The last word

This is the very last 101fundraising blog post of 2012 and incidentally also our 200th. It therefore seems doubly appropriate to round out the year with a retrospective look at the year (almost) gone by. Read more…

Can Thank You Notes be BAD?

Just writing them is enough, right?

A few Sundays ago, I read an article in the Jobs section of my local newspaper, “The Journal News,”
“Don’t forget the ‘thank you.’”  The author, Susan Ricker of careerbuilder.com, was discussing the attributes of a good thank you note after a job interview and it got me thinking about our thank you notes, the ones we all write to donors, event attendees, volunteers, and colleagues inside and outside of our organizations.

Are we getting the job done? (more…)

Give the donor what he needs …

… not what you want to sell him.

Sounds so easy, you wouldn´t think twice about it. Yet the opposite happens all of the time. Just count the number of  times you´re watching the tele at home, nice and cosy with the kids. And these adverts come on, telling your offspring they should collect these Bagukan action figures of those brand new BeyBlades. And there you find yourself again in the Toys`r´us wondering how the hell you got yourself talked into this, shopping for stuff you don´t want, your kids don´t need, but some marketeer who knows all about ´share of wallet` needs to sell.

And it´s about that feeling “how the hell?” that I want to talk to you, in relation to fundraising of course. Recently I spoke to a guy I know quite well, who has done a lot in fundraising, especially telemarketing. He gave me his opinion on this and I must admit he hit a nerve. (more…)

Is there room for experience fundraising?

Fundraisers should improve their storytelling skills so they can take donors effectively to where the action is.

‘Experience’ marketing is the fashionable new thing for today’s marketer. Apparently you don’t just sell your product, you live it. The aim is to immerse your prospect in a lifestyle that simultaneously stimulates all their senses.

An example of experience marketing is currently practiced by the manufacturers of those cunning designer ‘alco-pop’ drinks – Breezer, Schnapps and the like. Experience marketing for these products involves recruiting attractive, young, out-of-work male models – this is true – who are briefed to sit hour after hour in the most fashionable watering-holes with their Nokia mobile phone and Palm Pilot prominently in view, with the Gucci shoes, the Armani threads, the Rado wrist wear and the Trevor Sorbie hairdo – everything that successful youth might aspire to – and, of course, all the while knocking back bottle after bottle of Zippo, or Heave-up or whatever is being promoted to you, the unsuspecting punter. Just think, that stunningly attractive bloke at the bar who you thought had been stood up and were just about to move in on, may in fact just be coming to the end of his shift.

Silly, isn’t it?

Then I thought about it. Maybe ‘experience marketing’ does have some application for fundraisers… (more…)

Lack of trust: the key barrier to donating

Our own research shows that “I do not trust UNICEF to use my donations well” is one of the top 3 claimed reasons for not donating, together with ‘not knowing enough about what UNICEF does’, and other generic reasons such as ‘not being able to afford it’, ‘already giving to other organizations’, and ‘preferring to give people directly’. This probably sounds familiar and shows us how important Trust is when making a donation.

Why is Trust so important?

From a historical perspective, Trust has become more and more important. Mostly because it is increasingly difficult to trust the rapidly growing circle of people and institutions we don’t personally know. In primitive societies and even until the 19th century and in many places well into the 20th century, we interacted mostly face to face with people in our family and small communities.

With the development of large cities and explosion in communication and transportation technologies, our circle of close family and friends became smaller, while our (virtual) circle of personal and professional acquaintances expanded dramatically. (more…)

7 ‘Big bummers’ for charitable trusts and foundations

(Or, 7 ways to improve your foundation fundraising skills)

“Why is it, that so many nonprofit organizations send in applications to foundations, without even taking the time to find out where these foundations stand for?” I was having a conversation with Jos Verhoeven, managing director of the Dutch Start Foundation. He continued: “I just don’t get it. About 25% of the applications we receive as a foundation, have nothing to do with the mission we stand for. I mean, if you need a mortgage, you don’t go to supermarket to get one, do you? So why send in applications to foundations that don’t match with your mission?”


