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August 2010

Fundraising Round-Up for the Bank Holiday

I'm just about to go on holiday for the next week (off to see friends and family in Ireland, which should be lovely) and before I go I thought I'd do another round up of articles that have caught my eye.

In September it will be 10 years since I became a fundraiser (how time flies) and I'm planning to do a series of posts on my biggest mistakes (and what you can learn from them) and some of the moments that make me proud to be a fundraiser.

I hope you'll enjoy them, but do let me know if gets too much or self-indulgent!

Anyway, here's some of the reading I've done recently:

The first appeal to come under the Agitator's scrutiny is now available. A great idea and there are some strong suggestions in the comments.

Pamela with five ways to sabotage your fundraising.

A reasoned summary from Kev about Tony Blair's donation to the Royal British Legion and some of the ethical considerations.

Jonathan with some 'purls of wisdom' on personalised website addresses.

Jason on believing in your cause (via Jeff Brooks)

Is your fundraising in the valley of unremarkability? Mark Phillips has some ideas to climb out. It fits nicely with this article from Seth on talking points.

An interesting article from Conor on using comedy to build your brand.

Lori summarises some ideas on what's working in donor fundraising from Lisa Butcher.

A good summary of fundraising related tips from Robert Cialdini's book 'Influence' at Wild Woman fundraising.

Some tips for writing headlines from Copyblogger.

Mark Earls on social objects and purpose ideas.

The 'Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership' at the Good Experience blog.

Re-Inventing Flag Days & Charity Street Collections for the 21st Century


One of the tasks i've been given at work is to look at our two 'Geranium Days', when we go out on to the streets of London and raise funds.

These street collections and flag days have been going since the 1920's and reached a peak in the 1980's when over £115,000 was raised in a single day. The day is traditionally launched at 10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister making a donation.

However, in the last few years income has dropped dramatically and last year we raised less than £10,000, which is less than they collected in the 1940's and 50's!

I don't think we're alone in seeing income drop from street collections.  Anecdotal evidence from other charities i've spoken to seems to confirm it's a sector wide trend.

This is hardly surprising. As we've seen the rise in face to face fundraising and online giving, people might be more reluctant than they once were to stick a couple of quid into a collection box.

Often, when I do give to a collector, it is to them rather than the cause. They might ask politely, be doing something extra or I just feel sorry for them standing out in cold,wind, rain etc.

As a community fundraiser I've spent many an hour in supermarkets, outside football grounds and on various high streets around the country collecting money, so I know it's not an easy job and admire the thousands of people who volunteer to do this around the UK.

So, on to the point of the post - can anything be done to change this trend and inject some new life into street collections?

Here are a few random thoughts so far:

  • Recruit artists and designers to come up with new concepts for collecting boxes. Place these works of art / creative designs in place around the city and turn the giving into a interactive experience.
  • Give all the collectors t-shirts with a prominent text number on. When someone says they've got no change, tell them they can text and give a fiver!
  • Use Twitter/Four Square to run a competition on the day of the collections. Check in or twit-pic yourself with a number of collectors around town and win a prize. A bit like a treasure hunt.
  • Give something away for a donation - give chocolates to all commuters at busy tube stations, offer a hug, give out an inspiring quotes etc, etc.

Those are just some initial thoughts - I'd love to hear if you've got anymore...

Fundraising Websites Worth a Look: Vivanista, SOFII, Ploink!


I've had an increasing number of e-mails from people trying to get me to promote their products, services etc. Most of them are little more than spam, but the occasional interesting site pops through and that's how I found out about Vivanista.

The site is designed for women interested in philanthropy, but don't let that put you off if you are a bloke, as you'll be missing some great content.

There are number of articles worth checking out and they seem particularly strong with advice on events - a weakness of mine. Anyway, here are three articles to get you started:

Galas that raised over $1 million: How they did it

Retention v Loyalty (first part of a series)

10 Ways to appeal to generation Y donors

Hopefully they'll continue to turn out some good fundraising content that will bed useful to professional, as well as volunteer, fundraisers.


I'm delighted to see the new SOFII site up and running.

They've done a great job and the site is a lot less cluttered and easier to navigate.

It really does continue to be a fundraisers best friend.


