Previous month:
September 2010
Next month:
November 2010

October 2010

Friday Reading Round-Up

Enjoy this weeks summary of interesting articles!

Jonathon explains how WWF are keeping it simple with their latest digital campaign.  Look forward to finding out the results.

Looking for some inspiration for your website? Red Rooster Group have collated the home and about pages of 50 of the best non-profit websites and also share some key metrics to monitor.

A technical, but useful article on using google analytics to improve fundraising sign-ups.

Jeff with some Halloween fundraising horrors to avoid...

Are your donors really that different? Mark suggests not.

How to make your donors 'tingle'.

John rants about direct mail stupidity.

Sean on showing impact.

Is Facebook for fundraising? Thoughts from Bryan Miller.

Loved this idea. Conor explains about the thank you project.

Lori with two powerful words to avoid.

Five steps to nonprofit messaging success.

Must read in-depth article from Bernard Ross on your charity going from good to great. Closely related is this article on whether you should fire all your average performers!

Some advice from the IFC on building social movements.

Why good taglines aren't enough by themselves.

Fundraising without words.

The Donor Power blog on gift ask testing (and an interesting follow up post).

Seth on why ideas spread and a great rant on being uninformed. Go Seth!!

Tom Peters video asking people to focus on their storytelling.

How to create an ad worth spreading.

Creating customer loyalty.

Lessons from Chris Guillebeau's agenda

I'm a big fan of Chris Guillebeau and he's recently written a five part agenda, which I thought was thought provoking, challenging and full of inspiration.

It's not necessarily about fundraising, but I still think it's worth reading all five parts or to buy his book (sadly not out in the UK until December). 

In summary here are the five things Chris talks about.

Ask Why

Why do we do the things we do? What's the point? What are we working towards?

Chris challenges people to constantly think about what you do everyday and then to act accordingly.  Hopefully for fundraisers, this question is easily answered - otherwise you're in the wrong job!

The individual as hero

In Chris's words:

"Here's the idea: it's OK to invest in yourself, to have fun experiences for yourself, and pursue the big dream. You don't need permission to turn your dreams into goals; give yourself permission instead. (I gave a talk about this subject at TedX CMU). That's why some of the most effective "big dream advice" is very simple: Yes, you can really do that. What's the worst that can happen if it doesn't work out?

"If you have a dream, make it yours and take action to turn it into reality. I think the world would be a better place if more people did this. That's why it's OK to have a dream and pursue it with your whole heart. Go big! Do something monumental! Be your own superhero."

The need for contribution

People at their heart are social beings and have a need to connect and be with others. Understand and explore those connections and you might be amazed what happens.

Help people find the possibilities in their life - in a fundraising context, how is their donation going to change the world?

Don't view life as a zero sum game. Give freely of your skills, talents and abilities and invest in people (and causes). 

Ultimately, "What can you offer the world that no one else can?"

Efficiency is overrated

Chris urges people not to,

"worry about trying to live the most efficient life or become the most optimal human. Instead, embrace life as a meaningful adventure. Pursue adventure and passion instead of efficiency. "

Adventure doesn't mean packing up your things and going off round the world - though feel free if you want to!

Think about the things that excite and challenge for you and learn to embrace change.

For me fundraising is an adventure - it's a challenge I love and it's what I want to do.

Build a legacy

Ultimately, there is no point doing the first four things if you you don't leave some sort of legacy once you're gone.

What is going to be your greatest impact and how will things be different when you're not around?


I always find Chris's writing inspirational and I hope you found it of interest too. It may not be directly fundraising related, but I think it's important to look at a variety of sectors and people to provide motivation and ideas.

How can small charities compete in fundraising?

David Goliath David overcame goliath and your small charity can out-fundraise the big fundraising charities too! (picture via Fried Dough)

My post on fundraising critical success factors attracted a number of interesting comments amongst which was the following:

"What would you say these were for a relatively new local charity with low awareness in the local community but with the support of a national charity?"

I thought this was a really great question and so here are the ways that I think smaller, local charities can find a competitive advantage over large charities in their communities:

Personal touch

As you are living in the area that you are fundraising then you can really get to know your donors.  You can find genuine reasons to be in the same place that they are and keep in touch with them often.  With a smaller donor database you can really personalise your communications and get to know your donors to really engage with your work.

