3 storytelling lessons

Story telling!Here is an analogy to fundraising from the Sanskrit scriptures that I have derived many lessons from. It is about Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya, who were tasked by their parents to go around the world three times. While Kartikeya set out on the task immediately, circumambulating the globe as instructed, Ganesha chose to walked around his parents, Shiva and Parvati, with great devotion three times.

When asked by his brother to explain his action, Ganesha replied, “you chose to go around ‘the world’, I did so around ‘my world’. Ganesha was pronounced the victor of this task by his parents. (more…)

The Big Chill: can we cure donor’s emotional breakdown?

We had all hoped it would go better with time and we tried to ignore it. But the disease is still here, how is it possible?  Is it me or is everyone experiencing the same? Everybody is tweeting and blogging about this virus eating away our income and infecting our database (among many see  Roger Craver and  Tom Belford and also the rants from Lucy Gower and Reinier Spruit). Notwithstanding the ‘prescriptions’ on donor’s loyalty and relationship by Adrian Sargeant and Ken Burnett we still sadly look mainly at the numbers: call it retention or attrition, loyalty or stewardship, donors are leaving us. (more…)

Isn’t it just a little too easy to opt out of charitable giving?

Surely we all want to be charitable, to make a difference with the small amount of money we can spare each month? It’s not even that it’s a selfless gift… signing-up to donate to charity on a regular basis makes us feel good and, provided it’s a cause we’re aligned to, provides a whole new area for research, reflection and discussion (who knows, we may even encourage our friends and family to commit to the cause too). (more…)

Retention Song

If you are really going for retention in 2013 you have to record the Retention Song with your Fundraising team. I’ve especially adapted Bob Marley’s lyrics for everyone to embrace the area of retention. So, Read 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…)

What’s All This Noise about Not Giving “Thank You” Gifts?

Recently, a small raft of articles have appeared about a new study, published in the Journal of Economic Psychology, apparently showing that offering a gift as a “thank you”  (what we in the industry would call a “premium” offer) can reduce the amount of money people will donate to your charity.

I found this to be old news.  But the press (and some marketing gurus) didn’t.   The top GOOGLE search on this was entitled “Charities: Don’t Thank Donors With a Gift! – Forbes”.Well, that’s the private sector for you:  making studies to “discover” what fundraisers already know. (more…)

A checklist for your acquisition program

Last week Reinier wrote about a really important topic – planning for the future of your acquisition program. I’d like to expand on his post by sharing an additional tool, and offering a simple checklist to use in your donor recruitment planning.

In the last blog you read about the Hype cycle (and if you haven’t, please read it here.) A second tool to consider in your planning is one that you have probably seen before: the BCG matrix. This tool divides your offerings into four groups, depending on their market growth and market share. But here’s a retooled version for an acquisition program. (more…)

It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark

Recently I had some fundraisers over to catch up on fundraising developments. They wanted to pick my brain on what I think is “good fundraising” and “where things are going”. These conversations are always interesting, because it helps me shape my own thinking on what is really important to work on.

A diversity of topics surfaced the table in approximately 90 minutes: acquisition channels, retention programs, engagement opportunities, stricter privacy laws, reporting environments, team structure, key information sources, etc.

Because acquisition always seems to get more difficult, it is a topic that is always addressed. This is wonderful, because we absolutely need to talk about it. But it’s not enough to talk about it as part of a 90 minute informal exchange of ideas. If we’re serious about creating new recruitment channels, before the old ones are completely gone, we need to hurry up.

Why is that we’re still not serious about the replacement of recruitment channels that are fading away? (more…)

Donate! It’s proven to make you happy!

Some weeks ago I was at a party, with lots of new people to meet. It was a very nice party: we watched football on a big screen, had a barbecue, and kids were playing in the garden. I started talking to a lady I’ve never met before, and of course she asked me what kind of work I do. Normally I adjust my reply to the person in front of me, because the plain answer ‘fundraiser’ can get you in strange places. So I replied: ‘I’m a fundraiser. I generate money for extra projects, and focus on major gifts and legacies”. I was quite happy with my answer and wanted to take another bite from my meal, when my new friend concluded: “Aha, you beg for money by selling lies to people”. My heart missed a beat and my meal suddenly tasted not that good anymore. This conclusion was exactly the opposite of by idea of fundraising. Well, not quite the opposite because begging for money was somehow true. But I was not selling lies, I was selling happiness to donors. Because: donating makes people happy. And I could proof this, too. Scientifically! (more…)

Face: The Future

The Outlook for Face-to-Face Fundraising
It seems a lot of fundraisers’ time is spent thinking about the future: Will we manage to invest our full budget? Will we reach our targets? What to do if the income is not as planned? Will I have a decent budget next year? Five year plans…

Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball that spelled out at least some of what lay ahead and allowed us to focus just a little more on the present moment? Well, for better or worse, that particular technology hasn’t yet materialized but that doesn’t stop us fundraisers from engaging in a little bit of future gazing. Being prepared for different eventualities is important – it allows us to be able to respond quickly and appropriately and to minimize the damage from inevitable bumps along the way – of course it’s an art, not a science, and with this disclaimer in mind I’d like to offer a few forecasts on how I see the face-to-face method of donor recruitment evolving over the next couple of years.

