Previous month:
April 2010
Next month:
June 2010

May 2010

Bank Holiday Monday Reading

Ahead of starting my new job tomorrow, here is a round up of articles that I've been reading recently...

Jeff Brooks rants about another stupid nonprofit ad

Scott Berkun on why creatives are confused

Some insights on giving from a philanthropist (who is also a psychologist)

The Gel Conference have posted some of the talks from this year's conference. As usual it's an eclectic bunch, but this talk by David Bornstein about social entrepreneurship is particularly interesting.

Though not related, four posts highlight the need to be listening to social media. First up Mark Phillips reports on an experiment he did on Twitter, where he put out some tweets indicating he was looking to donate to a charity.

However, Andy Sernovitz shows it's not just charities and highlights a fake BP account that has been putting out fake (and quite funny) tweets about the oil spill. 

Then John Haydon reminds us that there is no excuse not to be listening to supporters and then Frogloop ask if social media is snake oil?

Bottom Line Communications question the use of idioms in our communications

Tactical Philanthropy short list their top 10 Nonprofit videos

Who really gives a toss? on a fantastic thank you from Smile Train

Seth on making the effort for the last 10%...

Essential Things for a New Head of Fundraising

I had some great comments on yesterday's 'What are your essential fundraising statistics?' post*  and I wanted to share the advice that was given.

First up was Barbara, who highlighted the need to meet up with the board:

"I would add meetings with each Board member. To introduce yourself, see where they are in Fundraising for the the organization and ask their opinion, advice, ideas for the organization and around development. On all your calls or intros - Remember when you want money ask for advice, when you want advice, ask for money.

"I also like to sit down with program staff very early on. This gets the relationship between Fundraising and program off on the right foot. What are their goals, concerns, ideas. How can you all work best together toward a common mission."

Kev was next with some sound advice about getting to know your team:

"Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team very quickly will be vital. You are going to need to exploiting their knowledge and skills to the max to be successful.

"Exploit in the dictionarial sense, not the manipulative sense, of course. This means engaging from day 1 and acknowledging they have value to add and that they and their contributions will be respected by you.

"I've also found it useful to state right from the off that you don't expect either their trust or respect automatically. It's something you intend to earn by achieving results with them."

Colin pointed out that i'd missed on of the most important sources of income: legacies...

"One key fundraising area not in your list: legacy FR! One of those first week tasks should be to assess how its viewed, how much traction there is across the team, what's the senior level buy-in across trustees and other senior personnel. Make sure people know you see it as integral (assuming you do of course!)"

Finally Amanda reminded me of the importance of chatting with donors and finding out what they think:

"One thing I think you may need to think about is finding out about what your supporters think about you and also the communications you are currently sending out. What they are reading / engaging with and what they aren't."

Thanks guys - all brilliant advice and I'll do my best to put it into practice next week and will let you know how I get on...

* - I've now amended the typo in the title and given myself a slapped wrist! ;)

What are your essential fundraising statistics?

I start a new job next week and it’s going to be my first Head of Fundraising role. 

Scary? Yes.  Exciting? Unbelievably so.

As well as tying up the loose ends and saying bye to the fantastic colleagues I’ve worked with other the last 5 ½ years I’ve been thinking about the new job and what I want to find out in the first week.

Here are some of the key stats I think I should be looking at, can you think of anything else?
  • Number of donors by giving type   
  • Recency, Frequency and Value analysis
  • Income/expenditure by fundraising type ( mail, major gifts etc)
  • Attrition rates
  • Communications plan
  • Appeal results
  • Welcome, thanking and donor care plans
  • Top 100 donors and giving history
As well as getting to know some of the hard facts and figures, I also think there a three other key things to begin with:
  1. Getting out and visiting some of the projects I’ll be raising money for
  2. Speaking to as many donors as possible
  3. Looking for  some ‘easy wins’ to gain credibility and trust in my ability

Is there anything else I should be thinking about?

Overcoming 'The Curse of Unremarkable Fundraising'

Jeff Brooks rightly laments the amount of boring fundraising that exists in the world today. He highlights the fantastic Donor's Choose as an example of an organisation that you'd talk to your friend about.

To cheer you up Jeff (and everyone else reading) here are a few other examples I've come across recently that show that there are a few non-profits who are giving donors something to talk about.

First up, two examples via the Open Fundraising website.  The first is a fantastic thank you from the Smile Train. Secondly is the launch of, which looks like being the UK answer to Kiva and allows people to lend directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Crowdrise is a great site, with huge potential.  It combines a number of things - volunteering, donating, sharing - and gives people the tools to tell compelling stories.  What also makes it stand out is that they offer points to fundraisers, volunteers etc and these can be redeemed for prizes and other goodies. HT to Frogloop - there a couple of other good examples, but this was my favourite.

The next example is the opening of a non-profit restaurant that asks people to pay what they can afford.  Any surplus profits are then used to support people who can't afford food in the local community. HT Freakonomics blog.

