon period with your new donors.

A review of the new Heath Brothers book, 'Switch'.  It's on my must read list!

Words that describe philanthropy

Mark Phillips asks 'What really satisfies a donor?'

The Agitator on 'The Value of Now!'

Dan Pallotto over at the Harvard Business Review on why Haiti is a marketing lesson.  Don't agree with all that Dan writes, but it makes for an interesting debate. Look forward to hearing him speak at the IoF conference this year.

Seth on the power of a gift.  Closely linked to his new book 'Linchpin'.

Sean Platt on 14 lessons from one of the best paid direct mail copywriters.

100 Good Advertising Headlines via the 'Who really gives a toss?' blog.

Various links on behavioural economics at the Nudge blog.

Update on Direct Mail Article

A couple of quick updates on my article 'Direct Mail takes another round of kicking'.

First of all, Third Sector report that the Cancer Research UK letter featured in the article has become their best ever new donor recruitment pack.

They report:

"The pack attracted 56 per cent more new supporters than the control pack against which it was tested, which had previously been the charity's most successful new-donor recruitment pack.

"CRUK has recruited more than 8,700 new regular givers through the Brown Envelope campaign since the start of this year. It led to an average donation 21 per cent higher than the control pack managed to attract."

Will this lead to a whole host of copycat direct mail letters hitting our doorsteps in the coming year?  Probably.

Secondly, Ian Macquillin shares his thoughts on the person who has decided to leave their job after receiving donor complaints about a mailing. Ian concludes with two interesting points:

"The first is that it is totally outrageous and unforgivable that anyone should be subject to such abusive tirades from complainants. Should fundraisers ever encounter such uncivilised behaviour, they need not, like the fundraiser quoted in Third Sector, blame themselves.

"The second is that fundraising is not for wimps. The difference between the subject of Third Sector’s news story and my acquaintance, the one who was verbally assaulted recently, is that she is still in her job. She's got no intention of throwing in the towel."

Notes from #media140 - Using Real-Time Social Media in the Third Sector

Attended Media140's event today, which featured a number of panels and guest speakers on social media.

It was an interesting event and as well as seeing a few old faces, it was good to chat to new people and to hear what they're doing with social media in their own organisations.

Below are some quickly typed thoughts and observations from each of the sessions.

Keynote 1: 'Staying relevant in a wired world' by Steve Bridger

I've had a few conversations with Steve on Twitter, so it was nice to see and hear him in the flesh (although I had to dash before getting a chance to say hello!) and I was impressed with what he had to say.

His talk was a personal plea for charities not to make social media a silo and that 'legitimate voices' were a bad idea.

He said we should encourage workers to become better storytellers and professional conversationalists about their cause and to trust them to do it properly.

I particularly found this slide about the changing giving environment useful:

Panel 1: Finding a voice - maintaining personality cross platform, across different campaigns.

The panel relayed how they used social media in their own organisations and the importance of engaging in conversation and not just 'shouting' your messages at people.

Simon Collister of We are Social got a bit of a backlash on Twitter when he suggested that charities outsource their social media. Personally I think the actual Tweets/messages/engagement should be by a charity staff member or volunteer, but I don't have a problem with an agency providing training, advice, strategy etc. As Rob Dyson of WhizzKidz pointed out we don't kick up the same sort of fuss when charities outsource things like face to face or telephone fundraising.

The other quote that I liked from the panel was: 'People are multi-faceted, you only find out their depth and diversity when you engage with them.'

Keynote 2: Building a community from nothing by John Carnell of Bullying UK

I've heard a lot about Bullying UK and social media, but hadn't heard John speak before. I thought he did an excellent job.

He made a number of pertinent points, as well as sharing some great stats on how Bullying UK engage with people. You can see his presentation on Slideshare.

He encouraged people to put their message across as a person and not as a brand as that builds the best connections.

Share, share and share content, be honest, be open and people will love you.

He predicted that the mobile web is untapped. He's getting in early as he think it is about to explode and that this explosion will be driven by the social web.

Panel 2: The future of fundraising with 'real-time' social media?

Some of the ideas and trends that the panel discussed were:

  • The increasing need for NGO's to collaborate to raise fund. No NGO is unique - even if they think they are.
  • The importance of storytelling and fitting your ask around this.
  • Making things relevant at the point of sale and the increase of micro-donations.
  • Mobile barcodes (QR-codes) becoming increasingly popular and will give fundraisers new opportunities to capture data and raise funds.

Panel 3: How to enthuse and co-ordinate volunteers

Jamie Thomas of iVolunteer gave an impassioned defence of slacktivism and said it was better that people did something than do nothing. He said this micro-volunteering (such as signing an online petition) often led to further involvement and engagement in the future.

The panel also thought that volunteering was lagging behind other functions of charities (such as fundraising) in their adoption of social media to manage and involve volunteers. Someone quoted a study that found that less than 20% of small, local charities had any social media presence.

Demo: Media140 Labs

The final part of the day was a presentation from Liam of, which is an online tool to help charities campaign better (well worth checking out if you are a campaigning charity) and from iVolunteer, a Facebook style community for volunteers and volunteer managers. One of the interesting things about this is that they are producing a white label version for large charities to use for their own staff and volunteers.

