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April 2010

Creating Loyalty Through Experience

A great Slideshare from the recent AFP conference by Bridget Brandt of Sagepay.  It's all about enhancing the donor experience and there are some good takeaways from it, which are neatly summarised at Fundraising Success.

The top 5 for me are:

"Identify the one big thing that causes donors problems, and fix it.

Call your organisation as a donor/prospect or get a friend to call. Know who's answering the phone and what it sounds like. Is it appropriate and representative of your brand and mission? Or does something need to be corrected?

Get as much information about your organisation and donors as possible: Do surveys, talk with staff and employees, engage in social media conversations.

Know what donors want and like in mailings, e-mails, etc., and give it to them. Don't send a donor a basic, vanilla mailer if she only responds to more elaborate ones, and vice versa.

Be transparent. Tell donors what you're going to do with their money … and then do it."

Good stuff.

Project losing momentum? Try these simple ideas

I’m starting a new job at the beginning of June and before I leave my current role I want to try and tie up as many loose ends and outstanding projects as possible.

For various reasons, a number of projects have come to a bit of a standstill and I held a meeting yesterday to try and inject some momentum into them, so I can hand over knowing that things are making progress.

I’ve recently read Switch by Chip & Dan Heath and thought I’d try to use some of their ideas to motivate my team to get things done.

The first technique I used was to show the team that many of the projects  were underway and that they were already 20/30% towards their goal.  This was based on the research in the book about loyalty cards (such as at car washes or coffee shops) which shows that people are far more likely to finish and redeem  a card if you give them a head start, such as a couple of free stamps.

For a couple of the projects the issues were that we trying to do too much at once and had been over-ambitious in our goals, which meant that people had got frustrated when progress was slow and abandoned things when they couldn’t see the next steps.  For these projects I ‘shrank the change’ and focused on the small, simple, next tasks that we could do for each project to get things going again and tried to provide clarity over what was needed.

Finally, I reminded the team of past successes, demonstrated how they’d overcome problems in the past (even when things looked tough) and then got all of them to verbally agree to what the next action would be in various areas. 

I followed this up by sending notes with clear, small tasks that each person needs to undertake in the next few days and with a promise that we’ll review these again before I leave.

The next month will tell if these actions will have any impact, but hopefully I’ll be able to report good progress and handover to my successor with a clear conscience.

I can highly recommend the book and there are tons of resources on their website, including this handy one page overview.

Switch on UK Amazon:

Weekend Reading Round-Up

Another fortnight flies by and it's time for another round up of articles I've enjoyed recently...

Happy Donors on nonsexist writing for fundraising

Kivi on social media policy and letting your staff be real

Two from Jeff Brooks: How to kill creativity and there's more to fundraising than raising funds

Aline on raising money from newsletters.  If your charity newsletter isn't making a significant profit then you're doing something wrong...

Mark Phillips on a great user experience at the Eden Project.

Beth on the concept of 'lethal generosity'

Avoid 'we' in your copy

Jonathon Grapsas' thoughts on the recent AFP and his 10 point plan for growth

American cancer charity comes under fire for linking with KFC. Read Nancy's and Red Rooster's take on it.  Interesting points about compromising your brand for short term benefit.  Wild Woman Fundraising offers some advice on saying no to donations as well.

A great piece of direct mail from an Italian farm - watch the video and learn! HT to Eaon.

Avoiding the pickle flop

Giving a presentation? Don't overload the audience

Can you learn anything from spammers?

Chris Brogan on how to love your database

The Fundraising Case for Being Disruptively Good

Can doing good give you a competitive advantage?

That’s the question Umair Haque asks over at the Harvard Business Review.

He argues that in the hyperconnected world that we live in, where information flows much faster and freely than it use to, it costs a lot less to find out who’s really evil and who’s really good.

In fundraising terms I’d define ‘evil’ as not thanking your donors, using high-pressure, guilt tactics, mailing useless incentives (umbrella’s anyone?) and not showing donors enough love.

Those charities that do least evil (in fundraising terms) will, in the long run, raise the most money.

Umair talks through a hierarchy of five forces that build a compelling business case for companies to do more good than evil.

First force: Information

It’s much easier these days to find out who is really good and who is really evil.

Second force: Discipline

Cheap info makes it easier to take collective action (for example see the recent controversy over Dow Chemicals  sponsorship of Live Earth) and exposes the dishonest and hypercritical.  It also becomes cheaper to reward those who are good.

Third Force: Competition

With increased collective action comes an enhanced incentive for competitors to do good where there’s evil.  These competitive pressures cause rivals to do more good and less bad.

Fourth Force: Disruption

Increased competition leads to higher innovation, new business models, strategies etc and forces incumbents to adapt or die.

Fifth force: Rule-Making

As new innovations come into play, people take more interest in assessing the social costs and benefits of each and choosing the most productive ones.  Visionary organisations make new rules in their markets and alter the incentives for buyers/suppliers to do more good, and less evil.

