Can anyone write a good direct mail pack?

proud-web-headerUnless you have been living in a hole for the last month you will have heard something about the latest campaign ‘proud to be a fundraiser’ from the Institute of Fundraising in the UK.

The essence of the proud to be a fundraiser campaign is not some naval gazing back slapping morale boosting exercise for the fundraising community. It’s about how organisations that are significantly growing their fundraising income are the ones where everyone in the organisation is both proud of what they do and the fundraising activities that enable them to do it. Because without fundraised income charities can’t achieve their mission. (more…)

Feel the fear and tell it like it is

Marathon-AK-006On one Sunday in April, the streets of London overflow with determination and kindness. This year 36,000 people took part in the London Marathon and many more came to cheer and will the athletes on. If it were possible to bottle goodwill this would be the place to start.

Last Sunday, for the first time in years I wasn’t on the frontline near Embankment yelling encouragement at the athletes, instead I watched the London Marathon on television at home, with some friends. As you can imagine it was a different experience. I’m not sure if it was more emotional to be part of the noise on the sidelines, with the exhausted runners on the last leg of the race, or taking in the huge scale of the event from the wider television coverage. (more…)

Quit with the gratitude

economic-crisis-1I’m tired of hearing about the ‘economic crisis’ as a reason for not achieving fundraising targets. It’s what it is. It’s the new normal.

The charities that are achieving and exceeding targets today are the ones that accept this new normal and are responding to the needs of their supporters.

This is especially true in corporate partnerships. Companies no longer have budgets for making donations to charities in the same way that they did 5 or ten years ago. Their world has changed. They have to work smarter and leaner. (more…)

Fork Handles

Last week Steve Bridger and I spoke at the Institute of Fundraising Convention in London about fundraising, engagement and technology. We included a bit of Two Ronnies nostalgia from the seventies for those in the audience that were born before the Internet was invented.


Fork handles and the Two Ronnies isn’t as random as it may seem in a fundraising and technology session. Let me explain.


I wish I’d thought of that

Last week I was proud to be one of the 22 speakers at the inaugural ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ event in London, brilliantly organised by the team and volunteers at sofii.

An excited audience heard about 22 campaigns picked by the speakers as something they wished they had thought of. It was a brilliant and buzzy afternoon with a great fast-paced format that included growing mo’s for Movember, which involved the audience wearing stick on moustaches, to Barbie’s destruction of the rainforest to the audience love-in for charity: water. In fact it was commented that the event felt like TED for fundraising. Pretty cool. Although I have never seen the audience in a TED talk wear stick on moustaches; I think TED are missing a trick.

Some fundraising excellence themes emerged; trust, honesty, truth, storytelling, simplicity, integrity, conviction, empathy and passion.

But for me, many of these celebrated ideas involve two more vital elements; bravery and risk. Trying something new is brave and risky because let’s face it – if it is new we don’t know for sure that it will work. (more…)

Storytelling: the most powerful way to get your fundraising message across

Recently it feels as if there has been a lot of noise about the importance of storytelling in the charity sector. This is old news. But it is good news.

Anthropologists contend that 70 per cent of everything we learn is through stories. Perfecting the art, and it is an art, of seeking out real stories and telling them in a way that inspires both you and your donors is the essence of being a fundraiser.

There are some principles that will help your storytelling on sofii. However, in order to find your stories you first have to leave your desk. Margaux wrote recently about getting out more for inspiration. I agree. The art of storytelling is as much about seeking out inspirational stories as it is telling them. (more…)

Adventures in innovation – be a donor detective

Innovation is often misunderstood. For many, the word innovation conjures up thoughts of pointlessly whacky idea sessions, fluffy ideas that never amount to more than a collection of hopeful post-it notes left over at the end of a team day and green beanbags.

For innovation to be successful it must be rooted in organisational strategy and be driven by the core mission of an organisation. This ensures that idea generation and delivery are focused on solving relevant challenges.

Innovation in your fundraising involves looking for opportunities; where is there a need that isn’t being fulfilled? The key is how you uncover those opportunities and then develop solutions to turn the opportunities into successful fundraising.

In the same way that corporate organisations work hard to understand their customers needs and provide goods and services for their customers, fundraising organisations need to work hard to understand their donors and develop compelling and easy ways for them to give support. (more…)

Making connections and joining the dots

In a previous 101 crowdblog Adventures in Innovation – The Prequel, we discussed how innovation is not about a lone genius sat in a room inventing stuff. Good ideas are often slow hunches that have been in people’s heads for ages fuelled by making a series of connections, and often helped along by curiosity, perseverance and passion.

Remember how Tim Berners Lee was quietly putting connections together for 20 years before he invented the World Wide Web? He had a slow hunch, he was passionate about data, curious how he could make sense of it and kept persevering putting connections together until he found a solution.

In his 2005 commencement speech Steve Jobs talks about joining dots, or making connections. He tells a story of when he dropped out of college, how it gave him the opportunity to drop into classes he was interested in; the courses he was passionate about. He joined a calligraphy class. He described it as, ‘beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture’ – and he found it fascinating. At that point in his life calligraphy had absolutely no practical application for Steve, it was only 10 years later when designing the first Macintosh, the dots got joined up. Personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do today if he hadn’t been captivated by that calligraphy class. Steve had a natural curiosity, was passionate about perfection and determined to develop the best computer in the world. (more…)

Adventures in innovation: Another great idea session!

We established in my previous post that to run a very good idea session you need to put in some time and thought to planning. We covered the importance of the physical environment, how a focus will help you get better results and the need to inspire as well as get the right mix of people in the room. This blog gives some tips on how to structure the session to get the most from your participants. Some things to consider;

Have fun – Most people come to meetings their mind filled with the pressures of daily work, the stress of overflowing emails and numerous deadlines. You will get better results if you help people relax. Start with an ice breaker or an exercise to change the energy in the room. You don’t have to make people do crazy stuff, but something to set the tone, even simply playing music will help. The internet is packed with ideas to try out, Google ‘energizers and ice breakers’ for ideas. Humor and a sense of play are important catalysts for innovative thinking. Creating a playful atmosphere will help your creativity. It’s a legitimate part of the idea generating process – so embrace it. (more…)

Adventures in innovation: Your great idea session!

In my last post I wrote about the challenge of making time to innovate and the importance of focusing your innovation efforts on the parts of your fundraising strategy where you have the potential to make the most difference.

One way to focus time, either for new idea generation or to develop existing ideas is to run an idea workshop or ‘brainstorm’. In my experience a lot of time can be wasted in ineffective idea workshops. Often these sessions are unstructured with underwhelming results. However, with a bit of planning you can transform something mediocre into a very good idea session. The reason why lots of ideas sessions are mediocre is because no planning goes into them. It’s crucial to plan your session to get the results you want. This blog is designed as a guide to help you with that transformation. (more…)

Adventures in innovation – The challenge of time

So you have been working on your attitude to innovation. You have decided that ‘just ticking along’ is not an option and you are thinking about how you can make the most difference to the cause you fundraise for. You have also set yourself some Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Now what?

Your next innovators’ priority is to consider where to focus your efforts. This should be driven by your fundraising strategy. It is vital that you make time to ensure you are focusing your efforts on the right activities; the activities that will make the most difference in achieving your fundraising and engagement targets.

We all have the same amount of time in a day: 24 hours or 1,440 minutes. You have exactly the same amount of time that was given to Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa and Albert Einstein. It’s how you maximise the difference you make that’s the real challenge.