Avoid bureaucracy

One of the frustrations I hear from many fundraisers in large organisations is the amount of time it takes to get decisions made.  Small charities should be able to avoid this and make quick, decisive decisions and not have to escalate everything up the chain of command or approved by a committee to get things done.

This should mean you are in a better position that to exploit any fundraising opportunities that arise.

Attend everything

If someone is doing a fundraising event for you, make sure a fundraiser or volunteer attends.  The same goes for cheque presentations and talks.  Many big charities won't have the ability to attend everything and so you will be able to show how much their fundraising means to your organisation, make new contacts, promote your cause and ensure that you are top of their list when they come to fundraise in the future.

Local press and media

Again, you can use your connections in the community to build strong relationships with your local media.  You can make time to get to know journalists (taking them out for a coffee is a great start), look for smaller niche publications (such as Church magazines and neighbourhood magazines) and give them interesting and powerful stories about the difference you are making in your local community.

One of the proudest moments of working in a hospice was when a donor came up to me and said they were sick of reading about the hospice in the paper and hearing me on the radio!  I knew at that point we were doing something right with our comms...

Targeted Facebook and Google Ads

While preparing this post, I came across this great presentation from Jon at Justgiving on how small charities can punch above their weight with social media.  It contains some really good tips and a wonderful case study from Child's i.

As well as this, I'd also recommend any local charities to sign up for the Google Ads non-profit programme.  This gives up to $10,000 of free advertising per month on Google.

No other charity will be spending this much on advertising in your area, which means if you can get your message and keywords right then your ads will be appearing on relevant searches to people in your community. 

You can use Facebook to do the same (though sadly you have to pay for this) and connect with people who will be interested in your cause.

Does you have any other tips for how small charities can compete?

I'd also recommend all small charities in the UK to sign up to the Foundation for Social Improvement.  They offer some great (free) fundraising courses, have lots of experience and are an incredibly friendly and helpful bunch.


What can fundraisers learn from Coca-Cola?

Another great talk at Ted from Melinda French Gates on what nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola (HT to the Donor Power Blog for the link).

Regardless of your view of their ethics (see here for bad Coca-Cola), it is a truly global brand and she argues there are three main reasons for this:

1.  Their use of real time data and how they feed it back into the product

2.  How they tap into local entrepreneurial talent (especially in the developing world)

3.  They do incredible marketing

As fundraisers we can learn from all three points.

Coca-Cola's knowledge and insight team know where their consumers are in real time and when sales drop they can react and do something about it.  Charities and fundraisers tend to evaluate at the end when it is too late to do anything to fix any problems.  Are you evaluating your results as they come in and then doing something about it?

By training local entrepreneurs Coca-Cola were able to sell coke in hard to reach places.  They empowered individual, created brand advocates and set them up as micro-distribution centres. 

This is similar to what Kiva and Lend With Care are doing and as fundraisers we need to find ways to empower our most committed and loyal donors and give them the tools to eulogise about our work.

Coca-Cola use aspirational marketing across the world and adapt it to local traditions and customs.  People equate Coca-Cola with the type of life they want to live and the things that are important to them (which varies around the world).  Coca-Cola speak to the dreams and hopes of people and not about the features of the product. 

The key thing here for fundraisers is to know your audience, adapt your marketing to their hopes and aspirations (the problem they are solving) and don't impose on them your view of the world!




Weekend Reading Round-Up

Yes, it's that time again...another list of interesting fundraising related articles for you to enjoy....

Emotion v Rationality Special

Jeff on the problem with metrics (and why emotion wins)

Whereas Sean gives 5 (rational) questions a donor should ask a charity before making a donation

Finally, Katya asks how we can shift our giving to the best charities?

Meanwhile, elsewhere....

Aline with an interesting use of personalisation and creativity in a catalogue mailing.

What's the right voice for an appeal?

The Agitator with some interesting stats on fundraising integration

Pamela on e-mail relationship building

Beth with some good tips on using video in fundraising

Scribbly Bark praises yet another great charity:water communication

Kev with some interesting thoughts on short-termism in social media (based on this post by Steve Bridger)

Shane from Stephen Thomas with a plea for charities to fix their websites

Lucy on being wrong

What can you learn from selling a brick (via Drayton Bird) - can your fundraisers sell your cause as well as this?!

Mark and John both make a plea about thank you letters.

