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July 2010

Three New Fundraising Reports Worth Downloading

I found details of three interesting sounding reports in my RSS feed today.  I've just downloaded them and had a quick look through them at lunch.  All three are worth checking out.

  1. How to Raise a Lot More Money Now (via Katya)

Features 50 ideas from 11 nonprofit experts.  A quick and easy read with some simple hints and tips for fundraising.

Here are a couple of my favourites:

From Mark Rovner: "Track lifetime giving and recognize donors who reach various thresholds, in terms of money and time. Someone who gives $1,000 over 5 years is still a $1,000 donor in my book."

From Kivi Leroux Miller: "Take pictures of your clients holding signs that say Thank You and share them with your supporters on your website, in email, and via social media."

2. The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide (via John)

This highly impressive report talks you through different areas of social media and walks through a five step process of understanding social media, defining your goals and audience, evaluating specific tools, choosing your communications mix and integrating your communications strategy.

I was particularly impressed with the workbook at the back, which includes nine questions and tasks to complete to help you come up with a plan.

    3.Women on the Web - How Women are Shaping the Internet (via The Agitator)

Fascinating research into how women use the internet around the world.  Spoiler: it's very different from men!

Here are a couple of sample quotes:

"Regardless of how much you believe that women are primarily communicators, networkers and facilitators, it's clear they are embracing social networking in a way that men are not."

"Globally, women spent 16.3 percent of their online time on social networks in April 2010, compared to only 11.7 percent for the men."

Personalisation is great - just don't get it wrong (like I did)

Confession time.

I spent ages personalising letters for some of our top 100 higher value donors and sent them off with high hopes of a great response.

Those hopes turned to despair when the first response I got back pointed out that I'd got the date of their last gift wrong.  Unsurprisingly the air turned blue and I was livid with myself, as it was 100% my fault and I'd made a typo.

What's worse than not personalising a letter?

Getting the personalisation wrong and if I was the donor then I would be majorly peeved.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the donor's phone number, so instead I sent a genuine, heartfelt apology for my mistake, asking them to blame me and not the charity for the error.  I haven't heard anything back yet, but hope this quick response and acknowledgement will stop the donor from never giving to us again.

I've been through the rest of the letters and fortunately it was the only mistake (though one is too many) and I've learnt a valuable lesson in the meantime...

Friday Link Fest!

I wrote recently about my first direct mail appeal in my new job and I've been like a small child waiting for Father Christmas and have nearly pounced on the postman as he's delivered the responses.  It's still early days, but things look like they've gone well and average gift (on 300 donations so far) is up by about 15% - if the response rate increases as well then I'll be a happy boy!

Anyway, to keep you occupied as you wait for the excitement of the full results, here's what I've been reading lately... :)

Who Really Gives a Toss? with info on an interesting ad on Facebook.

Wild Woman Fundraising on the benefits of getting fired!

Lori Jacobwith suggests a way to measure success with major gifts.

An example of excellent donor stewardship at Queer Ideas, along with the truth about great appeals.

As I'm currently looking to revamp our website, the following articles have been useful:

The Agitator on improving the fundraising performance of your website (i'm just about to watch the Convio seminar)

What constitutes good content for charity websites?

15 Tips to Create a Horrible Nonprofit Website (HT Jeff Brooks)

Frogloop on the best practices online.

Conor highlights this innovative supporter newsletterfrom the NSPCC.

Two examples of charity:water getting it right again and again.

Zen of fundraising with an interesting layman analysis of an appeal.

Social Frog shares her thoughts on using Twitter.

Howard Lake with some thoughts on Foursquare and charity shops.

Freakonomics with an interesting pay what you want experimentwith a fundraising angle.

Seth's hierarchy of failure.

The ever entertaining Drayton Bird on testing.

Eaon on Ben & Jerry's abandoning e-mail.

Mark Earls on the one and only P of marketing.

Some interesting thoughts on performance reviewsfrom Scot Berkun.

An Example of Why the Little Things Matter

I wanted to follow up my posts last week with an example of how the little things can make a big difference.