I Wish I’d Thought Of That

On Thursday afternoon, SOFII (brainchild of fundraising great, Ken Burnett) presented their first ever ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ event. 22 speakers from agencies and charities, large charities and small from across all cause types, spoke about ideas from other fundraisers that they wish they’d had first.

It was a great event (there was a running joke of those who wish they’d thought of I Wish I’d Thought of That), not least because it was fundraisers sharing what they learned from each other, which is at the heart of SOFII.

The 22 big ideas ranged from the very, very old (Aline Reed of Bluefrog spoke about Great Ormond Street Hospital’s wartime appeal from 1940) to the very new (such as MSF’s innovative pills campaign in Spain, brought to life by Reuben Steains); from direct marketing to events to campaigning to social media; from big international names like UNICEF, Amnesty International and Greenpeace to UK charities like I CAN and Botton Village.

But across this diverse range of campaigns, two words seem to creep up time and time again. And it’s these two words I wanted to share with 101Fundraising: authenticity and conviction. (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…)

€ Gift – % FW ≠ € Beneficiant

Stel, het is midden jaren 80, je zit op een verjaardag en je laat terloops vallen dat je werkt voor een goed doel of in de internationale ontwikkelingshulp. De rest van het feestje zou waarschijnlijk tegen je op kijken, je bewonderen; jij zet je in voor een betere wereld!

Fast forward naar 2012: zelfde verjaardag, zelfde kringetje, zelfde baan … hele andere reactie. ”Ik geef nooit (meer) aan goede doelen, die zijn toch allemaal corrupt.”, “Kunnen die lui zichzelf niet redden daar in Afrika?”, “Het is toch een bodemloze put”, “Die directeuren verdienen toch allemaal te veel”, “We hebben het zelf veel te hard nodig in Nederland” … En tot slot, “Hoeveel geld komt er nou echt terecht bij die mensen daar? “

En naar mijn mening ligt er een groot gevaar in die laatste vraag.

In Nederland hebben we natuurlijk het CBF, met een lange traditie van controle van fondsenwerving en goede doelen. Een belangrijk criterium daarbij is “dat de kosten voor fondsenwerving van het goede doel, uitgedrukt als een percentage van de inkomsten uit eigen fondsenwerving in enig jaar, niet meer mogen bedragen dan 25% van de inkomsten uit eigen fondsenwerving.” Een prima criterium, waar inmiddels heel Nederland aan gewend is en waar de goede doelen altijd rekening mee houden. Maar waarbij ook een gevaar om de hoek is komen kijken. (more…)

3 Tips for “Radical” Fundraising Communications

I was recently re-reading Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, and couldn’t help but extract a few nuggets of advice that any fundraiser could benefit from with a quick refresher:

TIP #1: A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.

“If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.

Pause for a moment and take stock of every fundraising tactic that your organization employs. Now consider if your staff are “having a ball” doing it. Are they? If not, either you’re using the wrong tactic, or you’ve got the wrong people. (more…)

Un-define fundraising

I love fundraising, but recently I’ve tried to create some distance between ‘fundraising’ as a descriptor of what it is I do. It’s not because of how I feel about the term, but because of how the general public feels about it. Here in Canada, the most recent stats show that 23% of Canadians donate to charity. So when I refer to the general public, I’m talking about the other 77%.

The general public doesn’t like fundraisers, it tolerates them. However, there are exceptions. When Bill Gates asks Warren Buffett to give half his fortune to the Gates Foundation, is he a hero? You bet. When you send an acquisition mail pack, or an e-appeal, are you a hero? Nope. You are a nuisance.