Finally, I thought I'd share two 'for profit' sites, that I found interesting.

Kickstarter is similar to Crowdrise and helps people get start up funding for a variety of projects. The idea has been around for a while, but I really like the layout and design of the site and it seems to be attracting some serious money.

Got any design needs? Then 99Designs is a great concept. You set your budget for a design project, upload a design brief, designers around the world pitch to you, you pick your favourite and pay the chosen amount.  The whole thing comes with a 100% money back guarantee and the quality of work looks very good at first glance.

Beware the dangers of fundraising 'puffery'!

A fascinating report over at Harvard Business Review on a great piece of consumer  behaviour research by Alison Jing Xu.

PhD student Xu was looking at the impact of puffery (an American legal term to describe overblown marketing promises made in adverts) on consumer behaviour and came up with some interesting findings.

In areas where people believe they have reasonable knowledge of a product then they see through such language and are liable to rate such a product as inferior to rivals, but the opposite happens when a person doesn't have such knowledge. 

Xu commented:

"What I saw coming through was that puffery seemed to influence people who are not major consumers of your type of product, but it turns away consumers who are experts or have relatively higher knowledge."

This has an impact for fundraising and direct marketing.

If you are targeting an audience who are used to receiving charity appeals then you need to make sure you keep the puffery to a minimum, as potential donors will see straight through it and are unlikely to respond.

In fact the article goes on to say that "research has shown that when people communicate positive and negative information, rather than just positive information in, say, job interviews, they gain higher trust."

If this is true for marketing, then it will go a long way to explaining the success of this CRUK appeal I talked about a few months ago, which kept the puffery to a bare minimum and got some fantastic results.

Friday Afternoon Round-Up

Yes, it's that time again when I round-up some of the articles that have caught my eye in the last few weeks.  Enjoy.

Frogloop with two great posts based on a session by Mal Warwick at the online IFC conference: 'New guiding principles for fundraising' and commitment'Deepening your donors'

Sean on problems with donating with his AMEX card

Lori with 10 ways to increase donor retention

Jeff on how to understand old people

Nancy with the definitive article on the KFC & Komen controversy

Social Frog on second chances

Aline with lessons from a viral video for Germanwings airline

Beth on engaging people on Twitter

Eric Foley on fundraising heroes

What can you promise your donor?

Lucy on harnessing the inspiration of the London marathon

Fundraising event or best party in town?

An interesting article on motivation

Why there is no point wasting time worrying

Why we should ban (or seriously review) meetings

Kind, Quality, Wow: What does it mean?

Following on from my article last week on the ultimate equation for fundraising success, here's some random thoughts on the three elements that go into great fundraising.


Listens to donors

Thoughtful – responds to notes/comments donors make

Ethically sound and obey donor requests and wishes.

Says thank you appropriately.

Appreciates and celebrates donor’s giving

Apologises profusely and genuinely for any mistakes

Professional, courteous and honest in all dealings

Not always on the ask

Treating people as a person and not a database number


Getting the basics right:  people’s names, addresses, other details

Setting up systems to respond to donations/enquiries within 24 hours (or less)

Giving choice

Personalisation of communications

Reporting back to the donor on achievements

Using data to enhance donor experience

Appending your data with appropriate and relevant metrics

Acknowledging landmarks – years giving, amount given, anniversaries etc

Responding to complaints above and beyond the call of duty. Here's one of my favourite examples from Zappo's

Phone calls out the blue to say thanks

Giving something without asking

Asking for advice and involving donors

Surprising a donor

Complete control over comms and where donation goes

The Ultimate Equation for Fundraising Success


Photo from ~C4Chaos

Tom Peters posted the following equation for business success on Twitter the other day:

K = R = P

(Kindness = Repeat Business = Profit)

Simply switch the profit for donations and you've got a path to fundraising success.

However, since then Tom has gone further and I've adapted his new, advanced equation for success to come up with the ultimate fundraising formula:

K+Q+W = R+N = D++

(Kindness + Quality + Wow = Repeat Donors + New Donors = Donations Plus Plus)

This looks simple on paper but putting the kindness, quality and wow into your fundraising is easier said than done.  If you can, then you're going to be well ahead of everyone else. 

I'll jot down some ideas for K+Q+W over the weekend, but if you've got any suggestions or ways to improve the formula then let me know...

Celebrating World Give Day


As well as being Star Wars day, this May 4th has also been designated World Give Day.

People round the world are being asked to give time, money or support to their favourite cause.

I'm all for anything that encourages giving, so well done to Give Forward for trying to create a day that celebrates all that is good about giving.

My contribution - A Free Day's Volunteering

To mark the event I thought I'd offer a day of my time to any organisation that leaves a comment on this post.  I'd be happy to help at an event, offer some advice on an issue, do some office work etc, etc. 

The more imaginative the better and I'll choose a winner at random at the end of the week.  I'm based in London, so ideally it will need to be something that is easy to get to or that can be done remotely...