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March 2011

Small advertising budget? Try using Google Ads, Facebook & Linked In...

Being able to make the most of limited resources is often one of the skills that fundraisers are required to have. 

I'm always looking for low cost, effective ways to promote my cause, events and activities and have been testing a range of adverts on Google using their fabulous non-profit grants programme (seriously if you haven't applied for this you are missing out) and after various testing I am ready to give Facebook and Linked In a go.

Here are some lessons learnt from Google Ads and ideas for Facebook and Linked In.

Google Ads

You need to be specific. General appeals for volunteers and to visit our website haven't converted very well at all.  What has worked brilliantly is targetted ads in areas of London near our charity shops.  We were inundated with e-mails and phone calls and have had to narrow the area we are advertising in.  We now receive 10-12 offers of goods per day and with each bag of stock being worth ~£20-30 this has generated thousands of pounds worth of donations.

Test, test, test.  You need to continuously amend your ads and keywords and refine them based on past results.  By pruning the keywords that don't convert you can make the most of the $10,000 a month you are given.

Have a specific landing page for your google ads. Tailor it to the advert and track what people do on the page using google analytics.  Test different pages to see what works best.


One of the most interesting thing about Facebook ads is the level of targeting you can do.  If you wanted to you could target people at a specific workplace, by an age range or their interests.  For example, in theory you could target Everton fans, living in London between 30-35.  This means if you can identify your key audiences then you can really target them well.

As you pay per click and the minimum spend is only $10 you can quickly test and see if something is likely to work. e.g. if you know a runner is worth £100 to your charity then you might be willing to pay £15 to recruit them.  If you pay £1 per click for your ad, then you need to convert 1 in 15 of your clicks to break even.

I'm going to use it to try and recruit volunteers for street collections targetting students and the retired - though the ad range only goes up to 64 years old - haven't Facebook heard of silver surfers?!

Linked In

I'll be honest and admit I hadn't even thought of using Linked In until I read Mark's recent blog post, but thinking about it, it makes total sense, as the profile of users is older and wealthier than on Facebook and Twitter.

I'm going to use it to advertise for runners for the London Marathon and other London runs at executives in the city and will also do some general promotional ads and see what works.

Do you have any tips or experience of using Facebook and Linked In?  I'd love to hear them and will let you know how my adverts go in the next few weeks.


Weekly Reading Round Up

Spring seems to have hit London in the last few days and it's been lovely having some some sunshine and a bit of warmth! 

In fundraising terms, it's just starting to get into event season and I was confronted with a sea of yellow and the sight of a gaggle (is there a collective noun for fundraisers?!) of Marie Curie collectors today in Waterloo!

Anyway, I'm pleased to share some of the recent articles that have caught my eye...

Alison on the 'next big thing' in fundraising - it seems like Seth has been reading Alison's blog with this post on bringing him stuff that's dead!  The Agitator blog also gives their take and Samren from Stephen Thomas with some thoughts as well.

Mark on when to choose choice.

Jackie on why good major donor fundraisers are hard to find.

Aline with a useful list of words for fundraising copywriting.

The charity branding discussion continues with this from Mark and some thoughts from Beautiful World.

Jonathon on QR codes only being useful if used properly.

Lori on the art of asking.

The Agitator's favourite fundraising metrics.

101 Fundraising on telephone fundraising.

5 tips for increasing the value of your donations.

Sean with two presentations from the AFP conference.

Copyblogger with some great PR tips for getting your stories into the media.

Jeff on why ugly fundraising works.

p.s. some useful tips from Happy Donors on using a p.s!

When donating money causes more harm than good: the response

Yesterday's post certainly provoked an interesting reaction with over 100 tweets and five times as many visitors to the site as usual.