So, it seems the general public only has a problem with professional fundraisers. From where I stand, it sounds like “fundraisers are great, as long as they aren’t asking me for money.” (more…)

Protect one of your greatest fundraising assets

It’s not a killer creative proposition. Or your favourite go-to copywriter. I’m talking about your database.

paper database

The predecessor to the modern CRM (© adesigna)

Databases are often seen as a necessary means to an end, but time and time again I have seen this major asset overlooked even by experienced fundraising teams. Here are just four tips I’ve used in the past to protect this asset and make it work even harder for fundraising.

Tip #1: Standardise your database rules
Having a single CRM software system in place is not the same as breaking down silos. If three different teams use the same database – but use it very differently from each other – then it’s not really one database. You may interpret one field to mean one thing, but for another fundraiser it can mean something entirely different. That could mean they get irrelevant letters from the charity, or that two very distinct donor groups end up getting treated the same way through a misunderstanding.

Create a glossary to define each term or flag on your database so if someone wants to know what something means, there is an organisation-wide definition. That means there is a single, consistent interpretation of the non-transactional data.

Tip #2: Beware static segmentation and ring-fencing (more…)

Get Away From Your Desk And Remind Yourself WHY

In my role at a fundraising agency, I don’t have much chance to speak to anyone aside from my co-workers and the fundraising departments of our charity clients. I get to read nice case studies and hear my accounts department talk about the clients’ work, but I rarely get to see this work for myself. And it’s just not the same.

That’s why last week, I was excited to get out of the office for a few hours and head south of the Thames to do a couple of interviews. I got to speak to two women who work for one of the UK’s leading medical charities, helping people to pick up the pieces and move on after being suddenly struck with a serious medical condition. By acting as a support system to their patients, aiding them with almost every aspect of their lives – sometimes for years as they recover, they are heroes to those they help.

I can’t get into the specifics of their work due to confidentiality, but I can tell you that while speaking to these women and seeing their eyes well up with tears as they told the stories of the people they work with, I felt injected with a shot of inspiration. (more…)

Read this only if you want to change the world!

When Reinier called for someone to write a last-minute blog yesterday, I had coincidentally just purchased a book on social marketing. I have been interested in the subject for some time, but the discussion on the recent 101fundraising blog about donor centered fundraising and public perception really made me think more about how social change organisations leverage donors.

Think about it – our donors are so much more than financial benefactors. They are consumers. And they are, above all else, consumers who feel strongly enough about the work we are doing to actually fund it. In fact, their financial behaviour proves again and again that they share our vision so strongly to actually invest in it. So how many organisations are actually utilizing donors to affect social change?

As fundraisers we have a tendency to keep using the same topics that score the best in terms of response and income. And besides occasional tests, we shy away from talking about the more difficult, longer-term or more complex areas of our work – either because we think we will fail to properly tell the story and convey the urgency; or because assume that in a saturated charity market, donors will perceive another “simpler” issue as having greater priority. (more…)

Annual Reports – Print or Online

Something that is often asked is how to share annual reports with supporters, should these be printed, online or both?

Annual reports and how they’re distributed should be included in your annual communication plan and not left until the report is due to be released, which sadly can be the case in many organizations.

Supporters, current and potential, want to know about your organization, they want to know what you have been doing, where the resources have been allocated and they don’t want to have to wade through reams of paper to get the answers.

With internet being widely used it makes sense for organizations to make use of it to share not only what they do, but also share their annual reports and much more. (more…)

You are your organisation

It is important to always be aware that no matter the means of communication you are the voice of your organisation.

How often have you dealt with a business and been surprised with how lacklustre they were – their manner offhand, the way they answered phone or in any other dealing you may have had with them?

The truth be known community organisations -nonprofits, are no different, but where the big difference is that you are appealing to your community for support and therefore your communication has to be impeccable.


I Am The Comms Devil

This week, I’m in the midst of my very first International Fundraising Conference in Holland. 2011 has been a whirlwind of a year and being here feels like a dream, rubbing shoulders with the best of the best.