It’s worth taking time to read the full article, but there is evidence that donors attitudes to fundraising are changing and that abusing traditional methods means that those charities whose fundraising is based on good i.e. transparency, innovation, permission, trust, choice etc, will be at a significant advantage. 


There is also evidence (see charity:water for example) that where competition and innovation leads to a better overall donor experience then people will become increasingly demanding of all fundraising charities.  The consequence of this is that we will need to do more fundraising good and less fundraising evil…

Love Begets Love

Lovebegetslove - gaping void

I don't know if it's the spring weather or my wedding planning, but I was trawling through Gaping Void looking for an image of Hugh's and thought this picture summed up brilliantly the point that Jeff Brooks made in his recent article 'Fundraising Starts with Loving Your Donors', which in turn was based on Scribblybark's 'Love your audience' post.

Quite simply, if you base your fundraising on loving your donors and then make it easy for them to share that love then you'll attract all the support you'll need.

I'll have some more in-depth thoughts on this (and evil fundraising) tomorrow...

Ten quotes on creativity from the best restaurant in the world

Following on from my earlier article about how elBulli approaches innovation and creativity, here are ten pithy and interesting quotes all about creativity together with some photos of the food.  Enjoy.


“Creativity involves coming up with something that has not been done before, but novelty alone is not enough. It takes many hours of experimentation to create something that is both new and interesting.”

“New, creative and unique are not the same thing.”

“Creativity is not copying”


“With creativity, it is not what you look for that matters, but what you find.”

“There is a very fine line between being influenced and copying.”

“Wanting to be creative is not enough. A creative spirit does not necessarily lead to a creative result.”


“Creativity means changing your mind every day.”

“It is impossible to say where ideas come from, but it helps to be curious all the time, and to keep on trying.”

“A concept is an idea that can open new doors.”

“A creative person tries to do what they don't know how to do”


As before, photos are courtesy of Laissez Fare.

Creativity lessons from Ferran Adria: the best chef in the world

One of my big passions is food and eating out and I was lucky enough to receive a copy of 'A Day at elBulli' (link at bottom of page) as a present. 

As well as being a beautiful book it also contains some great insights and lessons on the innovation process that underpins the food philosophy of head chef, Ferran Adria.


Although it has now closed, elBulli was voted 'Best Restaurant in the World' four times and held three Michelin stars from 1997.  The restaurant did one sitting a day and was only open for six months a year, as the other six months were spent researching and creating the menu, which is changed every year, as no dish is ever repeated. 

ElBulli received a staggering two million reservation requests for the 8,000 diners it could accommodate every year.  Despite all the accolades and awards elBulli actually lost money (the profit comes from speaking engagements, books, etc) and closed in 2010.

ElBulli's approach to creativity and Ferran's leadership is something that everyone can learn from and I wanted to share some of the key points in the book.

The creative process

ElBulli concentrates not on creating specific dishes, but on creating new cooking techniques.  This opens the door to new ways to handle ingredients and preparing food.

It is not just the food that is creative but also the cutlery and crockery.  For example, they developed scent spoons, which have a point onto which an aromatic herb can be attached, so that a fragrance is released while the food on the spoon is eaten.

Spherical Olives

Spherical Olives - notice the spoons...

Test, test, test is a key mantra as they strive to develop new concepts and techniques.  All chefs are encouraged to keep a notebook with them at all times and to capture ideas as they come to them.  They take photos of inspiration and sketch ideas down.  These are then archived and so they can then dip into them whenever they need inspiration.

Overall there are seven steps to creating a new dish

1: Have an idea for a new technique, concept or dish.
2: Idea is developed by using a creative method or by working intuitively.
3: Carry out testing and catalogue the results.
4: Analyse the test results and compare to previous flavour combinations.
5: Final testing, which results in a prototype, which is developed into a dish.
6: The new dish is served to guests and feedback is collected.
7: Make refinements and once 100% happy with the dish it is listed in the general catalogue of results.

Another unique dish

Creative Methods Used

The following are all methods the team use to come up with ideas for new dishes.

  • Technique-Concept Search: taking an existing technique and apply it to an ingredient that has never been prepared that ways.
  • Association: consists of making lists and tables of ingredients, methods etc and using these to help think of new ways of putting dishes together.
  • Inspiration: requires a reference from any field, such as art, fashion, music, which is then used to inspire a dish e.g. a bird’s nest inspired a new way of presenting a dish.
  • Adaptation: taking an existing dish and then putting a new twist on it.
  • Deconstruction: involves taking apart a dish and then presenting it in it’s component parts.  For example, a chicken curry was presented as curry ice cream, apple jelly, coconut soup and chicken juice!
  • Minimalism: creating maximum ‘magic’ or sensory appeal with minimum ingredients.
  • Senses: when designing a dish the team look to appeal to all senses, not just taste. For example, crisps (chips) are made intentionally large because eating them with your mouth slightly open amplifies the sound of the initial crunch.