Some interesting myths on presenting

Tom Peters on what matters

Seth on demonstrating strength


Good experience on embracing procrastination

What are your fundraising critical success factors?

I'm just in the process of writing my fundraising strategy and a key part for me is setting down the key fundraising principles and beliefs that underpin the work.

Here are my five essentials for fundraising success:

1: Outstanding donor care & stewardship

Every communication, every interaction and every touch point someone has with your charity needs to enhance the relationship that you have with them.

2: Fabulous storytelling

The donor needs to feel involved and to see themselves as part of the solution to the problem you are solving.  Great storytelling helps achieve this by providing inspiration, motivation, engagement and involvement.

3: Focus on legacies

The ultimate gift for any fundraiser is a legacy.

Yet because of the long term nature of legacies and the need for short term results they are often overlooked.

Every staff member, trustee and volunteer needs to know the importance of legacies to your organisation.

4: Integrated fundraising

Donors do not see themselves as ‘direct mail’ ‘face to face’ ‘corporate’ etc donors and you need to be careful not to put donors into convenient segments or silos.

You can differentiate and gain a competitive advantage by humanising and personalising your communications, understanding your donors as individuals and involving and engaging them in the things that interest them.

Similarly, you will increasingly need to integrate campaigns across media.

5: Volunteers

Volunteers are the lifeblood of many charities and it is vital that you look after them well, make them feel involved and give them the confidence, inspiration and tools to be ambassadors for your cause.

Those are my five key things - what would you include in your list?

5 questions to ask your supporters

I'm a big fan of getting donor feedback and I've recently sent a survey to all our direct mail donors.

The front side had a few admin questions, but the second page had five free-text questions (avoiding tickboxes - thanks Aline) and the results have been fascinating and really helped me identify what's important to our donors.

The five questions I asked were:

1. Why did you decide to support our cause?

2. Do you, or anyone you know, have any personal stories or experiences of being blind or partially sighted?

3. In your opinion, what is the greatest contribution we can make to improve the lives of blind and visually impaired people?

4. Please let us know if would like more information on a particular type of blindness or information on services in your local area.

5. Do you have any suggestions on how we could communicate with you better or any ideas for future mailings?

These questions won't be suitable for every charity, so what questions would you ask your supporters and why?

p.s you can read some of the stories and quotes from the survey and I'd like to say a big thank you to @alo365 who volunteered to help put together the survey.



The problem with form letters

Processing donations and sending thank you letters can be a time consuming business and so most charities resolve this by producing form letters to make processing quicker and easier.

This reduces the admin time required and is more cost effective, but it does have a couple of dangers, which were highlighted to me recently.

My friend got married in September and kindly asked for donations to a local hospice rather than presents and I duly made a donation.

Four weeks after making the gift (which is a rant for another day!) I received a thank you letter with a personalised first paragraph, but then with two standard paragraphs following.

No bad thing you may think, but the problem was the paragraphs paid no attention to me personally.

As I lived over 200 miles away from the hospice, so the comments about my donation helping "real people from communities on your very own doorstep" and "caring for local people close to your home" were completely inappropriate.

You might thing I'm being pedantic and that no-one would expect anything more, but I have higher standards than that and think charities should strive to do better and tailor letters appropriately.

Use form letters if you must, but be willing to edit and change them if a donor gives you some extra information or detail that means you can personalise your response further.

Weekend Reading Round-Up

I attended an interesting talk at the RSA on Wednesday entitled the 'Morality of Charity'.  It was a well argued presentation from Martin Brookes of NPC and you can read a good summary of the talk at UK Philanthropy.

Whilst you're in the reading mood, check out these other posts I've liked recently...

Jonathon Grapsas on fundraising things he wished he knew when he was younger. And a nice follow up on the subject from Aline.

The Agitator on crowd accelerated innovation and another great post on loyalty.

A great infographic on giving in the U.S. - a UK version would be nice too!

Cause Perfect on communicating with donors.

Pamela with some good annual appeal letter tips.

Five reasons your supporters are ignoring online

Jeff on what makes a stupid charity ad.

Freakonomics on the importance of asking in altruism.

Chris Brogan on avoiding mind numbing meetings.  There are some ex-colleagues I'd like to send this to!

Eaon with five nuggets for a post-digital web strategy

Seth with some rules for your 'About' page.

Drayton Bird on the importance of smiling