What I learned about fundraising from the brazil nut

Brazil but (photo by dinesh_valke, Flickr)

The brazil nut has an interesting story, even for non-botanists like me.

For starters, it’s a seed, not a nut, but that’s not really important. It grows on large trees with yellow flowers. Although their nectar is sweet, their coiled hoods make it difficult to get to. That is, unless you’re a long-tongued orchid bee.

As the name implies, this particular orchid bee has a penchant for orchids, so you might think that doesn’t really help the Brazil nut tree. But fortunately, there’s the orchid Coryanthes vasquezii that likes to hang around our friend the Brazil nut tree. The male bees are attracted to the orchid’s scent, the female bees follow the males, and females pollinate the Brazil nut tree.

It’s like a dance between three parties that rely on each other to exist. It’s not unique necessarily, but this symbiotic triangle dawned on me as a perfect example for fundraising.

Okay, get to the fundraising part already… (more…)

IFC 2011 – Thinking differently!

This year, my visit to the IFC focused on the fundraising innovations. It’s quite clear that these innovative fundraising projects require a new way of working and thinking. Compared to the more ‘traditional’ techniques (like DM and TM) they often face us with less guaranteed ROIs. With projects requiring a marketing approach instead of something where only your fundraising staff is involved. And, most importantly, projects that thrive on the enthusiasm and commitment of your supporters.

So, what are the new developments, and (often even more important) how to get them implemented? (more…)

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…)

Crystal ball fundraising: Lifetime Value

Some time ago on the KISSmetrics blog a case study was shown on how to calculate the Lifetime Value of your customer (let’s say donors in our case). You might have seen below infographic already, but it’s such a great and clear example I want to make sure as much fundraisers as possible have seen it.

It’s not the calculation that is so interesting, because with some common sense (and a skilled data analyst) you can put something similar together yourself. What is most interesting is that this infograpic underlines the importance of using Lifetime Value (LTV) in your acquisition strategy.

In fundraising we’re always struggling with acquisition. I yet have to meet the fundraiser who says that it’s going easy and smooth year after year… It’s always difficult for everyone! Having said that, most of us are still recruiting new donors and even growing income. How come? Because we invest in the future.


Is Asian charity different than Western charity?

If you are just learning that the economic world is shifting focus from the West to the East, well, then you probably shouldn’t even be reading this blog. (You’re a *fund* raiser!) But as you know, it is. And the shift is enourmous.

The swing to the East is centered, of course, on Asia’s two biggest countries, China and India, but as countless Economist articles point out, many countries with LESS than a billion people (!) have a lot going on as well. For example, most people don’t know that Singapore, where I now live, boasts one of the world’s highest GDP-per-capitas: almost US$ 60,000 per person (one in six households has a net worth of MORE than US$ 1 million). However, Indonesia is still the region’s *largest* economy, despite having far higher poverty rates. The GDP-per-capita in Indonesia is only a bit over US$ 4,600 per person (almost 1,500% lower!). Conclusion: Singapore has LOTS of rich people. Indonesia has LOTS of poor people, but a fair number of RICH people, too.

So, if you were a fundraiser (which is a fair assumption, since you’re still reading) the question is — where should you be fundraising? (more…)

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…)

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…)

The WOW moment (part 2)

In part 1 of this blog post I referred to a presentation by Karen Osborne ….in which she addressed the (lack of) WOW-factor in fundraising. In the mean time I did have a WOW-moment of my own that I would like to share with you.

The other day I was surfing the web and stranded on a crowd funding website called Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter, unknown to me at that time, is a platform for artists to publish their projects in order to raise a specified amount of money, necessary to realize their goals. (more…)

The WOW moment (part 1)

Three months ago I was part of an audience listening to Karen Osborne giving a presentation on ‘Stewardship’. Great presentation, as usual, most of which I had heard before. But at the same time we can’t hear enough about the importance of being donor centric, delivering on the promise, showing the impact. It makes me realize we can still do much better.