The best petit fours selection ever?

Relevance to Fundraising

Coming up with new ideas is a constant problem in fundraising and it is worth looking outside the profession for inspiration.

The approach elBulli take to generating ideas and how they embed innovation into their culture is something any fundraising organisation can learn from.

The seven creative methods outlined above can be used to look at your fundraising products and methods and can be adapted to help generate new ideas.

You can find some of the key quotes on creativity from the book here.

Photos are courtesy of this excellent review at the Laissez Fare blog.


Latest Direct Mail Innovations

A couple of recent direct mail pieces have caught my eye and I thought I'd share them with you.

  1. Mail Media Centre

I received what looked like a book from Amazon through the post the other day and opened it up to see this:

Direct Mail cover


Lovely I thought.  Someone has sent me a free book. 

Direct Mail Inside


I then opened it up and it was a hollowed out book promoting their website

My first impression was that this was an expensive and wasteful way to promote a website, however it got me talking about it and I showed a number of my colleagues the book. 

The fact that i've spent so much time talking about the mailing and then blogged about it shows that even if I thought it was slightly wasteful, it was effective and got me to visit their website.  

The website is worth a visit and contains a number of good charity direct mail examples.

2. Pepsi & CBS Magazine Video

A recent article on DM innovation in Marketing Week reminded me about the Pepsi and CBS video ad  that appeared in an American magazine last Autumn.

The two inch screen showed clips of upcoming shows and advertised Pepsi within the magazine.  It uses similar technology to that used in birthday cards to play  music. The website of Americhip, the company behind the technology, is worth checking out for some great examples of multi-sensory communication.

Personally I think this is really exciting for fundraising and could revolutionise direct mail.  Imagine being able to send a short video clip with your appeal?  It would be really powerful, engaging and would boost response rates.

The technology may be prohibitively expensive for now, but the costs will come down and it may be within touching distance for a high value appeal sooner than you think.

3. Cardboard Record Player

Finally, I'm not sure of the fundraising applications of this package, but I thought it was really cool.

Cardboard Record Player

It transforms from a cardboard mailing package into an LP player.  It was targeted at creative directors at record companies and was relevant, interesting and a great talking piece.  I'm sure it will have been highly successful.

Fundraising Inspiration for a Friday Afternoon (my latest article round-up)

The sun is shining for what seems the first time in months and spring is finally in the air, so what better way to celebrate than by sharing my favourite recent articles... :)

Conor and Mark have some interesting points to make on my article on comparative advertising.

Thanking Donors Special!

The lovely Scribblybark with some great ways to love your audience.

Lori Jacobwith on donor acknowledgement and with seven tips for making better fundraising thank you calls.

Aline with some tips for thank you letters.

The Agitator on nonprofit 'customer service'.

Other fundraising

Jonathan Grapsas on urgency.

Loved this example of transparency from the Indianapolis Museum (via Wild Woman Fundraising)

Happy Donors on using premiums in fundraising.

Stephen George with the simplest legacy fundraising strategy.

Another example of peer-to-peer fundraising from Chris Brogan.

Blue Avocado with some tips on recruiting and keeping members.

The guys at 'Who Really Gives a Toss?' give away some cash.


A cool guide from Men with Pens of 20 apps that will help you organise your thoughts.

A two-part guide on testimonials. Although business related, there are some great ideas for fundraising. Part one & part two.

Seth on the lessons of the iPad launch.

Lessons from the most viral business to business report ever.

Finally, something a bit random, but some suggested spring reading (it's quite an eclectic mix & nothing to do with fundraising) from the people at 'The School for Life.'

Is Charity Comparative Advertising a Good Idea?

ASDA TESCO Comparison

Could adverts like the above soon feature charities? 

Possibly, after the Committee of Advertising Practice announced a consultation on whether to allow charities to use comparative advertising.

The announcement has been greeted with caution in Marketing Week and Third Sector  with worries that charities will focus any such adverts on efficiency, rather than impact.

So far the UK public have seemed relatively indifferent to comparing charities, with sites such as Intelligent Giving and Guidestar not really attracting too much attention or appearing to change giving behaviour.

I wonder if any charities will be bold and confident enough to use comparative ads? If they do, what (or who) would they compare themselves with? 

Here are a couple of ideas for adverts that might appear in the future...

Direct comparisons between rival charities

Last year we rescued 350 stray dogs, our rival only rescued 240.

For every £10 you give we feed 15 hungry children, charity x only feed 8 for £10.

We provided 300,000 hours of hands on care, our competitors only provided 150,000 hours.

Comparisons between charities generally

We only spend 5% of our income on admin costs, the charity average is 15%.

We help more animals in the UK than all the other animal charities put together.

More of our money goes direct to our beneficiaries than any other charity.

We spend less on adverts and junk mail than the top 10 fundraising charities.


If charity marketing was to go this way, then it could be a slippery slope with people losing their trust in charities generally and overall giving could be affected. I'll watch how this progresses with interest.