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March 2010

Some Monday morning reading

Variety is the spice of life and all that, so, for a slight change, and in no way connected to the fact that I never quite got round to doing it over the weekend, here is my fortnightly round-up of articles worth checking out.

Hope you have a great week and an early happy Easter!

Second step to maximise donor lifetime value over at Happy Donors. Step one is here.

Some great ideas on getting the most out of your London Marathon Runners (applies to all sponsored runners) by Kev Baughen.

Some thoughts on the engagement pyramid at Beth's blog.

In-depth article at Frogloop on engagement and donor involvement.

Jeff Brooks on how to know if a fundraising consultant is lying.

Jonathan Grapsas on copy - p.s. also read this article on the power of the post script.

Make your appeals smell of lemon and watch the money roll in?

Sena questions whether more money for charity is a good thing?

Katya has some great new stats and insights on social media.

Fundraising is selling!

Stephen George on the threat to relationship fundraising.

B.L. Ochman on Greenpeace v Nestle

Chris G on why people fail.

Two from Seth: Fear of philanthropy and how to turn a $3 bottle of soap into a $20 bottle.

What's your job as a manager? To help people according to Tom Peters. You can also read an extract of Edgar Schein's book on how to offer, give and receive help here.

Loved this quote on Brand Autopsy:  “It’s more meaningful to be provocative to a few than to be broadly boring to many.”  You can find out more in the article.

A ton of ideas to test for fundraising in this article on the long term effects of short term emotions.

Good Experience on the value of e-mailing customers.

Making a good first impression.

How not to deal with a fundraising PR crisis

A fundraising storm has brewed up in the idyllic Isle of Wight after the local hospice decided to stop accepting donations from one of their local newspapers.

Officially, the hospice declared that it wanted to give another charity on the island a chance to benefit, but internet conspiracy theorists have linked it to critical articles that the paper had published about the council.

Fair enough you might say.  The hospice might have wanted to protect it's reputation or genuinely wanted to give someone else a chance to benefit. However, what really interests me and what anyone can learn from, is the hospice's reaction to the controversy, which, frankly, has been non-existent.

There is no statement on their website, a short, bland, official statement and a resout 'no comment' from an anonymous spokesman, whilst in the meantime the local blog has attracted an incredible 350 comments, many from disgruntled donors and supporters of the hospice who vow never to support them again.

The following quote is typical:

"Oh My God!! Its finally Offical!!
How can a Charity turn their back on people who have raised so much for them, very dissappointed with the puppets (Board of Trustees of Earl Mountbatten Hospice) and the puppet masters pulling their strings. This happens at the same time as IW Gazette is running stories on Council and its so called leader. Hmmmm!! :(. This needs reporting at the highest level and investigating. I will be saving my Donations for the hospice until Graham Elderfield has resigned his post (and please god, don’t pay him off with charity money)"

There are also a number of highly critical quotes of the Chief Exec, but plenty of praise for the nurses and the work they do and pleas not to forget the patients.

So how could the hospice have handled it differently and reacted to the storm?

  • Responded openly and honestly to the questions put to it. People may not have agreed with them, but it would have nipped the story in the bud.
  • Taken the time to respond to some of the blog posts.
  • Turned the tables and asked people for extra support because of the shortfall.
  • Put some info on their website.

By burying it's head in the sand the hospice has exposed itself to wider criticism and threatened it's future fundraising support.

If a similar crisis threatened your organisation how would you respond? Do you have procedures in place to manage such a situation? Would you bury your head in the sand or engage with your critics?

Three different, but inspiring, charity videos

I wanted to share three fundraising videos, which have found their way to my in-box over the last week or so.  All three tell inspiring stories about their causes, but have very different styles.  Let me know which one is your favourite...

Child's i Baby Shower Video

Child's i have launched a great virtual gifts concept and are asking people to buy specific items for their abandoned baby project in Uganda at their online baby shower

The idea of a baby shower is a great one and I loved the humour and warmth of the video that they've produced to promote it.


Charity:water have launched Unshaken - a brand new appeal to raise money for clean water projects for rural communities in Haiti.

The site is very professional, slick and shows you exactly where your donation will go.  The accompanying video is also moving and tells a powerful story.  I personally loved this quote at 2:37, where a Haitian man says:

"Our community has no money to give...but we are ready to give courage."

Unshaken - charity: water's campaign for Haiti from charity: water on Vimeo.

Shelter Dog saved by a hug

I'm not a huge animal lover, but was touched by this moving video of Edie, a dog that was due to die, but was saved an hour from death.  The video is rough and ready, but tells an inspiring story and shows how it's possible for any charity to make a moving, emotional video at low cost.