But there was something else in Karen’s presentation that triggered me. That I kept thinking about. She was talking about the WOW-moment (not meaning the ‘normal’ things like delivering on the promise). And when asking the audience: when was the last time we were ‘WOW-ed’ by an organization and when was the last time we were really pleasantly surprised, I realized I couldn’t think of any example. (more…)

The seven deadly sins of fundraising appeals – and how to avoid them

Over the years, and the appeals, I’ve learned much about the factors that determine success in fundraising – and even more about what to avoid doing – and I’ll always be learning, because that’s one of the privileges of working with so many different charities, across such a wide variety of campaigns and media.

These points and tips are mainly written in the context of individual giving, although many are also just as relevant to events, community and legacy fundraising, membership marketing, volunteer recruitment or anywhere direct marketing techniques are used.  They represent the most common issues in fundraising appeals that I have come across and include suggestions to help you avoid the same pitfalls. (more…)

Wat moet ik doen met mijn moeder’s geld?

Mijn moeder overleed enkele weken geleden. En alhoewel ze aan een slecht hart overleed, had ze uiteindelijk een heel goed hart. Ze gaf aan verschillende goede doelen, waaronder de hartstichting. Logisch, na een hartinfarct zo’n 7 jaar geleden.

Maar een paar maanden voor haar dood werd er ook een kwaadaardig tumor gevonden. Moet ik dus nu ook aan het KWF gaan geven? En de problemen met haar lever en nieren, betekenen die dat ik ook aan de Nierstichting en de Maag Lever Darmstichting moet geven? Allemaal prima doelen, maar mijn punt is wel: Er zijn te veel goede doelen in Nederland! (more…)

The donor pyramid is dead… Long live the donor pyramid!

(Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie)

A number of fundraising headlines have proclaimed the donor pyramid to be dead. And working in America, I hadn’t heard too much about it since my early days in fundraising (way back in the ’90s!) except an occasional chuckle and a “that old thing!” retort at its mention. It used to be that in America, where major gifts represent a large share of fundraising income, the pyramid could illustrate which 20% of donors contribute 80% of giving income.

But even before my time as a fundraising professional, the pyramid had already come to be seen as a very simplistic measure of success. So naturally, I too thought it was dead until I moved to the Netherlands, where it’s alive and kicking (and screaming). In fact the donor pyramid is not just alive here in the Netherlands – it is beloved.

Why exactly? Is it that the pyramid is actually so useful or is it that there are no good alternatives?


De donateurpiramide is dood… Lang leve de donateurpiramide!

(Click here for the English version)

De donateurpiramide is in een groot aantal artikelen over fondsenwerving al vaak dood verklaard. Als fondsenwerver in de VS, heb ik er al vanaf de jaren negentig weinig meer over gehoord. Vroeger was het zo dat in Amerika -waar major gifts een groot deel van het totale fondsenwervingsinkomen uitmaken- de piramide een instrument was om te laten zien welke 20% van je donateurs 80% van je totale inkomsten vertegenwoordigt.

Maar al voor mijn werkzame tijd als fondsenwerver, werd de piramide beschouwt als een simplificatie van de werkelijkheid.  Voor mij was de donateurpiramide dan ook morsdood. Totdat ik naar Nederland verhuisde waar de piramide ‘alive and kicking’ bleek. En niet alleen dát, maar hij is ook nog eens erg geliefd!

Waarom eigenlijk? Komt het omdat de piramide echt nuttig is of zijn er misschien geen goede alternatieven?


For whom the bell tolls: helping donors find solidarity through unrestrict​ed giving

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee. – John Donne

There’s an interesting exchange happening right now between MSF Canada and our donors, a phenomenon I think would be interesting to fundraisers outside of the humanitarian-NGO arena and that I’d like your opinion on. MSF Canada donors are again being stress-tested by us, the very organization many Canadians look towards as an outlet for their compassion in times of sudden crisis, most recently and specific to this post, last month’s cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami in Japan. If our doctors’ acts of vaccination and surgery are their humanitarian tools, then the donations our supporters make are theirs. And so how do donors feel when MSF tells them we do not accept earmarked gifts for the catastrophe in Japan? Do we wrest from them a degree of solidarity with the Japanese people in asking for unrestricted donations?