It's about a legacy mailing my mum recently received from the charity who she sponsors a child with.

Nearly every effort had been made to personalise the mailing and to create the illusion that is it really was a one-to-one communication with my mum.

The signatory of the appeal had enclosed a business card, their picture was in the enclosed brochure, the letter named the child being sponsored and the response form was also personalised.

I was really impressed with it and it nearly created the impression of a personal letter until I turned over the page.

The problem?

A badly scanned in, photocopied signature.

Why go to all the effort to produce such an individual mailing and then not take the final step and sign the letter personally?

Now you might say that no-one would expect a genuine signature or it would take too much time and that it wouldn't be worth the effort.  For me that simply isn't good enough.

Given a typical legacy can be worth over £50,000 then it must be worth finding a way to sign the letters? 

For example, you could do them in batches so you can better respond to any replies. This would also give you the opportunity to tweak future versions and you could also then have the time to do a follow up phone call.

Now you might think I'm being overly critical and picky, but given that so much effort had gone into the pack and the data selection (my mum is approaching 60 and has given for a number of years - a prime legacy target) then it is such a shame they didn't take the final step and truly make it a stand out communication.

As Seth points out:

"The last ten percent is the signal we look for, the way we communicate care and expertise and professionalism. If all you're doing is the standard amount, all you're going to get is the standard compensation. The hard part is the last ten percent, sure, or even the last one percent, but it's the hard part because everyone is busy doing the easy part already."

A 5-Word, 5-Point "Complete" Excellence Manifesto."

Following on from my review of The Little Big Things, I thought I'd share part of one of the chapters in the book.  It gives a good summary of the ideas that the book contains and is copied verbatim...

Here goes, "my summary of everything" five words, generated for a seminar in which I wanted to leave behind a truly punchy message:






Cause: An objective worthy of our commitment. An aim that supersedes the need for an alarm clock and that we can brag about to our friends, our family, and our mirror.

Space:Room to roam. Constant and insistent encouragement for taking the initiative. An expectation that everyone will perceive herself or himself as a Change Agent-Entrepreneur.

Decency: Thoughtfulness to a fault in everything we do. Fairness to a fault in everything we do. Sky-high respect for every person with whom we come in contact.

Service: We unfailingly aim to "be of service." Our leaders at all levels are "in service" to their staff. Each staff member is "in service" to her or his peers and internal and external customers.

Excellence: Our ultimate aim is always...Excellence. Nothing less. In our treatment of one another. In the products and services we develop. In our relationships with customers-vendors-community.


Book Review: The Little Big Things by Tom Peters

LittleBigThings Cover

Subtitled '163 Ways to Pursue Excellence' this book makes the argument that if you get the little things right then the big things will naturally follow.

Written by leadership legend Tom Peters, it's a must read for anyone who leads a team, is interested in customer (or donor) service and wants to get things done.

As the subtitle suggests the book is divided into 163 short, snappy chapters and is split into sections with names like 'Excellence', 'Opportunity', 'Attitude' and 'Customers'.

Although the book contains nothing profound it does offer lot's of great ideas, anecdotes and easy to action things that could make a difference for your organisation.

I think the book is best read in short bursts, such as on the bus/train on the way home, as Tom's excitable, energetic, urgent style can almost leave you feeling tired after a while!

As a word of warning: if you don't like liberal use of bold, CAPITAL LETTERS, !!!!!!!!, repetition, repetition, repetition, then this book probably isn't for you. 

However, I like it, as I think it reflects Tom's personality and sense of urgency over how important he sees the things he is talking about.

One of the main themes of the book (and something I believe in) is the concept of the leader as servant to their team.  Your direct reports are your primary customers - you make them happy and by default you will make your donors and external customers happy. 

Tom preaches about this a number of times in the book, along with empowering your team, managing by walking around and seeing more in others than they see in themselves.  All critically important things in my view.

'In Search of Excellence' was the first business book I ever read - my dad gave me a copy from his days working at Price Waterhouse - and I guess that the ideas Tom talks about have greatly influenced me over the years. 

