General Fundraising

Congratulations Child's I

Last month I wrote about the Child's I Foundation and how I thought they were a great example of a charity using social media to successfully communicate, engage with, and involve their supporters.

Well it seems I'm not the only one who has been impressed and Child's I have just announced that their founder, Lucy, has been chosen as one of the Vodafone 'World of Difference' winners for 2009.

'World of Difference' connects individuals with charities and gives people the chance to spend a year working for their chosen cause.

Check out the website as there are some really inspiring stories (including Lucy's) and I think the scheme is a fantastic idea.

Never miss a chance to go the extra mile

Received a lovely letter from a donor today.  I promised I'd send her some information and an update on her previous donation and sent it off (with a personal note) last week thinking no more about it. 

She was so touched (I was just doing my job) that she sent me a 3 page handwritten note thanking me and telling me a lovely anecdote about her father's work at a local factory. Also enclosed, much to my amazement - my letter didn't include an ask - was a sizeable donation.

It just emphasised again how important those personal touches are, how you need to inject some of your own personality into communications (and not always follow the standard approach) and that by doing so you can build connections that will reap long term benefits.

This really came home to me when I rang to thank her.  She didn't want any praise or thanks, she actually wanted to thank me for giving her the chance to remember her father, tell her story and to make a difference.  We had a great chat and both got off the phone feeling good about the world.

To me it emphasised the importance of treating everyone as an individual and to give them a chance to share their story and experience.  The key lesson for me was never miss a chance to go the extra mile for someone, you'll reap the rewards in the long run.

Face to Face Fundraising Takes a Battering

Face to Face (F2F) fundraising seems to have taken a battering in the media over the last week or so. 

First up Ben Goldacre (author of the excellent Bad Science book) started a Twitter campaign using the #stopchuggers hashtag to vent about F2F fundraising.  It quickly gained some traction before dying out. 

By the way, for a quite funny rant against the campaign and Ben see the following post  - beware - bad language a plenty!

Second, Professional Fundraising magazine reported on two London councils attacking F2F fundraising and the PFRA.

Finally, the Observer asked the question 'Should we give to street chuggers?' in which Caroline Howe of the Institute of Fundraising argued for it and Richard Marsh of Intelligent Giving argued against it.  The comments make interesting reading and show the frustration some members of the public feel about F2F.  The best comment came from Mark Phillips of Bluefrog (*update* you can read Mark's full comment and some extra insight at his blog), who gives a reasoned and balanced appraisal of the situation, emphasising the need for charities to retain donors and communicate with them in appropriate ways.

I feel some of the backlash is a bit harsh on F2F, as other areas of fundraising are equally guilty of producing low returns and damaging the sectors reputation - cold direct mail for example.  The difference with F2F is that the audience it targets is much more likely to be vocal about it's dislike of the technique and use social media to criticise it.

The other big problem is that it is has become a victim of it's own success and the market is nearly at saturation point.  The PFRA do a good job of trying to regulate the profession, but the agencies and in-house teams are having to work harder for the same money and attrition rates continue to be a huge problem. 

However, in all the debate and criticism no-one seems to have come up with a viable alternative to recruiting new donors on the scale that F2F does.

Fundraising and the Herd

Mark Earls is promoting the new, updated edition of Herd by speaking at the RSA next week.  The talk is free and is highly recommended for fundraisers.

Mark is an excellent speaker (his sessions are usually quite interactive and fun) and he presents a compelling and relevant case for how people are influenced and how we should attempt to change people's behaviour.

Of particular relevance for fundraisers are his thoughts on word of mouth marketing,  co-creation and the importance of finding (and living) your beliefs.

Events such as 'Race for Life', Macmillan's Coffee Morning and the Big Toddle are great examples of the 'Herd' in action and any fundraiser interested in what makes events such as this popular should read the book.

*Update*  The event is now sold out...

Updated: Best Fundraising Blogs

Just a quick note to say i've updated the list of blogs with a couple of new ones.

I've added the following fundraising related ones:

The Naked Idea

Beautiful World

Blue Avocado

Blue frog creative

Di Flatt

Kimberley Mackenzie

Pamela' s Grant Writing blog

Robert Egger

Social Amber

Tactical Philanthropy

I've also added the following non-fundraising blogs:

Good experience

The Nudge Blog

Social Brain


Web Ink Now

This week's 'Best of Fundraising'

Here's this weeks collection of interesting stories and articles on fundraising and business.