I wanted to share some of the great Tweets* and comments I've received and I have split them into a number of categories:

General Comments

I have to say 10 years ago that would have been double the numbers received. Nice to see interaction between you and donor :)  I think charities have done lot to target rather than blanket mail their supporters. Whilst targeted mail is on the increase. I think it is in most charities interest to restrict indiscriminate mailings. Some of those numbers per charity were very low.  What i did like from their (the donors) record keeping was no hiding place for the charities clearly overmailing and wasting funds, but still showing poor cold mailing lists and very poor marketing strategies on ROI and RFV. @Phil_RAs

That's a phenomenal amount of mail. It's the data swapping that's really poor form.  @learnasone

I don’t agree, but an interesting read. Reason I said I didn't agree is because giving begets giving and I don't have prob IF letters were real, authentic, personal & fed back.  I'm not suggesting all packs met that criteria! I'm sure most didn't. :-) Their generosity was their biggest downfall! @jonathongrapsas

Interesting piece - I think phone campaigns can have a similar effect. I stopped one gift after high pressure call to increase! However, it's a difficult balancing act - after all, if you don't ask... @attythatwas

Fundraisers should ask 3 questions before sending a mailing: Why am I sending this pack? To this person? At this time? If can't answer, don't send! @adriansalmon

 Digital is the future. @kuntze

 Depressing... @jon_bedford

Possible solutions

We should all look at the letter - it's awful. But what do you do? A centralised database to reduce over-soliciting?  FRSB + major reciprocals brokers, e.g Occam? Voluntary code on list swaps? DPA should guard against this, in theory, but don't. @adriansalmon

I've been advocating some form of planning function for phone contact for years. Over calling kills response. @pauldegregorio

Other examples

We had a granny who collected her DM for us and would use 1 month's worth in pitches - it landed on the desk with a bang!  Poorly created and targeted DM is junk. We should think of the impact on responders and non-responders. One donation form had comments box on it - 1 donor simply stuck twenty different address labels in the box! @markphillips

I did some analysis for a client once & found one poor bloke had been selected for a telephone direct debit ask 13 times - and carried on giving!  I made sure he didn't get another one! He obviously wanted to give cash, not DD! @pauldegregorio

I spoke to a lady whose aunt had recurring gifts setup by credit card, charities concerned were very hard to contact.  All setup by direct mail and telemarketing. There were so many they had split the work of opting out between family. @medavep

That's bad (letters) did you see my collection of Charity Bags? @AFPaz

@linereed @pongogirl On calling donors to apologise:

Was cringeworthy & highly recommended - if you are in the business of trying to change things for the better.

Yep I've done it too. Awful. Talking to donors stops you doing things that look good on a spreadsheet, but actually aren't.


*I've edited tweets to make them easier to read and comprehend. Let me know if you think I have misrepresented what was said.

When donating to charity causes more harm than good (direct mail fundraisers look away now!)

I received this letter through the post today and wanted to share it with you.  It makes uncomfortable reading if you are a direct mail fundraiser:

Complaint Letter

Complaint Letter2

The basic gist is this:

This couple have received 491 mailings from charities in the last year.

Some charities have sent over 20 mailings (without a single gift) in that time.

They have received over 1400 address labels.

The couple haven't donated to any of the charities listed (my own included, although they had previously).

I was appalled at the letter and rang the donors to apologise and promise we would remove them from our list and to ask permission to post their letter here.

I thought they might put the phone straight down on me, but I actually had a really interesting chat with Mr Donor.

What I found was a kind, generous man with a sense of duty, who wanted to make a difference through giving, but who (along with his wife) had come so fed up with the amount of mail they received that he felt they had to make a stand. 

I was the first charity rep to get in touch and we had a long chat.  I advised him about the mailing preference service, reciprocal mailings and the Fundraising Standards Board.

Amazingly, he continues to support a number of charities and was actually quite apologetic (and felt guilty) for doing this!

Now I am sure every charity on the list will justify the mailings by saying that gifts increase response, the mailings overall make a return on investment etc, etc.

However, when you look at the whole (and I'd guess there are thousands of other donors receiving similar volumes of mail) it is simply unjustifiable and unsustainable in the long term.  By continuing to act in this way, good causes risk driving donors to extinction by completely turning them off donating and alienating the very people who are happy to give.

10 Great Quotes from Denny Hatch

Denny Hatch's regular e-newsletter is a favourite of mine.  Topical, insightful and full of sound advice they are one of the few e-mails that I always read.

Denny has taken the best of the quotes, takeaways, quips, advice and truisms featured in his e-newsletter and compiled them into a fantastic book split into 99 categories.