More information:

Itchynotscratchy's thoughts

The Flickr pool from the day - including this one of me not being able to keep my mouth shut!

The organisers: Media140

Notes from the Fundraising Research Thinktank Meeting

Yesterday I attended a forum organised by the Institute of Fundraising to discuss fundraising research and the setting up of a research body to improve the dissemination and quality of fundraising research.

The main aim was to gather feedback on what the priorities for such a group would be and to learn more about the areas that people thought needed greater research.

There was a good mix of fundraising practitioners, agencies, suppliers and academics and it made for an interesting and lively discussion.

One of the first points that was more or less unanimously agreed on was that there was a need for this body to try and bring together all the existing fundraising research into one place and to act as a sign post for fundraisers to find useful research. However, a lot of work needs to be done on deciding on how to judge what constitutes good or bad research.

Ahead of the meeting people were asked to submit their thoughts on possible areas of research and below is my thoughts on the types of research I would like to see:

My suggested research:

  • Research on increasing total philanthropic giving (not just to individual charities) as studies showing that the number of people donating to charities is falling.
  • Long term impact on giving of various ‘stewardship’ tools e.g. how do various good/bad practices impact on giving in the long term. Would want to do this across a range of charities and over a 5/10 year period and measure various things like repeat gifts, average donations and legacies.
  • Measuring ‘negative’ impacts. What doesn’t happen because of various activities? We are very good at measuring the positives, but what doesn’t happen because someone receives numerous phone calls / lots of direct mail / has a bad experience with a F2F fundraiser i.e. do people give less/stop giving because of these experiences?
  • How fundraisers can (ethically) use behavioural economics to encourage people to give. Similar to Adrian Sargeant’s recent research on donations to a public radio station in the U.S.

It was pleasing to hear Martin Brookes of New Philanthropy Capital say how important the ‘negative’ impacts research was and he emphasised how many people have stopped giving to charity over the last decade.

Of the other research suggested, I would group it into the following categories:

  • How do you improve loyalty, engagement and connection with an individual charity. (Though personally I think there is already a lot of good work in this area)
  • The importance and impact of transparency.
  • How to…guides e.g. upgrades. Lot’s of calls for social media/digital marketing research.
  • How/why do donors switch charities?
  • Donor incentives and motivations. Attitudinal data to giving.
  • Trend spotting / monitoring innovation etc
  • Best practice in various areas (Beth Breeze of the University of Kent rightly pointed out that Sofii is already doing some of this signposting work)
  • Combining data across charities to get a better understanding of sector.
  • Benchmarking data across fundraising disciplines and sectors.


I’m a big believer in using research to help make decisions, formulate strategies and using it as the foundation of a successful fundraising programme.  However, I was surprised at how many people want hand holding and how they expect research to somehow provide an answer to all fundraising problems. It’s important but it’s no magic wand!

I was also surprised at what seemed to be the lack of awareness of much of the research and academic writing that is already available.  It really highlighted to me how important the signposting function is.

Overall a really interesting meeting and credit to the Iof for organising the discussion. I look forward to hearing what happens next.

Peer to Peer Fundraising: A Great Example from Charity Water & Chris Guillebeau

The Art of Non-Conformity 


I'm a big fan of Chris Guillebeau and have subscribed to his newsletter for the last year. He's a great example of someone who has grown a business by giving (see Hugh for a detailed description of what this means) and built a tribe of like minded people who he inspires through his writing and ideas.

So I was really interested to receive this e-mail, which outlines his plans to raise $500,000 for water wells in Ethiopia.

It is one of the best examples I've seen of 'peer to peer' fundraising and there are a number of reasons why I believe Chris will achieve his target.

  • Chris tells a compelling story about the need for clean water in Ethiopia. By concentrating on two villages he is setting a clear and realistic goal and can make people feel part of something tangible.
  • There is complete transparency about where the money is going and what Chris is specifically going to do himself. From the trust he has built through his e-mails you know that his pledge is genuine and honest.
  • By assisting Chris achieve his goal you know you will be part of something and that it will be a lot of fun helping along the way. Chris will make it interesting and will provide regular feedback on how he is doing.
  • He encourages his own fans to use their own contacts: "Many of you have your own circle of influence or your own small army. When you speak, they listen to you because they trust you." This ripple effect will attract other donors.

I believe that this type of appeal will become increasingly popular with people taking on specific projects and focusing their energies on encouraging their networks to raise money. It's a powerful combination as the compelling story and the trust/respect of the person asking makes you want to give.

Now what Chris is doing is nothing particularly new or revelationary. In fact, his approach isn't all that different from this great fundraising letter from Sofii from Bruce Barton in 1925 (registration required) that produced a 100% response rate.

What is different is that social media makes it so much easier to run this sort of appeal and gives you the ability to provide instant feedback and gratification. As a fundraiser you need to be looking for the people like Chris on your database and then giving them the tools and freedom to go off and do something similar.