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May 2011

Off to get married - I'll be back soon!


This will be my last post for a couple of weeks as I get married on Saturday and as much as I'd love to blog on my honeymoon I don't think my new wife (Grace) would be too happy about it.

Thank you to everyone who has already wished us well.  We're both really excited for the big day, despite the rising stress levels of the last week or so!

Thanks as ever for reading, commenting, tweeting and getting in touch about the blog. I really appreciate it and will be back refreshed, happy and smiling week commencing 6th June.

Friday Reading Round-Up

Time for another list of articles that have caught my eye recently...

The Agitator reports on an interesting (and successful) innovation in direct mail.  This is how it works.

Kev on emotional engagement and what businesses need to learn from charities.

Lucy asks 'What is innovation anyway?'

Advice for Good with an infograph based on the Sunday Times Rich List.

Amanda on the disregard of current customers (and donors).

Jon with explains how Tribes changed his life.  On the same theme, Conor praises Drayton Bird.

Jeff with some bad advice for fundraisers.

An in-depth look at the donor pyramid on 101 Fundraising.

Rob Dyson with some interesting thoughts on CRUK's Race for Life and their recent campaign.

Frogloop on designing campaigns for impact.

Lori with a Tom Peter's style list of little things to think about.

Katya with 5 tough donor questions.

Fit your fundraising products to your donor's needs

An interesting video over at the Knowledge Peers website* with Mark Astirita from the British Red Cross describing how they package up the different offers as fundraising products.

The best bit comes around 1:39 into the video when Mark says the following:

"We are increasingly in a world where people want to differentiate their giving, so productising or at least packaging what we do into something that is a bit more manageable for people does make it easier for them to give, it makes it easier for them to's a case of being donor focused, it's really about engineering the things we want to do anyway around the donor interests and that is what makes that kind of fundraising more successful and makes the donor feel that they are making a difference on a scale that is manageable for them."

Shifting the focus from delivering fundraising products charities want to sell (push tactics) to listening, understanding and then delivering fundraising products that people wish to donate to is a big shift in how many charities go about doing their fundraising.

However, if a large, successful organisation like the British Red Cross is listening more to donors and their needs, then it is probably something we can all learn from.

*registration is required on the site.

5 things to do when you can't afford a fundraising agency

There have been a slew of great articles (see Alison, Derek and Gill for starters) about working with fundraising agencies recently, but what happens if you can't afford a full-service agency?

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Look at your weakest areas and then use any budget you do have to buy specific project by project help.  There are some great freelancers out there working across all aspects of fundraising, design and strategy and you can learn from them and build capacity until you can do it yourself.
  2. If your manager or board are sceptical about the value of outside help then conduct a simple test.  For example, I believe copywriting is an area that my organisation is weak at, so I am currently testing some freelance help to see if it is cost effective to use an outside professional.

  3. Study hard.  If you can't afford to buy in help then try and learn as much as you can about the theory and practice of the area of fundraising you need assistance with.  The web is a great source of information, there are lots of free seminars and workshops and if you get really stuck then try e-mailing/tweeting someone you respect and asking for their advice (don't push it though as they won't have huge amounts of time to spare) but you might be surprised how far you get.
  4. Following on from this, keep an eye on the techniques and activities of other charities.  Learn from what they are doing and try and copy and adapt it to suit your organisation.  SOFII is a fantastic resource for inspiration.  Look at some of the most successful exhibits and see if you could make them work for your charity.
  5. Recruit volunteers with the specific skills you need. I've had a couple of great volunteers from the Media Trust in recent times, who've offered help to put together articles, style guides, conduct interviews and other work where we lack skills.  It would have cost hundreds (or thousands) of pounds to buy in this help, but we received it for free.  A word of warning - be wary of volunteers who offer to help in an area where they don't have clear, transferable, professional skills, as this can lead to frustration and annoyance on both sides.

Friday Reading Round Up

With the run of Bank Holidays in the UK over, it's time to get back to raising some money and doing some work!

In the meantime, here is some reading for the weekend...

There's been a lot of good articles on choosing agencies to work with and Derek shares his thoughts in two posts on 101 Fundraising.  Drayton Bird also shares some of his (forthright) thoughts on choosing an agency.  As an aside, I'm thinking of doing a post on what to do if you can't afford an agency - let me know if you have any suggestions...

Aline with lessons from Florence Nightingale.

John Lepp has a bee in his bonnet about donorcentric! I agree John...

Katya with things she wished she knew 20 years ago.

Anna with some lessons we can learn from face to face fundraisers.

Lucy with some thoughts on what innovation isn't.  If this post is of interest then I'd recommend Scott Berkun's excellent book 'The Myths of Innovation'.

Kimberley becomes a superhero!

Karen on acquisition.

The A-Z of excellent copywriting.

The second part of 'Why i'd never donate to a major charity' on the Freakonomics blog.  Some interesting (though not fundraising) links as well on the blog.

Seth on hard v long work.

How 'Relationship Fundraising' changed my life!

My initial fundraising career was only meant to last a year or so.  After that I was meant to get a ‘proper’ job in law, but then I read 'Relationship Fundraising' by Ken Burnett and it got me hooked on fundraising as a career.

I remember buying Relationship Fundraising from respected fundraiser Peter Maple via Howard Lake’s Fundraising website in about 2001. At the time i’d been a Community Fundraising Assistant for about six months and as much as i’d enjoyed helping out at various events and activities, it wasn’t really intellectually stimulating and I couldn’t really see a long-term future for me.

Then I read Ken’s book.

I remember devouring it in the course of a day and then going back through it with a fine toothcomb and making notes and jotting down ideas.  By the time I’d finished the book for a second time I had about 12 pages of notes.  I eagerly went and presented them to my bosses at the time and it says a lot about their attitude and leadership that they didn’t tell me where to go, but encouraged me to introduce a number of my ideas.

From that moment on I was a professional fundraiser. 

I re-vamped our thank you letters, took responsibility for the database, looked for ways to recognise and thank donors and worked hard to implement as much of the theory and ideas in the book as possible. 

The book made me proud to be a fundraiser and showed me what a fulfilling, stimulating and enjoyable career it could offer me.

I haven’t always got things right, but Relationship Fundraising and Ken’s other books have been a compass pointing me in the correct fundraising direction for the past 10 years.

It still amazes me when I meet fundraisers who’ve never read or even heard of Relationship Fundraising.  Personally I don’t know how you can do your job properly as a fundraiser without being aware of the principles it teaches.

I’ve recommended the book to hundreds of people and shared my copy with numerous colleagues over the years and it still remains my favourite fundraising book out of the hundreds I have read.

This post is my contribution to the May Non-Profit Blog Carnival.  This month it posed the question: What Book Has Changed Your (Professional) Life?