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June 2011

Recommended Sessions for the IoF National Convention

The Institute of Fundraising National Convention is only a few days away.  I've written before on how to get the most out of conferences, but as this year will be the first time I've been to the IoF I've decided to put together a quick guide to pick out some of the best sounding sessions and speakers.

Do let me know if you have any other recommendations.  I'm sure I've missed load of good speakers and great insight.  Whatever sessions you decide to go to, enjoy the conference and have a great three days.

The Standing Room Only Sessions

These sessions feature some of the best fundraising speakers about and are likely to be jam packed so make sure you get there early.

Ken Burnett, Alan Clayton and Giles Pegram on thinking BIG!

Bernard Ross and Paula Guillet de Monthoux from =mc talk about becoming great.  As an aside, usually all the Management Centre speakers are good speakers and worth seeing.

Richard Radcliffe is an entertaining and insightful speaker. If you're interested in legacies then don't miss his session.

The Panels

I'm a fan of Q&A panels at conferences and there should be more interactive sessions.  If you do go then it's really important to have a question in mind that you need help with and then don't be afraid to ask it!

Mark Phillips is on the panel of the  online fundraising showcase.

A number of direct marketing experts are going to be answering questions.


I've been invited to an event hosted by direct marketing agency TW-Cat that is going to present the results of some quantitative and qualitative research they've done on attitudes to giving by generation.  I'll report back on this next week.

Prof Adrian Sargeant has three sessions presenting research findings on major givers, legacies and philanthropic psychology.

Twitter Recommends

I asked my Twitter followers to recommended sessions and this is what came back:

Lucy Gower is doing a couple of sessions on innovation.  Lucy is one of my favourite tweeters and shares loads of great links and her sessions should be worth a look.

Lucy recommended Rob Woods the NSPCC's in-house trainer.  He is doing four sessions! I know a few people who work at the NSPCC and they've all praised the training they've received, so you might be able to benefit to.

Steven George and Kevin Kibble both have a wealth of experience and their session on legacy and in-mem fundraising should be worth a look.

My Session

I'm doing a session with Paul Stein of World Jewish Relief on relationship fundraising in small charities. It's aimed at fundraisers with under five years experience and working in charities with less than £5million p.a. fundraising income.  We're going to try and show some simple, low cost ways that you can use to try and improve your donor retention and increase their lifetime value.


I'm Running 10k - Please Will You Sponsor Me?

In the two and a bit years of doing the blog I've never actually done any fundraising on it, but the time has come and I hope you won't mind me asking you to please sponsor me to do the British 10k in a few weeks.

Now you might be thinking, '10k, that's nothing' and to most people of reasonable fitness it isn't.  However, to me it's terrifying as I've never even run half that distance before!  I say it on my Justgiving page, but I'm really not an athlete!

I've made a quick, amateur and slightly cheesy video asking you to donate and promise it's the last time I'll mention my wedding, as i'm sure people are sick of hearing about it by now!

Anyway, you can sponsor me on my Justgiving page or if you want to give a quick and easy £5.00 (UK only) then text the word 'Blind' to 70700.

All the money raised will go towards helping blind people get the best from life and I want to raise £1,000 to cover the on-going costs of a social club I visited for three months.  The club is often the only social outing many visually impaired people have and I was bowled over by the warm welcome I received and the camararderie of the members. 

Thanks in advance for your support.  Normal service will be resumed on Wednesday!


p.s. If you're in London on Sunday 10th July then I will be holding a post-race running celebration and retirement party that you'd be very welcome to come along to!

Philanthropy Review: Too focused on techniques and fundraising mechanisms?

The Philanthropy Review was announced to much fanfare this week and I've just finished reading the final report and digesting it's content.

I was critical of the Funding Commission report in December for setting some bold ambitions, but with unrealistic plans for achieving them, and fortunately the Review doesn't seem to have fallen into the same trap.

The report is split into three sections:

  • How to make it easier to give
  • How to encourage giving
  • How to help giving become a social norm

It offers useful proposals for increasing giving in the UK and presents some interesting stats to back up it's case.  For example, those earning over £200,000 per annum give £2 to charity for every £1,000 that they earn compared with an equivalent £90 for every £1,000 amongst their peer group in the United States, which I thought was particularly shameful.

However, I don't think that this stat will change any time soon with just tweaking existing mechanisms for fundraising - it needs revolution.  That's why one of the criticisms I'd have of the report is that they've focused a bit too heavily on the tools for giving (viewing giving as a very rational thing) and not enough on the emotional and community building side of things.

For example, the part I was most looking forward to reading about was the 'How to help giving become a social norm' section, but apart from some good ideas about encouraging philanthropy in school it amounted to not much more than holding some meetings about collating data and a vague promise to hold a 'Giving Campaign' in 2012.

I would've liked to hear a lot more about this idea and the concept of promoting giving generally rather than the detailed plans about tweaking payroll giving and introducing more charity bank accounts, which is all well and good, but is unlikely to transform giving in the UK.

It's only by understanding the reasons behind philanthropy and then trying to replicate and promote those reasons that we will truly make progress on increasing the levels of giving in the UK.

Overall, the report is worth a look and I hope they make progress with their recommendations.  They seem to have the ear of government and I hope they can use this influence in a positive way.

I look forward to hearing further updates, especially on the giving campaign...

PFRA Face to Face Attrition Survey: Why retention remains so crucial

Earlier this week I attended the presentation for the PFRA's fourth DARS Survey, which compares results from numerous face to face campaigns and tries to formulate some benchmarks for donor attrition.

