Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day of Online Action

Amnesty International have asked us - and lots more people - to 'censor' our website for their day of action on 30 July. It was too late for our website but that should explain the weird stuff on my blog.

If you have a website or blog, then please visit and join this day of action.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

GetUp! Fuelwatch rocks

You may recall my recent blog about FuelWatch. GetUp! were trying to raise $50k to place some ads. Well, it has raised $72,886 as I type this - it worked! If you missed the blog and video last time, click here to read the story.

Be the H back in Ghana

A couple of months back Australia beat Ghana in a football match. Do you care? Well, nor did lots of other people.

Ticket sales were not going well, so Australian agency Lowe + Rivet worked with the Football Federation Australia to get more people along.

They reckon they did (though as with all non-direct marketing I am always sceptical of how anyone can prove it!)

Those who kn0w me well will be surprised at me putting something purely creative up here, but seriously we do need a balance of creative ideas - as long as they are focused and mission specific and measurable.

(Which is why I loved the GetUp! video so much).

I hope the video inspires you whatever your views.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Al Gore's Commanders Intent

Jonathon Grapsas, our regional director in North America sent me a link to Al Gore's latest video about climate change. Click here to see the video.

Even though it is very US-focused and many of my readers are not in the US, it’s worth watching for two reasons:
1) It is appropriate for pretty much every country
2) They way he delivers his speech.

In the speech he calls for America to “commit to producing 100% of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon free sources within ten years.” Wow. (If you are short on time, fast forward the video to about 1:50).

It is a very clear call to action with targets, timeframe and it’s supported by his reasoning.

At first it is incredibly unbelievable – America leading the way in cutting carbon emissions and saving our planet? Bear in mind the USA is still the world’s biggest culprit when it comes to carbon emissions, and shows its leadership by not signing up to Kyoto and hiding behind the fact that the emerging economies have not signed up.

But then again, Al Gore’s speech is comparable (and directly inspired) by the equally unbelievable speech by JFK’s in 1961.

Back then, in the midst of the cold war with USSR, JFK called upon America to put a man on the moon – and bring him back safely – within a decade. For people back then, that would have been as unbelievable as Al Gore’s speech. There is of course, one key difference between Gore and JFK – which I will come back to later.

So, what has this to do with you? Well, climate change has a lot to do with all of us.

While I am sure millions of PowerPoint presentations have been improved by Gore’s movie “The Inconvenient Truth” , heads of charities (and companies like Pareto Fundraising) can take inspiration from the clear big picture goal – such clarity gives people clear guidelines for all of the actions and little decisions they have to make on a day to day basis.

And to top it off, at about the 4:50 mark, Gore begins a very well delivered call to action. The sort of call to action that we often wish our CEOs and Chairs would make when delivering speeches to potential and actual donors!

In a rather brilliant and easy to read book, “Made to Stick” Chip and Dan Heath talk about the ‘Commanders Intent’. Gore is using this same technique, articulating an incredibly clear and easy to understand vision in a directly practical way. (
Anyone wanting to help achieve the vision has enough information to help them with all decisions they make on the way.

I work on a daily basis with lots of charities, and most of them don’t really have a plan for next year, never mind a long term vision. Jonathon wrote about this in a recent blog entry : “[I often ask]... why do you need more money? Secondly, what are the organizations growth plans? Invariably I get blank stares to both questions – and often not for lack of asking on the fundraisers part.”

This is not to be taken as too harsh a criticism of course – please remember that most charities exist hand to mouth, are understaffed and have boards made up of brilliant, caring people who are rarely business leaders. In fact, boards are more often experts in the cause (health care, development, human rights etc) or they are motivated, well-intentioned people with a connection to the cause.

If you don’t know what your charity (or business, or even personal) vision is, then have a crack at your commander’s intent.

Oh, the key difference in the speeches? JFK was President after being fairly elected. Just imagine if Al Gore had been President for the past eight years.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A personal reminder of the importance of feedback

Donors support charities because they are nice and they care. Our job as fundraisers is to make sure they have every opportunity to do so, and are encouraged to do so again.