Thanks to Charity Mash for the tip.

Unusual Response Form Design: Good Idea or Not?

A colleague received a mailing from Breakthrough Breast Cancer recently and I was intrigued by the response form they included.

At first I thought it was a great idea, now I'm not so sure.  What do you reckon?

Breakthrough Breast Cancer2
Breakthrough Breast Cancer

I initially loved the idea of having the three tear off slips and the way they related the ask to a specific idea of what your gift could achieve. However, the more I thought about it, the more I was worried that people may have found it confusing, fiddly and a bit of a waste of paper. 

When you look at the reverse side the response form is repeated three times with the only change being the gift amount.

I'd love to know how it performed. My personal opinion is that less is more with response forms.  You need to keep it as simple and easy to follow as possible and with plenty of space to write in.

Do you agree with me?

Another great new resource: Study Fundraising site launches

Being the fundraising geek that I am, I was excited to hear about the launch of Professor Sargeant and Professor Shang's new academic website Study Fundraising.

I've just had a quick peek of what is on there, but already it looks like it's going to be a site I visit regularly.

It has a wealth of resources on all aspects of fundraising research from ethics and planning to events and e-fundraising.

In my main area of interest of donor retention and loyalty it has links to some of my favourite books and academic articles - including this excellent summary report on donor loyalty and retention.

I wish the site every success and see it working brilliantly alongside SOFII, which shows off the best practical examples of fundraising.

My only plea is to change the white on blue copy, which, as any good academic should know, is really hard to read! :)

Some Friday afternoon reading for you...

A really productive week at work, with lots of new projects getting off the ground, which is great. Also been moving house, which means I haven't got as much writing done as I would've liked, but there's always next week!

Anyway, here's a round-up of my favourite recent blog posts:

Kev Baughen with some good thoughts on online giving and the sad demise of Bmycharity. The Raffle.It blog also has some thoughts on the matter as well.

Some good ideas on engaging entrepreneurial donors with creative thinking.

Katya has an important wake up call about your supporters.

Jonathan Grapsas on getting people to 'handraise' before fundraising.

Does your organisation's thank you letter suck?

Jeff Brooks with a list of banned words to avoid in your fundraising.

Need a social media policy? Beth has got everything you need...

Beth Breeze talks about two recent approaches she's had to be a donor.

Useful article on how to reduce your Twitter follower list without annoying people.

Could you make more use of video to help your customer service efforts?

Alan Webber on how change works

Fed up of long meetings? Why not try a 22 minute one? 

Have you hugged your donors today?


Loved Hugh's latest cartoon in his daily newsletter (highly recommend signing up to it) and thought if you replace the word 'client' with 'donor' then you won't go far wrong in your fundraising.

Anyway, here are five easy ways to give your donors a hug...

  1. Call a donor at random to thank them for their latest gift.
  2. Send an e-mail to a donor you haven't heard from for a while to see how they are doing.
  3. Look up a donor's birthday and send them a greeting.
  4. Rather than sending a standard thank you letter, why not send a handwritten note?
  5. Send a personalised update on a project that you know is close to the donor's heart.
I'm sure there are many other ways to give your donors a hug and I'd love to hear your suggestions...

Events Fundraising: Should you promote your cause or the experience?


It’s been interesting to see the various promotional material for this year’s Cancer Research UK Race for Life.

They are firmly focused on promoting the social side of the events and ask people to ‘Sign up for amazing moments’ with the ‘help beat cancer’ given only a small byline.

The photos are all positive images of ladies on the walk and sharing fun/emotional times together.  This is the main selling point of the event and the fact that it also happens to raise money for CRUK is almost a secondary concern in the marketing.

The idea of selling a shared experience around your audience and market is also a feature of a recent essay by Mark Earl’s over at WARC.  Mark explores why marketers need to reconsider their audience’s needs and includes this insightful quote from American film-maker Lance Weiler:

“More than 70% of the value of entertainment content is to be found in the services and conversations co-created around the core of the content itself.  It’s what the audience members do, say and create (socialise) around the product you make that creates the real value for everyone.  Your product and your marketing are primarily of value in so far as they create an excuse for the audience to ‘socialise’ around.”

Race for Life is certainly a product that gives people an excuse to socialise round  and the marketing clearly reflects this.

It continues to be the biggest mass participation fundraising event in the UK and this shows the success of this marketing strategy.  However there are a couple of inherent risks in focusing mainly on the experience and not the cause as much.