General Fundraising:

How to use sex to improve your fundraising (this was also reported in Third Sector a few weeks ago)

How to stop charity junk mail (I'll be posting my own views on this soon...)

Social Media:

Social relationship models and strategies

This how to tell a story

What comes first?  Your website and e-mail or your Facebook and Twitter accounts?

Online donations: usability study


How Hyundai use behavioural economics (much more interesting than it sounds!)

The importance of experimentation

What's really important?

Measuring the social value of products

How does purpose create an innovation advantage?

Understanding body language and its impact on public speaking

Be irreplacable

What to do with a priceless decanter?

The Freakonomics blog reports on a nice problem that the "Smile Train" charity currently has.

They've been given a crystal decanter (worth $200k) and are looking for ideas on how to maximise the income from it.


People have been asked to submit their ideas and Smile Train will take up the best one.

Here are a couple of my favourites, which range from the inspired to the ridiculous:

"Put in on a stump one mile down range and charge snipers an entry fee to blow it to smithereens. Winner gets $10,000. Televise the contest and get $500,000 from sponsors for the entertainment." 
Eric M. Jones

"Bury the 5 decanters in remote locations that are tied to the Smile Train (i.e. locations where most of the children live). Then let the Smile Train sell airline and hotel packages to adventurers looking to discover these ‘priceless’ decanters on their own. The international interest and PR they would certainly get should be worth well over the $1million ‘value’ of the pieces and they should be able to make some money on the project as a whole."  Greg Cohen

"Have Dan Brown write a book where Baccarat crystal decanters are somehow related to Jesus and a vast Catholic conspiracy.

Alternately, have the lady who writes those vampire teen romance books include the decanter in her next novel, noting that everyone who paid $10 to touch it immediately became unfailingly attractive to vampires.

It’s all about tie-ins and cross promotion these days." C. Larity (guessing not their real name!)

"I think you’re selling the wrong thing. You shouldn’t be selling a decanter. You should be selling 800 beautiful smiles on the faces of happy children. This is something you already promote on the Smile Train home page–can you imagine what putting the decanter on your home page would do to your image? An opulent display of wealth and prosperity (and alcohol) would undermine your organization’s mission.

Thus, I think downplaying the decanter as much as possible is ideal. You could sell raffle tickets worth one beautiful smile each (or $250) for a chance to win the decanter, but again, focus on the smile, not the decanter." Jamey Stegmaier

A lot of people suggest auctions or raffles, but for me they are taking the wrong track.  I personally agree with Jamey.  Whatever they decide to do with it, they need to relate it back to the work that the Smile Train does.

Will be interesting to see what they decide on.

Latest from SOFII

The SOFII website has just been updated and some of the new exhibits are well worth checking out. SOFII is a fantastic resource for all fundraisers and a great way to find inspiration and good ideas for all aspects of fundraising. A couple of highlights this time are:

  • A great piece on one of the all-time legends of advertising, David Oglivy, and how his wisdom applied to fundraising.
  • Some common sense advice from Lisa Sargent on thank you letters

Plus, as ever, loads of other good stuff...enjoy! p.s. registration may be required.

Fundraising is not always the answer

Often the first answer a charity turns to when facing a financial crisis is fundraising. The mentality of 'we'll fundraise our way out of this' is prevalent in many organisations. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting report on five organisations who have looked for new ways to solve their budget problems, without having to jeapordise services. None of the ideas are revolutionary, but all apply common sense and are well executed and show how non-profits need to adapt in the current economic climate. The simple ideas of getting beneficaries to thank donors to thank them and for a ballet company to start offering classes to the public aren't rocket science. However, by being well delivered, they are connecting their audiences with their causes which will provide real, tangible long term benefits - both financial and otherwise.

Unusual Gifts

Professional Fundraising report on Jeremy Paxman and Jane Asher agreeing to donate their brains for medical research. The campaign is being run by the Parkinson's Society to generate more research into the horrible, degenerative disease and I thought it was a clever and interesting way to promote thier work. It also reminds me of some of the more unusual 'gifts' i've seen or heard about being given to charity shops or in people's will's. Some of my favourites include:

  • Contents of half a handbag (shared with another charity - let's hope it was Prada!)
  • A false leg
  • A bag of 'adult' toys (apparently the elderly volunteer receving them thought it was some sort of kitchen utensil!)
  • False teeth