 1. Shrinking public space in traditional markets

Many councils and cities ban street fundraising

Open any news source in (for example) the UK or Austria (or many of the most established face-to-face markets) and it won’t be long before you read about a city or council that is implementing (or considering) a complete ban or enforced reduction of face-to-face activities in the public domain. Search Twitter for the words ‘fundraiser’ or ‘chugger’ (a term I consider to be both offensive and ignorant by the way) and you’ll see that the face-to-face topic evokes plenty of debate from the public – and a majority of those moved to tweet tend to have a negative view of the practice and are quite vocal in calling for restrictions. I forecast that authorities in these markets will continue to impose limitations and the amount of public space open to street and door-to-door fundraisers will continue to shrink. (more…)

7 tips for welcoming new donors

If your organisation has no difficulty finding and keeping new donors, you are either a very lucky or extremely talented fundraiser, and either way one of few. For the rest of us, it seems a constant challenge to find new and better ways to attract high-quality recruits.

So here’s a few tips to help you keep them, once you do find them:

1.    Tell donors both who you are and what you do

welcome!My partner and I (he is also a fundraiser) both love our jobs. But someone recently asked us both why we chose our respective organisations, and we realized that we had very different answers. He immediately began talking about the projects and the people being helped. But not about the Christian motivations, the long and prestigious Catholic history or the unique and important role of both ordinants and lay-people in the work. (Which are all true, but just wasn’t part of his spontaneous answer.) For him, the passion is for what they do.

I immediately began over the values and the vision of my organisation – what we believe in and stand for. And I realized that this is fundamentally more important to me than whatever work we are doing at any given moment. For me it’s first and foremost about who we are. (more…)

A fundraising checklist: what Italian fundraisers look like?

For sure, you would be able to answer this if you had participated at the 5th Italian “Festival del Fundraising” during the second week of May 2012. Three days, around 600 fundraisers, more than 20 sponsors and a lot of sun. The annual meeting is held at Castrocaro, a little town located next to Bologna, strategically between Roma and Milano.

Many, many, many sessions and activities and no time to rest if you came like many of us to learn by sharing. So even though you are in an historical 4-star hotel and have free access to thermal facilities, there is little chance for you to come back home without a huge need to rest. I am sure that every attendee will also have taken back a huge checklist full of technics to explore or to test: online, offline, integration of channels, new services and many ideas from abroad considering the number of foreign speakers that joined the event.

So let me try to review what are the trends that emerged without being too descriptive…let’s hope the other 599 people will write comments and identify their best moments. So here we go: (more…)

6 Things you get with friendraising

“Friendraising is raising money from your friends and family.” This is just one of the replies I got, when I recently asked app. 200 Dutch fundraising colleagues to send me their definition of ‘friendraising’. Well, if this is what friendraising is about, I guess the birthdays of fund- and friendraisers soon will be awfully quiet.

Fortunately, a lot of colleagues used better definitions. Myself, I like to use this one: friendraising is building sustainable relationships with persons, foundations and corporations, in order to get to know them better, and to (co)create a wide variety of ways to support your organization. Of course, a result of friendraising can be that you receive money. But if it’s up to me, it can be so much more. Let me sum up just 6 things for you. (more…)

A fundraising check list : how to react to the economic crisis?

Let me propose to you a quick “check-list” hoping it could be useful when it comes to adapt your fundraising program to the economic crisis.

Because…yes..there is a crisis going on! You heard about it…except if you are working on street face-to-face campaigns somewhere in Asia. You are probably experiencing changes in redemption or attrition in the last months or years. If not, you should wonder about what to do if your organization arrive to the point where all indicators turns red.

External factors like credit crunch, increased fiscal pressure on individuals, political instability are much more difficult to face that choosing the right headline for your next DRTV campaign. Right now, Italy is a very good example having a temporary government that face the worst economic downturn since last world war II. As a result, many Italian organizations witnessed a terrible second semester 2011. And I am quite sure that all are monitoring their performance indicators daily…looking for new trends! But these will be hard to identify until next political elections in 2013. (more…)

Why you should consider a telethon

2011 was a very special fundraising year for the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding)  in which over € 130 million was raised. That’s an increase of over 20% versus last year. Especially income from legacies, Alpe d’HuZes ( a major cycling fundraising event which generated € 20 million in 2011) and income from private donors led to this significant increase.