I've been meaning to blog about Ploink! for a long time.  As I really like the concept of making it easier to donate small sums to money.

I believe micro-philanthropy is perfect for Twitter, Facebook etc and could raise millions over if you can get the technology right.

I generally like to be quite thoughtful in my giving and choose my charities carefully, but I think there is place in my giving to allocate, say, a tenner a month to charities I wouldn't normally donate to if they have an appeal on Twitter or if they do something that catches my eye.

I think it would be especially powerful if it could incorporate something like Amazon's 'one click' button, which Conor talked about yesterday.

Have any new fundraising websites caught your eye recently? Let me know in the comments.

A fantastic thank you from Child's i

A really heart warming story from Child's i, who managed to mobilise their support last week and raise over £10,000 in a few days for a life saving operation for Joey, one of the first babies they were able to re-home.

It was a great example of how Facebook, Twitter etc can be used to tell a great story and raise money if the circumstances are right.

However, it's not the fact that they raised the money that I was most impressed with, but they way they kept their supporters up to date and then said thank you in such a personal and moving way.

They produced this simple video and then sent links to everyone who had donated. I didn't actually give (shame on me!) but the video brought a tear to my eye. 

I'd imagine that anyone who did donate would've been delighted and felt really proud to have played a part in saving Joey's life.

Have a watch of the video and let me know what you think:

p.s In the interests of full disclosure, I am a big fan of Child's i and give a regular gift to them. One of my best friends is also currently volunteering for them. However, even if you aren't connected to them, I still believe it's a great example of donor care.

Friday Reading Round Up: Bumper Edition!

This is update is a week later than usual, so has a bumper number of articles for you to enjoy.

Have a great weekend - I'll be watching the start of the new football season with interest!

I had three or four of Mark's articles highlighted, but thought his latest about what you can learn from billionaire'sabout fundraising was particularly good. Also worth checking out are this imaginative use of video and an article on how many times you need to ask for help.

The Agitator issues a challenge to fundraisers brave enough to submit their direct mail packs for feedback!

Future Fundraising Now with a warning about qualitative research.

A good guest post at Beth's Blog about the value of Twitter supporters.

Single channel communication is dead (via The Agitator)

A good example of a thank you making a difference.

Some more tips on thank you's from John Grain, although don't say thank you to someone who hasn't given yet!

Should charities offer a money back guarantee? Personally, I'd love to do this, just a shame HMRC would stop us claiming gift aid if we did...

Everyone in your organisation is a fundraisier - you just need to give them the tools to do it...

Seth outlines the foundations of a modern business. Most of them apply to fundraising as well.

Copyblogger with some useful ideas for creating a great tagline.

Are you giving your staff meaning?

Build a good experience before you build a social media presence.

Do learning styles exist?

A great TED commentary on the famous dancing guy at a festival video and what it means for creating a movement.

Birthday Wishes: Follow Up

Thank you to everyone who took the time to tweet, e-mail and comment on my last post on sending a birthday e-mail to our face to face donors.

I thought i'd summarise them here, as together they make interesting reading.

The basic conclusion is, give it a go. However, as a general point, I'd say that the older and/or less tech savvy someone is, the more sceptic they were about the idea.  That means that I think it will be ok for our face to face donors, but probably not suitable for our direct mail donors.

I've drafted an e-mail and you can have a read of it here (now with typo's removed!)

As before, I'd love your honest feedback and ideas for improving it. 

Feedback from Twitter:

Birthday comments

Other comments:

Conor Byrne:

"I can't see why not. I have gotten birthday messages from companies before on my birthday, sometimes maybe linked to a special offer, but if the message was personalised enough it was nice. I got a text message before. Anyone who is on Facebook probably gets messages on their birthday from "friends" and that's ok. I am not a big birthday person but this wouldn't bother me at all."

Marc Bowker:

 "Got to say, I thought about doing that for the charity I work for but thought better of it.

Facebook would make it easy for you to wish everyone a happy birthday whenever it was their birthday.

Actually emailing a donor on your database to wish them happy birthday I think would be great, if you automated it but branded it all up and thought about it a bit more than just a happy birthday message. Could potentially be a lot of effort for very little return. Is it worth it? Not sure.