These shorty pithy segments contain some great ideas and thoughts and can be used to challenge your staff, in presentations, for training and a whole host of other things.

Here are 10 of my favourite nuggets from the first half of the book.  Quotes are from Denny unless stated:


"Here's the secret of successful advertising: interrupting what's going on in the front of a prospect's brain with headline, graphics, copy and action that seize upon a lurking fear or desire and exploiting it."


When an agency is pitching potential clients, it's usually the high-powered agency president that glad-hands the prospect and does the razzle dazzle presentation.  Once the account is landed, the work is turned over to underlings.

Before hiring an agency, get to know the worker bees that will be assigned to your account.


Before trashing a brand, add up the dollars spent on advertising, marketing and P.R. over the years to build a brand.  What will it cost to make its replacement a household name?


"The seven key copy drivers - the emotional hot buttons that make people act - are fear, greed, guilt, anger, exclusivity, salvation and flattery"
Bob Hacker, Axel Andersson

Customer Relationship Magic

"There is only one boss.  The customer(donor). And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending (donating) his money elsewhere."
Sam Walton

How to know customers

Once, every six months, have a brainstorming session to figure out innovative and inexpensive new ways to make your customers happier.

Direct mail letters

The tone of a good direct mail letter is as direct and personal as the writer's skill can make it.  Even though it may go to millions of people, it never orates to a crowd, but rather murmurs into a single ear.  It's a message from one letter writer to one letter reader.


After dashing off an email, but before clicking on 'Send' you might reflect for a moment on the consequences of your message appearing on the front page of every newspaper in the world.


"On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.  When you written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar."


Always hire A's.  In the first place, they are more fun to work with.  Secondly, they push you into excellence.

How user testing can improve the fundraising on your website!

Our new website at the GLFB is up and running and so far visits, average time on the site and pages viewed are already showing big increases in Google analytics and the feedback from our donors has been positive.

However, although this is all good I wanted to check how people were actually using the site and seeing if they could find information, make a donation easily etc.

To do this I used a site called, which for about £20.00 per review offers a really affordable way to get useful feedback on the way people access information.  I've already made a number of tweaks and changes from the feedback I received and I've embedded one of the videos below.  I think it makes for fascinating watching - though please excuse the typo's in my comments!

I really think this is a tool that anyone who is in charge of, or has an interest in, your website should know about.

Here are just a five things you could test from a fundraising perspective:

  • Ask a person to go on to the homepage and make a donation.
  • See if people can find information on an area of fundraising, such as legacies.
  • Pretend they want to make a complaint or speak to a fundraiser.
  • Test your online event registration.  Does it flow and is it easy to sign up?
  • Can people easily sign up to your e-newsletter, Twitter, Facebook pages?

 Do let me know if you have any extra feedback on our website - I would love to hear it!


Weekend Reading Round-Up

This is the second time I've done this post as my computer crashed yesterday and I lost the original version. Never mind - hope you enjoy the selection of articles I've picked out this week...

Jeff on the power of corny, old fashioned, copy-heavy marketing.

Advice for Good on why people donate to charity and Katya with six truths on the same subject.

Amanda gets a lovely bear hug.

Two LinkedIn articles: Claire on personal branding and Mark on fundraising and some interesting stats.

Paul dr Gregorio with an interesting perspective on monthly giving.

Taslim from Stephen Thomas  with a terrible Kool & the Gang pun, but a good article on integration.

Jonathon with a good Facebook fundraising case study.

Gill starts a great series on how to work with fundraising agencies. Part 2 is now out as well.

There has been an interesting discussion on charity branding on Twitter after this post by Jeff.  Kevin joins in by updating a couple of interesting articles.

101 Fundraising with nine donor loyalty tweets.

Lucy on getting success from failure.

Happy Donors on testing when you can't test.

Christiana with an antidote for bad fundraising.

An analogy I've used many times over the years! One-night stands ruin your fundraising.

Kivi summarises three approaches to stories from Chip and Dan Heath.

I found this brainstorming template really useful on Customer Experience 101.

The Freakonomics blog with some interesting (and possibly controversial) thoughts on Twitter.

