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December 2011

Final Fundraising Reading Round-Up of 2011

What better way to finish off the working year than with a final round-up of fundraising related links from the last couple of weeks... :)

Whatever you are doing this Christmas, have a wonderful time.

Thanks for reading and best wishes for a memorable 2012.

Kimberley with some wise words for thanking donors in small charities.

The Wild Woman interviews Jules Brown from the excellent Dear Joan blog.

Jeff on how your silos are killing your fundraising.  The Agitator also makes a plea to avoid them in this well argued post.

Margaux from Bluefrog reports from the London IoF Conference - sorry for not making you cry!

Kev on trying new ideas (complete with examples).

Katya with five strategic mistakes to avoid in 2012.

I loved this thank you Paul received from Send a Cow.

Sarah Clifton takes a fresh look at the donor pyramid and proposes a donor lifecycle map.

Barbara with 10 predictions for fundraising in 2012.

Freakonomics report on experiments in charitable giving.

Pell and Bales share 10 life lessons from one of their telephone callers.

Jeff opens a can of worms about innovationLucy and the Agitator respond.

Sex, lies and the art of commanding attention - some great advice from Copyblogger on headline writing.

Eaon looks at the myth of influencers.

Does a personalised approach make a difference? Results from two tests

I wanted to share the results of two small experiments I've conducted in the last couple of months regarding personalised thank yous and appeals. 

I hope you'll find them of interest, though I need to say upfront that the sample sizes were (very) small and so the results aren't statistically significant.

Does a handwritten thank you card increase response to the next appeal?

For the first experiment we randomly split the responders to a previous appeal in two.  One half received our normal personalised thank you letter, the other half also received a hand written thank you card, which referenced their previous giving.

As well as being a nice thing to do for donors, I was also interested to see if those who received the extra thank you would also be more likely to give to the next appeal.

The results were as follows:

Normal Thank You: 28.1% gave to the next appeal.

Extra Thank You: 29.2% gave to the next appeal.

Interestingly, the normal thank yous gave more collectively than the previous appeal, whereas the extra thank yous gave slightly less!

So it appears not to have made any difference in the short term.  If I had the resources then I would love to monitor the long term effect on doing this to the lifetime value of a donor.

Does a personalised Christmas appeal increase response?

In the next test, we decided to send a personalised version of our Christmas appeal to our top 400 donors (they'd all given over £50 gifts in the past). 

We included a handwritten Christmas card featuring a poem from a beneficiary - you can read this lovely poem online.

Last year the response rate across all segments of the appeal was about the same.

So far the response rate is over 25% higher for the high value donors than all other donors.

With responses still coming in (I'd expect we have around 66-75% of responses now) then the top segment has responded at 13.2% compared with 11.7% last year, so by the end of the appeal I'd expect to see a 30-40% increase in response to sending the handwritten Christmas card to the top donors.

A pleasing result and one that we can look to utilise for future appeals as well...




Should we name and shame millionaires who don't give?

UK Fundraising have a great summary of the 2011 Coutts million pound donor report (you can download the full report here) and it shows that the number of million pound gifts in the UK fell from 201 to 174 last year.

At the same time, one of the Freakonomics podcasts reports on Australian Dick Smith who has publicly vowed to name and shame rich people who don't give.

Would such an approach work in the UK and has Dick's direct approach had an effect?

Sadly, I think the answer is no to both questions.

While I admire Dick's enthusiasm and directness, I think issuing threats and trying to embarrass people to give is not a viable long term solution to get people to give more.

In Australia his approach has attracted critics and he has been accused of being a bully.

If I was advising Dick, then I'd tell him that he might have more success by trying to show people the benefits of donating and the satisfaction that philanthropy can bring. 

I'd get him to encourage people to go on shows like Secret Millionaire and for him to  offer a matching challenge to millionaires who've never given before.

Finally, a public pledge (like the one from Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) that he will give most of his wealth away, might inspire others to join him.

In the UK I'd like to see more people celebrating their giving and publicising their philanthropy, but sadly our natural reserve means that even great initiatives like the Beacon Fellowship don't seem to attract the publicity and attention they deserve.

Rather than endless white papers and talks of tweaking the tax system to incentivise giving, I would rather see people celebrate the emotional joy of giving and encouraging others to join them.

Fundraising Reading Round Up

Time for another round-up.  The year has flown by and this is likely to be the penultimate one of the year. Enjoy!

The Grant Garden on asking nicely.

Alison with a fundraising analogy about brazil nuts.

Mark with some more analysis and results from his mystery shopping exercise.

Jeff and Nancy both critique a stupid non-profit ad.

Karen with some thoughts on direct marketing trends in 2012.

Pamela Grow hosts this November's non-profit blog carnival on giving thanks.

Aline with some emergency fundraising appeals (past and present).

Derek on fundraising films.

Tom Ahern with a sure fire recipe for failure.

The Agitator with an in-depth look at donor commitment.

The Wild Woman looks at the anatomy of a successful annual appeal.

Katya gives a thumbs up to donors.

Dan Pallotta on jargon.

Is fundraising income increasingly fragile?

A talk I attended at the RSA by Nassim Nicolas Taleb (the author of the Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness) has got me thinking whether fundraising is about to hit a crisis.

In his talk Taleb talked about nonlinearities, optimisation and fragility and the idea that when businesses, governments, projects etc reach a certain size then the consequences of any problems increase exponentially. 

To illustrate the point he gave the following example. 

With 10,000 cars on the streets of London it might take 30 minutes to drive across the city.  Increase that to 50,000 and even 75,000 and the journey time might hardly change, but at some point, lets say 90,000, the journey might suddenly take an hour as that is the point that saturation is reached and jams ensue.

The following graph illustrates the point:

Non-linearities and fundraising

Looking back at the results of the mystery shopping research I talked about last week and the evidence of increasing donor attrition, acquisition costs and fundraising fatigue*, then the point is approaching where it will become too expensive to continue to rely on badly applied fundraising methods and the impersonal, transactional approaches taken by the majority of our profession. 

Using Taleb's language, the point of over-optimisation (and the resulting chaos) may be closer than we think...

I live in hope that the result of this will be a paradigm shift - from rhetoric about relationship fundraising, loving our donors and listening to their needs etc, into action.

*Here are just a few anecdotal examples of fundraising in crisis:

Direct debit cancellations hit a record high in August 2011.

Some of my own recent research revealed that the cost of recruiting a regular giver door-to-door has doubled in the last 10 years, whilst attrition has increased by over a third.

CRUK  has seen it's fundraising income drop for the first time since it formed and has cut the number of Race for Life events in 2012.

Overall giving in the UK is static and it would be interesting to see if fundraising costs overall have increased.