As for the Facebook thing, everybody may not enter their birth details into Facebook so there then becomes a danger of excluding a few people whose birthday it is but you don't know about it.

Hope that helps."


 "I think it is a good idea - in fact, I know it is a good idea which works well especially with major donors. I often train and advise major donor fundraisers to do just that and even go a step further and sometimes send 'Happy Wedding Anniversary' cards or 'Congratulations on your daughter's marriage'... etc whatever is appropriate.

I strongly believe that donors are people too and they appreciate being treated as such and not as walking chequebooks. I think most donors, especially those who have a meaningful relationship with a charity, ie. are multi-year donors, regular givers, major donors, donors and volunteers etc... are likely to appreciate birthday wishes and acknowledgement of their support. I think a nice e-card or even better a real card can help make a lasting positive impression and set your charity apart from others."


"I know that I would be thrilled, and very impressed if I received a birthday card from one of my favourite charities." 


"I think it is a lovely thought, however I think it all depends on how well you know the people you are contacting?
"If I have had direct personal contact with a supporter, I have subsequently emailed or called to wish them well on special occasions, but I have to agree with the other people in your team I would feel a bit uncomfortable getting a birthday wish from someone I didn’t know, and who I probably had forgotten knew my birthday. People are so protective over their identity these days, my date of birth is something I don’t really want too many people I don’t know knowing or using.
"However, after saying all that, as I was once told ‘I am not the target market’ so I try not to base everything I do on whether or not I would appreciate it! Maybe you could do a test on a small number and ask for their feedback?" 

Would you want a charity to wish you a happy birthday?

That’s the debate we’ve been having in the office this week and I’d value your opinion.

I’ve been going through the data we hold on our systems and for a lot of our face to face donors we have their e-mail address and date of birth.

I thought it might be a nice idea to set up an auto responder e-mail to automatically send a birthday e-mail from us, wishing the donor a happy birthday and thanking them for their continued support.

However, other people in the office thought this would be intrusive and taking the use of data a step too far.  They said they’d feel uncomfortable if they got an e-mail from a charity wishing them happy birthday.

I hadn’t thought of it that way (I’m happy for all the birthday wishes I can get!), but wanted to get your opinion on it and see how you would feel if you got such an e-mail.

Look forward to hearing from you...

p.s. we all agreed that it would be a good idea to set up an e-mail to send to people on the anniversary of their first gift.  The aim is to show them what their gift has helped achieve over the past year and will hopefully help improve attrition.

Is your latest fundraising initiative a puddle, well, bayou or ocean?

Puddle Ocean 
 Which one is your fundraising idea? Puddle or deep ocean?

Roy H Williams wrote in his latest Monday Morning Memo about how to spot a good idea with the potential to flourish and I think his formula has lots of applications for fundraising.

Any fundraiser worth their salt is always thinking of new ideas and creative ways to run an event, come up with a concept for an appeal or develop a new fundraising wheeze.
Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between those ideas that have real legs and those that should just be left to wither on the vine of your imagination.

Roy starts by asking:

1: How wide is the interest?

2: How deep is the interest?

You can start answering these questions by considering your idea’s defining characteristics and limiting factors.

If your idea has a number of limiting factors, such as high cost, expert knowledge etc then it is never going to attract more than a narrow, shallow interest, so is likely to be a puddle.

On the other hand, if the defining characteristics of your idea are only going to appeal to a small number of people e.g. people with knowledge of Everton’s 1933 FA Cup winning team, then you would trigger deep interest with a small number of people, making it a well.

Similarly, an idea with wide appeal, but no good defining characteristics can be classed as a bayou.  Roy reckons many entrepreneurs (and I’d also say fundraisers) fall into this trap and want to see their idea as a big ocean of opportunity, but the reality is that it’s hard to provoke interest. An example of this would be a sponsored run that has no gimmick or differentiating factor.

As alluded to above, for an idea to really take off then you need to make sure your idea has mass appeal and few limiting factors.  If you can do this then you open up a wide, deep ocean of opportunity…

Roy gives a great example of wiener (sausage to us Brits) dogs creating widespread, deep interest in his home town and creating a fundraising ocean.  Check it out.

Puddle photo via PittCaleb

Ocean photo via Emrys.Roberts