I’m volunteering as a session leader, which means I was also able to attend the Masterclass sessions on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. Luckily, I was assigned to my first choice session: The Joy Of Storytelling with Sean Triner. As a brand new copywriter, I felt I could use all the writing advice I could get. (more…)

Through the letterbox

As Reinier discussed in his recent 101fundraising post, the 90-degree shift isn’t exactly breaking news… but is it really happening in fundraising? Or are we perhaps seeing it as just another box to tick, another marketing incantation to bandy about the meeting room (think ‘synergy’ or ‘paradigm shift’ – you know, the kinds of things Lindsey Naegle of The Simpsons might say).

But I have to admit, sometimes the theory is easier to grasp than the practical implementation. Here are some rules of thumb I try to bear in mind to make sure I keep the donor front of mind in everything we do.


Hosting my first webinar: lessons learned

Thank you so much for the wonderful chance to really feel a part of what is happening in Haiti! These workers are real, sincere, ordinary people with the right training who work on behalf of our pittance donated to help the people in distress. Thank you so much for having enabled us to listen as the team told of their work in such an ongoing needy situation of our confreres in Haiti. Sincerely, a Donor, Oakville, Ontario

I hosted a donor accountability webinar last year. Like the curate’s egg, some parts of it were excellent, others, not so much.

Here it is:

(Click here if the embedded video is not working.)


The 90-degree shift 800 years ago

It’s been some years ago since I’ve read Ken Burnett’s 89 great ideas in The Zen of Fundraising. Many, if not all of them, keep coming back to me from time to time. Lately it’s this one: make the 90-degree shift. Ken explains: “The 90-degree shift is nothing more complex than seeing things from your donor’s point of view rather than from your own or your organization’s point of view.”

He illustrates this with three good old marketing sayings:
– When a customer buys a quarter-inch drill, what he really wants is a quarter-inch hole.
– It doesn’t matter what you want to sell. The only thing that matters is what they want to buy.
– People don’t read advertisements. They read what interests them. Sometimes that includes an advertisement.

According to Ken, “almost nothing will make your fundraising more successful than learning to implement this simple attitude of mind.” (more…)

A simple, unconditional, heart-felt, genuine “thank you”

I am a numbers nerd; the queen of testing.  I have passionate love affairs with databases.  And even though, over the years, I’ve done every other fundraising job from copy- and proposal-writing to events to a major gift negotiation —  and even knocking on doors asking for petition signatures and “a check as well so that we have the resources to ensure that this legislation passes” (I was 18. Maybe my start in fundraising?) – I always come back to the numbers. Beautiful numbers.

So when I came to work at an animal sanctuary in the Netherlands, I was more than a little nervous to learn that I would be working as a “donor contact” at a nine day donor visitation event. (“You mean I have to talk to people? For nine straight day? In Dutch?”) (more…)

Roodkapje en de Grote Boze Wolf

Wij fondsenwervers pochen graag over onze grootste DM-successen. We hebben ze allemaal wel eens gehad, het kleine succesje van dat ge-ni-ale pack dat we hadden bedacht. Knalde die respons toch mooi even met 2 procent omhoog! ‘Jaja, dat was slim van ons….’ En dat unieke Afrikaanse gelukspoppetje zorgde ervoor dat heel wat prospects die buitengewone, gekleurde envelop met dito gekke vorm toch maar mooi openden…

We voelen ons als Roodkapje. Opgewekt huppelen we naar grootmoeder die vol verwachting op ons ligt te wachten. Onze organisatie heeft een prachtige boodschap die we graag willen neerleggen bij onze donateurs… (more…)

Donating with a Tweet

Often we see something like “Please donate a tweet a day to help …. “ followed by a link to a site where people have to sign-in with their twitter details, or give it permission to access their twitter account.

Often though organisations don’t explain how the ‘donated’ tweet helps, they say what it helps, but often not how it helps.

If a charitable organisation is looking at using something like “donate-a-tweet”, it would make sense, and help with the cause if they were to tell people how “donate-a-tweet” works. If an organisation were to do this it would give their friends, followers an insight into how much it can help. (more…)