Dan admits to another irrationality: procrastination and self-control.

Incentives part 2: Which of these appeals would you give to?

Following on from my post the other dayon the talk I attended at the RSA, I wanted to look at how this applies to fundraising.

Professor Ayres told the audience about an experiment that was done with a fundraising letter raising money for orphan's with AIDS in Africa.

Half were sent a letter stating the following:

We've raised £4,920 towards our £10,000 target.

The other half received a letter with this statement:

We've got £5,080 to go to reach our £10,000 target.

Which do you think most people would give to?

Apparently the answer depended on how committed the donors were to the cause.  Those who've already given to AIDS charities were more likely to give to the second one, but those who hadn't given before were more likely to give to the first one.

I've been trying to find a reference for the study (as it sounds interesting) but may need to buy his book to get it!  It does give food for thought though, especially for how you phrase the ask in appeals depending on how committed the donor is to your cause.  i.e. cold appeals should use the first ask, warm appeals the second.

Using incentives to get free coffee (and increasing fundraising)

Another incentive that has possible fundraising uses is to do with loyalty cards.

If you're a regular to a coffee shop then you might get one of their loyalty cards where you buy five cups of coffee (or similar) and get one free.

Research has shown if you give people a start i.e. your first stamp(s) for 'free', then they are more likely to fill the card.

I've been trying to think of ways you could use this for fundraising.

If you've got a sponsored event then can you get a major donor or sponsor to kickstart the participant's fundraising by donating the first £20 of their target?

Charity shops could use the same principle to promote repeat custom.

Can you think of any other uses?

The power of (dis)incentives

I attended a RSA Lecture entitled 'Carrots & Sticks' last week, in which Professor Ian Ayres talked about the way rewards and punishments can help motivate people to do things.

It was a fascinating lecture and there were a couple of things in particular I wanted to share with you.

First of all he talked about lessons from his website

The idea of Stickk is simple, but at the same time very clever.

It uses a number of economic and psychological principles to help people acheive goals.

You set a goal e.g. give up smoking, lose weight etc and sign an online contract.

The first clever bit, is that you then have to put up a stake/forfeit if you don't achieve your goal, which behavioural and economic research shows increases the probability of achieving your target.

A referee is then appointed (usually a friend) to monitor your progress and to activate the stake if you miss a target.  This accountability also increases your chances of succeeding.

Finally, you are encouraged to share your challenge with your friends /family and for them to offer support and encouragement.  Again, research has shown that sharing your goals increases the chances of you achieving them due to you not want to humiliate yourself in front of your supporters and/or you want them to be proud of you.

Ian explained a couple of neat twists to the basic premise as well.

For example, he found that using an anti-Charity increases your chances of succeeding even more.  He gave the example of a liberal having to give to a right wing charity (or vice versa) if they failed as increasing motivation.

He also explained how he sold his commitment contract to the highest bidder on e-bay, which again increased his motivation to achieve his goal.

Next time, I'll take a closer look at what this means for fundraisers and some possible uses for the theory.







Do you know the words, but not the music?

That's the question Steve Yastrow asks in his latest newsletter (well worth subscribing to).

As Steve explains:

“It means to provide facts without a plan for how the customer will understand those facts. It means to think that the content of what needs to be delivered is more important than the way it is delivered. It means to be more focused on what you're saying than how it sounds to your customer.”

It's a problem you see with a lot of charity communications.  There is nothing wrong with the words or messages per se, but they just don't touch or move you like a good piece of music does. 

All the necessary information is conveyed but it doesn't create an experience that, according to Steve, "makes it easy and inviting to hear your information and to understand it."

Steve's advice for changing this makes a lot of sense:

"You don't need to literally sing your communications! But what you do need to do is take a cue from music, and ensure that the way you communicate information, along with the timing by which you communicate it, adds interest, excitement, passion and color, the way a well-performed composition makes a page of sheet music come alive."

Sound advice and if you can make your communications sing then you are going to attract a lot of donors.

BONUS, COMPLETELY UNRELATED EXTRA:  Steve's article reminded me of one of my dad's favourite Morecambe & Wise sketches featuring Andre Previn and the classic line about playing all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order.  I've include the YouTube clip below: