IFC: folding letters and licking envelopes!

Tomorrow one of the most inspirational fundraising gatherings of the world starts right here in The Netherlands: The International Fundraising Congress (better known as: the IFC).

About 1,000 fundraisers from more than 60 countries spend a couple of days in the same building. Talking, learning, sharing, looking, absorbing, listening and consuming fundraising. It’s both very impressive and somewhat intimidating if we sum all the money that is being raised by all delegates. But it’s also encouraging, because every charity represented once started small, and every fundraiser walking around once started as a junior.

When I convinced my boss 8 years ago that I needed to go there, I started out as an IFC Session Leader. If you ever attended the IFC you know what they do and look like: always asking for evaluation forms and kindly answering all your logistical questions, in bright green shirts (nowadays in bright red). (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…)

Geïntegreerde campagnes ontwikkelen: hoe begin je?

Prachtig, campagnes waarin de inhoud en werving hand in hand gaan:
Serious Request van het Rode Kruis. De ultieme combinatie van campagne inhoud en werving van donaties. Elk jaar weer indringende verhalen en inspirerende acties, schitterend!

‘Dier in de wei’ van Milieudefensie. Teken de petitie en als je doneert komt je naam in de advertentie te staan. De wervende vraag volgt logischerwijs op de inhoudelijke oproep.

De Nestlé-campagne van Greenpeace die in Nederland duizenden e-mail adressen en honderden aanmeldingen voor vrijwilligers en donateurs heeft opgeleverd.

En de Forest Law Vote campagne van Greenpeace Argentinië. Waarin een 1,5 miljoen Argentijnen met hun handtekening de wetgeving beïnvloedden, en Greenpeace honderden betrokken donateurs aan overhield. Alfredo Botti verwees er al naar in zijn videoblog.

Toch blijkt het in de praktijk lastig om een geïntegreerde campagne op te starten. (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…)

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…)

Contenders for the two ‘i’s in fundraising?

You hear a lot about the importance of innovation in fundraising and there’s no doubt that innovation is important – all the ways of doing anything that are now widely accepted, traditional and best practice, were innovations at one point, after all.

Things always move on and almost everything can continually be improved upon, but I still don’t think innovation is as vital as it’s hyped up to be, and there are usually very significant wins to be had by improving on what you’re already doing.  If I were a Director of Fundraising, I’d want my team to have optimised the ROI of existing activities before I invested in creating anything new.  As Percy Barnevik famously said, when chairman of ABB Asea Brown Boveri (the world’s largest electrical-engineering group):

“We don’t need any more bright ideas. There are lots of them around… In business, success is 5% strategy, 95% execution.”


The real art of Karate Fundraising!

Karate Fundraising? A new discipline is born? Come on! You didn’t hear about it yet?

Ok, don’t worry, this is not (really) a new channel or a way to boosting the income of your fundraising programme. It’s more like a way of seeing things and to ease your fundraiser everyday’s life.

Let me first explain how I came across the concept of “Karate Fundraising”. I was speaking on the phone with my friend Paolo Ferrara, one of the Italian digital gurus. Just trying to set a day to meet, in order to prepare a session for the Italian Fundraising Congress earlier this year. The session was about arguing which techniques, digital or traditional, were more successful in fundraising. (more…)

From corporate fundraiser to service-provider

The world is a volatile place and constantly in motion. And so is the fundraising world. In this blog I am not talking about new techniques or new channels, but about changing attitudes.

It has been going on for many many years, but it is still the most important trend in corporate fundraising: philanthropic donations by companies are on the decline. I wouldn’t go near saying that corporate philanthropy is dead, as some people do, but it is definitely on the decline. Luckily, the attitude of the general public has also changed: almost everybody is calling upon big firms to be good corporate citizens. And these companies all want to show that they are.

A third group, NGOs, is somewhat behind, and some of them should urgently change their attitude. Instead of focusing on philanthropic donations with little or even nothing in return, they need to be more commercial. Many of them have already changed their attitude or are at least aware that they should, but especially the older, larger and more established NGOs, do not like the word ‘commercial’.


How much can I expect from my fundraising event?

That is the question I get asked a lot working with clients on their strategic fundraising plan. And a good question it is.  Especially because fundraising events and in particular sports events have become so popular in Europe. So this question deserves some kind of answer.

So, If you are considering to set up your own fundraising event or if you are wondering if you are making enough money from your own event, please bare with me in my search for an answer.

To be frank, it is extremely hard to predict exactly how much will be raised with your event this year or the next, but there are crucial factors that influence your success. Depending on how many ‘karma-points’ you score on each of these factors will give you some feeling of the potential success. (see a calculation below)


How to find your inner Richard Radcliffe!

People who have had the pleasure to listen to Richard Radcliffe’s inspiring and challenging presentations on legacy fundraising, may have had the same thought as I’ve had after meeting him: ‘How on earth can I get as experienced as he is and make legacy fundraising feel like a walk in the park?’