Firstly, there isn’t necessarily a huge amount of brand loyalty and so if someone comes along with a better/new experience or product then people are likely to move on to this.

Many people feel that they are buying an experience and so feel less obligation to also raise sponsorship at the same time.  This is reflected in the high rates of non-payers that CRUK have experienced and is the result of focusing their marketing on the experience and the cause.

This pay-off between selling the experience and selling your cause is something that all event fundraisers need to be aware of when marketing an event.  Doing everything you can to enhance the participants experience and making it easy for them to share and socialise round the event will help ensure it's success.  However, don't completely forget to remind people why they are taking part and build your key messages into the social experience.

Like Minds 2010: Can you use games & augmented reality to improve your fundraising?

I had a very worthwhile trip down to Exeter on Friday for the second Like Minds events. It was a social media conference and they had some excellent speakers lined up.  Tickets for the afternoon were a bargain compared to London based events and the whole format of the day was excellent.

I'll write up some general notes and how they relate to fundraising in the next few days, but one of the big ideas I took away from the day was how can we use computer games and augmented reality in fundraising.

Games in Fundraising

There are quite a lot of viral games that charities use to promote an event or campaign (see these from Comic Relief), but these are usually pretty superficial.  The only game I'd seen by a charity that was massively linked to it's work was 'Darfur is Dying'.

In it you have to do a series of tasks with refugees in a camp, such as gathering water from the well and avoiding the militia.  As well as demostrating the problems faced by refugees through the game, it also has an impressive call to action section as well.  I'd guess it would be hard to ignore this once you'd played the game and it directly connected the game, the cause and what you can do about it.

Launched in 2006 the game was a first and has attracted academic attention and a write up from the mainstream media, including the Washington Post.

A quick search on google also turned up Games for Change and the Serious Games Initiative.

These sites try to use games to bring about change in a variety of areas and to improve management and leadership.  It's really interesting stuff and although you might think it's not going to help you raise any money any time soon, I wouldn't completely write it off.

The cost of producing such games is coming down and if you can come up with a compelling concept that is tied closely to your mission and engages your audience then it will naturally lead them to want to do more for you and give support.

I quickly jotted down a few ideas that you could possibly turn into games that could help you fundraise:

  • An environmental activist game where you have to keep the developers away from a number of protected sites (think Swampy!)
  • A strategy game (such as theme park) where you have to manage the resources of a charity that shows the difference fundraing makes to statutory care.
  • A wildlife charity where you have to protect the animals from poachers or keep the whales safe (actually I've just found out that Greenpeace already do this).
  • A series of lab based tasks to show the importance of research for a medical research charity.

Unsurprisingly, there are also a series of interesting articles over at Beth Kanter's blog on games and non-profits.

Augmented Reality, Geo-Tagging & Fundraising

'Augmented what?' I hear you cry!

Don't worry, I was the same and you can find a full explanation at How Stuff Works and a good list of it working in practice at the Guardian.

It means using applications to add additional information when viewing normal objects through smart phones or webcams.

Now it's probably going to be 3-5 years before this stuff becomes really mainstream, but the barriers to entry are low and there are probably a few 'toe in the water' things you can be doing with this sort of thing:

  • Make sure your locations (head office, projects, retail shops etc) are marked on Google Maps/Earth and have your contact details on them.  If you're being really fancy, you could ask your IT team to develop some simple scripts to update the tags with a key message or promotion on rotation.
  • Adding information for participants at an event to enhance their experience.
  • Giving a 3-D virtual tour of a project when it's impractical to visit.

The presentation these ideas came from

One of the great ideas from the conference was to get each of the speakers to host lunch at a local restaurant and to talk about a specific topic.  I chose Joanne Jacobs' lunch where we discussed the use of games.

She was then one of the keynote speakers for the afternoon and went into more detail about augmented reality, geotagging etc.  You can watch her presentation (it starts 5 minutes in) or read a review over at the Guardian.  It was certainly thought provoking stuff.

Updated: 10 Best Fundraising Blogs & New Search Facility

I've finally got round to tidying up the 'Best Fundraising Blogs' page and have updated it to include my current top 10 fundraising blogs.

I've got rid of a few dead links and blogs that haven't been updated for at least six months.  In total there are currently 60 fundraising/non-profit marketing blogs listed.

Do let me know if you know a good one that I've missed or if you have any other feedback on the the blog.

At the same time, I've also added a Lijit search facility for this blog and for all the fundraising blogs listed. 

Simply type in your search term and then choose the 'Network' tab and you can see results from all the 60 blogs.

Here are the top network results when you search for 'Direct Mail':