There is some debate as to whether thank you letters should be sent to some, all or no donors following gifts. The arguments against are all focused on cost saving, and to some extent the assumption that the donors wouldn't want their money spent that way.

We at Pareto Fundraising encourage charities to say thank you every time someone donates, and send donor care letters updating donors on how their money has been used. Sometimes we fail to persuade them to do so.

But I had a little reminder today of the importance of feedback. I am currently in London, where I am presenting some fundraising training sessions at a fundraising conference.

Last night, as a friend, John Sauvé-Rodd was leaving I asked him what honey bees had to do with with fundraising - and told him about my blog.

A fundraiser that he had just introduced, Anetta Murphy, overheard and said - 'Oh, I know; did you write that blog about the honey bees in Canada?'

Now I had never met Anetta and she works for an agency in Dublin, but she told me that her boss, Damian had sent her the blog.

To this point I thought I had about ten readers of my blog (my sister, my girlfriend, my dad and about half a dozen Pareto Fundraising staff) so I was amazed - but more importantly incredibly motivated to carry it on and make sure I get more quirky, but useful, stuff up there.

OK, big ego boost too - but honestly, isn't that what donors need as well? (I don't say 'want' because they - like me - would deny that!)

So please, send me feedback too, I want to know who reads this!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Angry honey bees and fundraising direct mail packs

Just before I journeyed to Toronto airport on Canada Day (1st July) I read a fascinating story about a 'Transportation mishap' (no kidding, that is what the Globe and Mail called it).

A truck with millions of bees overturned. The bees were on their way back home in their hives after working hard pollinating some blueberries.

Most of the bees were rescued, according to the RCMP (the Mounted Police, or Mounties) and no people were injured, though unsurprisngly 'Anyone with a bee allergy in St. Leonard, New Brunswick, was encouraged to stay in and keep the windows shut.'

I hear you, you want to know what the connection is with direct mail packs.

Well, Pareto Fundraising is obsessed with data. Our clients, as charities, all demand evidence that the money they spend on techniques and ideas is worth it. And we demand this of ourselves too.

So, for example, in a mail appeal we have a load of tactics we use (specific ask amounts, strong proposition, thorough targeting, great story with a start, middle and end, additional brochures or 'lifts', full page response coupons etc). Of course there are more subjective 'tactics' such as brilliant copy and design.

Together these tactics mean the pack tends to be large - often the letter is 4 pages long. But, they have an enormous impact - a recent appeal for a charity using those tactics raised 4.5x more than a pack which didn't use them.

Back to bees.

With millions of bees hanging around, 'bee experts' and the police had to get all the bees back into their hives and rescued, whilst minimising stinging. Bee stings are 100% fatal for one party involved, and always hurt the other party so are to be avoided.

According to Globe and Mail, bee expert Paul Vautour said "These bees will not go out looking for anyone to sting... Still, remember that they've had a traumatic experience ...."

So the mounties listened to the experts, who told them to use smoke.

[Hang in there dear reader, it all joins up in the end]...

Again, according to the newspaper, '...people working at the scene were wearing full protective gear and dousing the bees with smoke to keep them docile.'

'...The exact effects of smoke are not known, but experts say that it can disorient the bees. It may also fool them into thinking a fire is coming, causing them to gorge on honey in anticipation of fleeing. While they are doing this they can be handled more safely. It is also harder for them to sting with a belly full of honey.'

In other words the 'experts' haven't a bloody clue why smoke works.

Back to our direct mail packs; we have tested lots of the different elements of the tactics and usually the individual tactic makes a slight impact on the result on its own. But we rarely know why, and the search for 'why' can often be distracting and even cause costly delays.

For a simple example, disbelief that a longer letter - despite all the tactics involved - could raise more than a shorter letter is so strong that CEOs and even fundraisers have vetoed the whole approach.

I think you get where I am going with this rather jet-lagged ramble. (I am doing this at a ridiculous early hour in the UK).

If you were a Royal Candian Mounted Police Oficer ordered to go in an pick up 10 million bees and put them back on a truck, would you care how the smoke works?
Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here