Put simply, I'm a big believer in Tom and his ideas and I think this book is almost a manual on how to be a successful leader and fundraiser.

UK Amazon Link below:                  Get it in the U.S.A here.

Another Reading Round Up

This week has seen the Institute of Fundraising annual conference take place in London and there has been some really good stuff come out of it.

Big thanks have to go to Howard Lake who has produced this fantastic guide to some of the best conference presentations, as well as tons of photos, interviews and other useful stuff.

Jonathon Grapsas also has some thoughts on the conference.

Beth on following the few to get to the many.  Why quality not quantity sometimes counts in social media.

A few articles on bad donor communications:

Penelope Burk on a recent bad experience that stopped her giving to a charity. Of course your charity would never do something like this.... :-)

Amanda Santer on charities not saying thank you.

Conor reports on a mystery shopping report with typically bad results.

However, here's a charity that is doing something right from Happy Donors. And another from the Agitator.

Some good tips from Kev on how to get bloggers to help tell your story. Particularly relevant to me, as I've had about four spam requests in the last week!

Some interesting thoughts on soliciting legacy pledges.

John Grain's three parter on lapsed donors is worth reading.

Have you checked your fundraising pipeline recently? 10 tips on keeping on top of it from Stephen.

Donors don't care about your needs.

Why boring design is sometimes the best.

Have you donated to your own charity recently? Marc Pitman urges you to do so.

Wild Woman Fundraising aims to launch the first ever game to help people learn to fundraise.

Great article on empowerment in the Harvard Business Review.

Interested in irrationality? Ten minutes to spare? Take this fun survey.

Would anybody tell a friend?


Two of my favourite bloggers - Hugh MacLeod and Andy Sernovitz - ask this simple, but profound question on their respective blogs today.

Have a look at the last appeal you sent, a recent e-newsletter, your website etc.  Is it so amazing and wonderful that you think someone would tell their friends about it?  If not, the challenge is to improve it next time so they will.

As Andy pleads:

"Push yourself to ask: Are we being remarkable? Is this a purple cow? Are we awesome yet?

Challenge yourself to be worth talking about. Would someone look at your stuff, drop what they are doing, and say, “You’ve got to see this?” Are they inspired to tweet, share, like, friend, forward, or run down the hall and stick it in the face of a co-worker or family member?




Wanted: Great Charity Taglines

Nancy Schwartz from the excellent has been in touch and asked me to give a plug to the annual Nonprofit Tagline Awards.

I’m happy to help out for a number of reasons:

A: I’m big fan of her blog and have used a lot of Nancy’s resources to help me with various projects.

B: I think this is a great competition with lots of useful learning - make sure you download last year’s report.

C: I was trying to think of good UK charity based taglines and only the NSPCC’s ‘End Child Cruelty. Full Stop.’ and ‘Make Poverty History’ came to mind.

Actually, after checking this, I’ve got it wrong – NSPCC’s should be 'Cruelty to Children must stop. Full stop.'and 'Make Poverty History' was more of a campaign than a specific tagline!

I’m sure there are loads more great UK charity taglines, but unprompted those are the only two I can think of (apart from charities I’ve worked for/are directly involved in), which shows how hard it is to make an impression with all the marketing messages thrown at us every day.

Anyway, if you are particularly proud of your tagline, whether it be for your whole organisation, a specific project or a fundraising event then do enter it.  It would be great to see a UK charity shortlisted and I’ve encouraged Nancy to include an international prize in the future as well!

As Nancy says:

“A strong tagline does double-duty—working to extend your organization's name and mission, while delivering a focused, memorable and repeatable message to your base. It's one of your most basic, and effective, marketing tools, but a survey showed that 72% of nonprofit organizations don't have a tagline or rate theirs as performing poorly.  This program is designed to help close that gap.”

The deadline for the competition is July 28 and Nancy has asked me to thank the sponsors of the competition as well: Blackbaud, Event360, Eventbrite and See3