And specially when you have read in Sebastian Wilberforce’s ‘Legacy fundraising‘ that “Richard Radcliffe has more then 30 years experience in the charity sector….specializes in planning and running legacy focus groups….he has met more than 15.000 donors….”, legacy fundraisers with only a few  years of experience may start to feel a bit lost. And some of us, like me, may start to wonder how many lives we need to get even close to the experience Richard has in legacy fundraising. 

I think you can start by looking for that little piece of Richard Radcliffe in your inner self, the piece that makes him know how donors, volunteers, prospects, board members, colleagues and beneficiaries think about making their last will and including a charity in it. (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.


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…)

Adventures in innovation – The power of four

In my last 101fundraising crowdblog I talked about the difference between innovation and creativity, incremental and radical innovation, and dispelled the myth that innovation is about a lone genius. Innovation is more likely to be a combination of a slow hunch with a series of previously unconnected connections rather than a single ‘light bulb’ moment.

Your challenge now is how you DO innovation. How do you have more connections, combine them in new ways and actually turn them into successful fundraising, not just once but as part of a continuous cycle. How do you turn ‘innovation’ into business as usual? How do you turn innovation into simply ‘how we do things round here’? (more…)

Testing in fundraising is not for the faint-hearted

It’s not fun being a fundraiser nowadays: depressing trends like declining responses, high-cost-acquisition in combination with through-the-roof-attrition, rock-bottom-retention and charity-bashing-media… pfff, mission impossible?!

Or, is there still a bright light in the fundraising sky? Sure there is, plenty!

We just have to continue to improve ourselves. Watch out that you are not being sucked into the motionless status quo. We will fight attrition, increase response numbers and retention rates, build pure and genuine supporter relationships by honest storytelling and true engagement and raise all the money we need to make this world a better place!

It’s probably not so simple either… and therefore, as fundraisers, we test.


Adventures in innovation – The Prequel

Fundraising is tough. ‘More for less’ has practically become a daily mantra for both donors and charities. Great causes are clamoring in an increasingly crowded marketplace for a finite piece of the fundraising income pie. Innovation is heralded as the latest buzzword to provide salvation and solutions. ‘We must be more innovative’ is the answer to how to deliver ‘more for less‘.

Trouble is, not many people seem to know what innovation means, least of all how to ‘do’ it. Innovation and its mate creativity are two terms that, in my opinion are somewhat overused. So before we adventure in innovation lets be clear what we mean. (more…)

We really should…

The Dutch fundraising landscape has changed a lot over the past few years. For decades fundraising was an activity exclusively of charities, charitable organisations that are formed for charitable purposes. But these traditional charities encounter totally different parties on the fundraising field: non-profit organisations not being charities; let’s call them non-traditional fundraising organisations,  from musea to universities, from orchestras to sportsclubs, from hospitals to schools.

Fundraising departments of traditional charities differ a lot from fundraising departments in non-traditional fundraising organisations. Usually charities have specialised staff for specific fundraising programmes (DM, TM, Legacies, Events etc.), while the newcomers have all-round fundraisers on board to kick-off their fundraising programmes,  most of them being pioneers in environments where fundraising is not part of the core-business of the organisation. It is interesting to see the speed of this trend, the amount of organisations entering the Dutch fundraising arena and the way professionals deal with this trend.


Tell me a story

I’ve seen countless blogs and articles about the importance of storytelling. The thing is, we know it’s important. People give to people. Giving is an emotional response to living in a world you want to change. A good story brings your cause to life.

But I see lots of fundraising asks that miss the story altogether. Who am I kidding, I’ve worked on a number of fundraising campaigns that have lacked good stories completely.

Well, for one, we’re professional fundraisers. We deal with budgets, targets, staff meetings and mail packs. Our charities often strive to be seen as professional, expert, sometimes even scientific in our approach to solving the world’s problems. We are no longer the sector that blindly delivers charity in the old (potentially demeaning) sense. We understand poverty/healthcare/animal welfare/international development/arts/higher education. We portray our beneficiaries with respect. We are experts in our field. (more…)

Integrated campaigning: throw away the best practices

Show me a fundraiser who thinks they’ve solved integrated campaigning and I’ll show you someone who whistles past the graveyard.

What exactly constitutes an integrated campaign, anyway? Is it simply having a landing page that looks a lot like your direct mail piece? And why do it? From a fundraisers’ perch, the answer to both questions is…money. Integrated campaigns can raise the money you need to meet your revenue objectives. They do this by using complementary channels, which create multiple levels of exposure and engagement points influencing your donors to action. Donate Now is a good one; Unsubscribe, not so good. (more…)

Blijft geloofwaardigheid essentieel?

Nederlanders zijn over het algemeen calvinistisch ingesteld en slaan zichzelf niet op de borst bij goed gedrag. Sterker, wij Nederlanders keuren borstklopperij vaak af. Zo werkt dat ook in fondsenwervingsland: het is deze ingetogen inslag die bepaalt dat je niet hoort te praten over je steun aan goede doelen, zeker niet als deze steun significant is. De motivatie hoort filantropie te zijn, niet het verbeteren van je eigen gemoedstoestand. Of nog slechter: anderen laten zien hoe goed je wel niet bent. Wanneer deze ongeschreven regel wordt overtreden, staat een deel van de bevolking nee te schudden.