An important way for the Dutch Cancer Society to recruit donors is the campaign “Stand Up To Cancer” in which a telethon has a major role. TV is for the Dutch Cancer Society an almost steady part in the multichannel mix to recruit donors and this was the fifth telethon since 2006.

In 2010, for the first time the “Stand Up To Cancer” concept was used and this campaign resulted in no less than 50,000 structural donors. That was an amazing result and far beyond everybody’s expectations. The fundraising potential of this concept was clearly demonstrated. I wrote blog about it last year. Consider this as part two so it could be helpful if you read the first one.

With this concept funds will be raised to accelerate groundbreaking research that can get new therapies to patients quickly, enabling (inter)national scientists to work together. (more…)

Waarom je een telethon moet overwegen

2011 was een zeer bijzonder fondsenwervend jaar voor KWF Kankerbestrijding waarin ruim 130 miljoen euro aan inkomsten werd gegenereerd. Dat is een stijging van ruim 20%. Vooral nalatenschappen, Alpe d’HuZes en particuliere donateurs zorgden voor deze aanzienlijke stijging.

Een belangrijke manier voor KWF Kankerbestrijding om donateurs te werven is de campagne ‘Sta op tegen kanker’ (SOTK) met daarin een belangrijke plek voor een fondsenwervende tv-show. Tv is de afgelopen jaren een bijna vaste waarde in de kanalen-mix om donateurs te werven en dit was de 5e fondsenwervende Tv-show van KWF sinds 2006.

In 2010 werd voor het eerst het SOTK concept gebruikt en deze campagne resulteerde in maar liefst 50.000 structurele donateurs. Het potentieel van dit concept voor fondsenwerving werd overduidelijk aangetoond en ik heb hierover eerder een blog geschreven. Dit blog is hier een vervolg op, het kan derhalve handig zijn om mijn eerder blog te lezen.

SOTK is een uitnodiging en symbool van een beweging van mensen die in actie komen en opstaan om hun bijdrage te leveren in de strijd tegen kanker. (more…)

Does online fundraising have to mean restricted funding?

For the last few years, the buzz about ‘crowdfunding’ has been steadily growing and a increasing number of crowdfunding sites for charities have been appearing, and continue to appear at an astonishing rate – to the point where I increasingly finding myself questioning how necessary and valuable some of them are (do we really need specific sites for charities in particular regions or sectors when there are sites that allow all regions and all sectors, and are searchable?).

But, a while ago, I started to wonder whether these sites were changing something they hadn’t actually set out to change – that they were responsible for a trend towards restricted giving online.  I found myself pondering how big a trend it would become, and what impact it might end up having on the sector.

The launch of CRUK’s MyProjects sticks in my memory as a pivotal moment that made me stop and wonder whether I had been witnessing a trend emerging.  I observed, with interest, the restricted nature of the projects that donors could choose to find through the site and was surprised that the charity had taken that tack.  Surprised because, during the 15 years I’ve been a professional fundraiser, I can only think of a handful of times that I’ve worked on an appeal that wasn’t unrestricted – because most individual giving is, for reasons I won’t insult anyone by explaining. (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…)

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…)

The donor lifecycle map

A basic donor lifecycle map

A few months ago I posted a blog critical of the donor pyramid and asking why it is still so widely used in the Netherlands (and undoubtedly also some other countries). So now I’d like to propose an alternative. The problem with the pyramid is that it is only useful to show one metric – donor financial value. But it doesn’t tell the larger story of engagement – how a donor interacts with and builds a relationship with an organisation over time: the lifecycle.

So what does your donors’ lifecycle look like? And more importantly, are your donors growing in value (whatever that means to your organisation – financial value, volunteerism, advocacy, etc.) over the duration of that lifespan? How can you visualise how your organisation is performing and how you want to be performing? A simple tool that I favour is the donor lifecycle map. The primary purpose of this tool is to show the correlation of donor value with engagement – both of which, of course, should be growing!


How saying No to a donor can end up in a legacy pledge

As a relationship manager special gifts, I speak to a lot of donors about including Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) in their last will. Not only do donors want to know what difference their gift will make in the lives of people that urgently need medical aid, victims of war and natural disasters. But donors also like to talk about their personal life, their personal situation, their values and beliefs.

In my experience, a conversation about legacies often leads to people sharing the story of their life with me. Conversations I really love. Spending an afternoon with a donor talking about their experiences in life and the choices they have made, also for including MSF in their will, are very dear to me and to MSF.

I feel free to discuss as much as possible with them. Sometimes problems need to be discussed and it happens that people ask me to tell them how they can make sure their annoying little cousin does not inherit. (more…)