It's the most comprehensive benchmarking survey done across any method of fundraising (the only comparable survey is Fundratios) and there were a number of interesting stats that emerged from that and the PFRA's annual review.

  • Attrition seems to be improving after records cancellations in 2007 and 2008.
  • Door to door fundraising has increased dramatically in the last year with over 550,000 donors being recruited in this way.
  • Street fundraising seems to have plateaued with around 170,000 donors being recruited in the last year - this could possibly be due to tighter site agreements and the lack of agency supply/good fundraisers.

Street Attrition
Attrition Rate by Year for Door and Street Fundraising Campaigns

What struck me most was the difference in attrition rates between campaigns, not only year by year, but by individual charities.

The importance of attrition can't be downplayed, as it makes or break the success of a campaign.

Doing some rough sums, over five years the charity with the best donor attrition will have raised three or four times as much as the one with the worst. 

That is a huge difference and it reminded me again just how important your donor communications are.  Get this wrong and you are simply throwing away your initial investment. 

Yet, still many charities seem to focus on the recruitment of donors and neglect the retention part. Ultimately, it is this that will determine the long term success of your campaign.

The most interesting part of the survey is still to come, as Prof Adrian Sargeant is currently analysing the data and looking at the impact of various variables, such as  communications and donor age, on attrition.

The results of this will be out in the autumn and it will hopefully provide insight into the key drivers of retention.

Weekend Reading Round-Up

Right, it's time for my first reading round-up for a month.  I deleted the 1500+ posts I had in my feed after my break, so these articles are all from the last couple of weeks.  Apologies if I missed anything during my holidays!

Robert Egger with some interesting thoughts on charity and the Millenium generation.

Welcome to the age of the customer.

Ian MacQuillan with some thoughts on recent 'nudge' fundraising initiatives.

Katya on the uniqueness of opportunity.

Seth's updated e-mail checklist.

The seven deadly sins of direct mail fundraising.

Jeff with five assumptions to make about your readers.

Frogloop on making your donors feel like rockstars.

Shelley O'Brien with some good pointers on trust applications.

There's been a lot of debate about ranking charities by administration costs. The Freakonomics blog has an interesting rebuttal.

Mark on why donors don't like giving when it doesn't feel good.

Kathy Sierra on the Gaping Void blog talking about the mountain of mediocrity.

The Not for Profit social media conference was held this week and there were a few interesting videos and comments on the event that I thought were worth sharing:

Stuart Witts refreshingly honest look at the conference programme picks out the highlights.

Anne McCrossan shares her thoughts.

Katie Bacon shared some interesting interviews with participants.

How did Help for Heroes raise £100m in four years?

It was announced earlier this week that Help for Heroes had passed the £100 million fundraising mark since being formed in 2007.

It's an incredible achievement (whatever your views on the cause) and it's worth examining how a grant making charity has managed to grow so quickly and successfully.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. They captured the zeitgeist of the time and channelled the frustration of unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There were plenty of other charities in the field of armed forces welfare, but they were able to formulate a simple, tangible and compelling story and proposition, which resonated with the general public.
  2. They used this compelling proposition to attract heavyweight media and celebrity backing. In many ways, the early endorsement of the Sun newspaper and the emotive coverage they gave to the charity was the catalyst for people like Simon Cowell jumping on the bandwagon.
  3. This celebrity support led to high profile events, such as the concert at Twickenham and the X-Factor charity single, and had people clamouring to be part of the success story.
  4. This publicity and support unleashed an army of community fundraisers with people doing 'their bit' across the country.  This has led to an estimated 500 community fundraising events a week being held in aid of Help for Heroes.
  5. They kept fuelling the support by clearly showing where the funds raised went.  The page on their website about where the money went is a great example of transparency and donor feedback*.  They also vowed that every pound raised would go directly to projects, which always appeals to people, even if it isn't 100% accurate and can cause problems for the charity sector as a whole i.e. the idea that costs are necessarily bad.

These five reasons all add up to an amazing achievement and congratulations must go to the founders, Bryn and Emma Parry and their team.

While the rest of the fundraising sector looks jealously on, we can all learn lessons from their success and try and bring some of them (especially number five!) to our own charities.

* though when I discussed Help for Heroes last night on Twitter, some questions were raised on project delivery and the fact that they only help injured personnel from the last 10 years.

Pop-Up Fundraising Events: A Gingerbread Example

Whilst on my mini-honeymoon last week I spotted a poster for this giant edible gingerbread house that had been made to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital.


As I've an incredibly sweet tooth (and in the name of fundraising research!) I thought I'd pop along and take a look as I thought it sounded a great idea.

The queue when I arrived was massive, though Grace and I were the only people without kids, and we waited diligently to descend to the underground cave housing the house.

When we got down there the gingerbread-house made an impressive sight (see video at the bottom), but it soon became apparent that the event hadn't been organised by GOSH.  They were merely the beneficiaries.  This meant from a fundraising perspective it was a real missed opportunity.

However, I loved the idea and with a bit of tweaking I'm sure it could've have been a fantastic fundraiser.

It's a great example of creating what Hugh at Gaping Void calls a 'social object' - something that creates conversation, interest and buzz around it.

I believe that if charities can create social objects then they create a fantastic opportunity to engage, interact and excite current and potential donors.

Using the gingerbread example, I would have loved it if while the parents were waiting for the kids to get their fix of e-numbers there was a display, video or person going around talking about GOSH, engaging with them and ultimately asking them to donate, as it would have been a natural thing to talk about.

Pop-up restaurants, art galleries and even cinemas are all the rage at the minute in London, so will the pop-up fundraising event be the next big trend?

If you can create something as interesting and stimulating as the gingerbread-house then you may be on to something...