Zo werkt dit bij particuliere Major Donors die hun steun publiekelijk maken, bij bekende Nederlanders die zich openlijk verbinden aan een goed doel, maar dit werkt vooral zo bij bedrijven die extern communiceren over hun steun aan een goed doel. En dit vind ik niet altijd eerlijk.


Shifting towards marketing in nonprofit, an opportunity or a threat?

It’s not an easy job for us fundraisers to realize increasing incomes year after year. It becomes increasingly difficult to grow in a competitive market that even is consolidating (for private donations  http://www.geveninnederland.nl/). A strong fundraising plan in itself is not sufficient anymore. We need to develop a more integrated approach. Strategic marketing planning should be added to your fundraising efforts and thereby considering the following questions:

  • How do you position yourselves against competition to be successful
  • What will you do to seduce the ever more demanding donors to support our goals with a gift
  • How do we get more grip on and understanding of our donors whose donation patterns change considerably

In order to address these issues we need focus and make clear strategic choices before we start making our yearly fundraising plans (the numbers in € ‘s). In other words, what will be  your marketing  strategy to win the ‘battle’ for the donor?

Marketing in the nonprofit, there are supporters and opponents of introducing marketing in charities, some see opportunities, others threats.  I strongly believe that marketing orientation is crucial in achieving your mission, in other words “no marketing, no mission”!


Starten met marketing in de nonprofit; een kans of een bedreiging?

Autonoom stijgende inkomsten uit fondsenwerving realiseren is er niet meer bij anno 2011. Het wordt steeds moeilijker om te blijven groeien in een markt die al maar concurrerender wordt en bovendien consolideert (voor particuliere giften http://www.geveninnederland.nl/).
Een ijzersterk fondsenwervend plan op zichzelf is niet meer voldoende. We moeten integraler kijken, strategische marketingplanning eraan vooraf laten gaan en nadenken over vragen als:

  • Wat doet jouw organisatie om zich te onderscheiden;
  • Wat gaan jullie doen om de almaar mondiger donateur te verleiden een gift te (blijven) doen
  • Hoe krijg je meer grip en begrip voor onze donateurs, wiens geefgedrag sterk wijzigt

Dit dwingt onze sector om focus aan te brengen en duidelijke strategische keuzes te maken voordat we aan onze fondsenwervende jaarplannen (de cijfertjes in €’s) beginnen. Met andere woorden: wat wordt jouw marketingstrategie in de ‘slag’ om de donateur?

Marketing in de non-profit; een vak apart! Of toch niet? Er zijn voor- en tegenstanders van marketing in de goede doelen; sommigen zien kansen, anderen bedreigingen. Mijn overtuiging is dat marketingoriëntatie van levensbelang is in het realiseren van je Missie, “zonder Marketing geen Missie”.


Have I told you lately that I love you? (part 2)

OK, so you’ve done your strategic speed-dating (also known as ‘a pitch’), and it’s time to get on with some proper work.

All being well, you’ve genuinely will fallen in love with an agency. Your agency. All being well they will be making you feel that they only have eyes for you. Even so, before getting into bed you may want some form of pre-nuptial agreement. It’s not vital. It’s not always necessary. But it’s generally a good thing to know what you both expect from the relationship. So whether it is a formal contract or a simple exchange of do’s and don’ts, you may want to specify:

  • The team: who exactly will do the work, pick up the phone to you, come to meetings etc.
  • What will it cost? Precisely.
  • Any specific Service Level Agreements.
  • Financial constraints and targets
  • Confidentiality
  • Copyright
  • Review periods.

They may sound like passion-killers, but, hell, let’s hope this isn’t a one-night stand.


Have I told you lately that I love you? (part 1)

Relationships, eh, who’d have ‘em!? We talk about them a lot in fundraising don’t we?

So today I want to give a tender caress to those relationships we probably don’t focus on enough, namely those between clients and their agencies (and vice versa).

Some of the highly embarrassing clipart I used many years ago when addressing this topic.

Some of the highly embarrassing clipart I used many years ago when addressing this topic

In doing so I’d like to tip my hat to the tweets and blogs of Gill McLellan (@gillmcl) and Alison McCants (@alisonmccants). Apart from giving wise words, they prompted me to dust down a training course I used to run on this topic. Apart from some embarrassing clipart, I found some advice that I think still holds true today despite a much-changed agency world from when I devised the training more than 15 years ago.

By changed agency world, I mean massively fragmented.  It used to be that fundraising clients made do with one agency. This tended to be a direct marketing agency, most of which eventually described themselves as ‘integrated’ (meaning: ‘Please let us do everything for you! We don’t know how to do everything but I’m sure we can rope in someone who does!’).


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?