What can fundraisers learn from product marketing?

Last fall I attended my first IFC. Being a bit of a data geek, I most looked forward to a workshop entitled “new product development.” I expected to go and hear about all of the fabulous new database and CRM tools on the European market. Silly me. The session turned out to be about the process of developing fundraising “products” – as in ways and benefits of giving – within your own organization. What I had always heard termed simply a “gift type” in America.

Fast forward six months and I am writing a paper on product marketing for a management course. Here it was again. So I had to ask myself, “How can I, as a fundraiser, use any of this in my program?”

It turns out that product marketing has a lot to do with the way that we think about raising funds. And applying a commercial marketing “checklist” to our fundraising strategy can give us some valuable insights about the way that our donors experience our service. So it is useful to consider each of the seven “Ps” when designing your fundraising strategy. Following are some questions you can ask yourself in your planning.


FREE: 10 years of fundraising experience!

This month exactly 10 years ago, I started my first job as a fundraiser! And from the beginning I was hooked. I love fundraising, because it enables change. Vision and passion combined with great fundraising enables important change. And as a fundraiser you play an important part in that change.

So, looking back over those 10 years, what did I learn? I’ve listed the most important strategic ingredients for a successful fundraising program. Ten years of fundraising experience summarized in one blog post. You only need 3:49 minutes of reading to catch up with 10 years. Now that seems like the bargain of the decade!

(A big thank you to all my fundraising colleagues from Médecins du Monde, Médecins Sans Frontières and Greenpeace who made me the fundraiser I currently am. And a special thanks to Roger and John for the teachings in the early days!)


Ongoing support is needed

As individuals, when disaster strikes we dig deep and give to a relief fund, often having to reduce or put a hold our regular giving.

For an organisation, there is likely to be an occasion when you’re income reduces as supporters divert their giving to a disaster relief fund.

How can this be managed, can it be managed?

Some organisations will have a contingency plan in place, others will have to fly by the seat of their pants; and just hope they can ride it out. (more…)

Sociale media – interessant voor fondsenwervers?

Social media is hot momenteel. Het volgen van alle blogs, opleidingen en workshops hierover zou meer dan een dagtaak zijn. Elk zichzelf respecterend marketing- of communicatie-congres heeft het op de agenda staan. Tegelijkertijd neemt ook het aantal kritische geluiden toe. Is het wel zo rendabel? Levert het wel iets op? Wat is eigenlijk de ROI? Is het niet een ‘Bubble about to burst’?

Een onderzoekje tijdens de DDMA-clinic ‘Social Marketing voor Non-profits’ gaf aan dat “non-profits wel social willen maar zoeken naar het hoe”. Social Marketing zou met name interessant zijn voor Communicatie en PR en in mindere mate voor Fondsenwerving.

Als fondsenwerver voor de Hartstichting zie ik echter juist Sociale Media als een bron van onschatbare informatie (luisteren!), een nieuw kanaal naast de teruglopende traditionele kanalen, maar vooral een vorm van directe interactie met je achterban. Een nieuw kanaal dat zich minder leent voor het oude businessmodel met focus op het direct werven van machtigers of donateurs. Maar wel voor co-creatie, voor het faciliteren en ondersteunen van (fondsenwervende) initiatieven van je achterban, en voor het aanbieden van andere donatiemogelijkheden. (more…)

So you want to learn how to do fundraising, eh?

As 30-year veteran of fundraising, I get asked a LOT of, well, silly questions about fundraising. But the most obvious one that shows someone is just learning the field is: “So how DO you do fundraising?”

The (obvious) answer is: well, that depends on what kind of funds you want to raise. So the first thing you need to do if you’re starting in this field is to learn the nomenclature, the language. That way, you can tell the difference between a TYPE of fundraising, and a TECHNIQUE of fundraising. For example, a charity run is a technique. So is a $500-a-plate dinner. But each of these goes after a different TYPE of donor. (more…)