Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fundraising in India - the value of logic and reason

Today sees me in Agra, India, about 5km away for the Taj Mahal. Cool.

I am here for the 'International South Asian Fundraising Workshop', where two colleagues and I are doing a few sessions training fundraisers from the region.

Yesterday at 0545 I went along with my Pareto Fundraising colleagues to visit 'the Taj' - one of the seven wonders of the world. And it is pretty amazing.

A great break, then back for breakfast and last minute work on our presentations.

After the visit, I presented a pre-conference workshop. The workshop was all about using data to inform strategy, and not to be reliant upon tradition to dictate your fundraising strategy.

My audience of about 35 people were predominantly Indian, with a few from Pakistan and at least one from Nepal. The session was similar to one presented several times in Australia, Canada, Chile, Thailand, Brasil, Argentina and UK - and not surprisingly the same issues came up again.

Although the session is about using data, and using evidence I always give examples to illustrate how anecdote and gut instinct can be so wrong, and I also have a pop at focus groups (in a constructive manner of course!)

The two examples that always get the best reaction are:

One: I get four people to come to the front and hold up the elements of a direct mail appeal - the pack is huge, with about 13 different elements - 4pp letter, seperate response coupon, diary from the field, a photograph, another mini-letter and of course outer and return envelopes. All eight hands are needed to hold up all the bits.

I then ask for feedback; the audience always say they wouldn't donate. They give lots of reasons - too long, not enough time, too expensive, wouldn't read it.

I then show them results - and they are astonished that, in head to head tests, making a big pack does not put people off. In fact, a recent test resulted in a huge pack beat a 'normal pack' (one page letter with tear-off coupon, outer and return envelopes) by over 4.5 times. Grumblings still abound - despite the evidence I know that people in the audience are never going to test such an approach.

(By the way - I should add that making an appeal big is not going to make it work. A rubbish big appeal is still rubbish. Producing a good appeal rather than a rubbish one needs an understanding of what needs to go into a letter to make someone respond, no matter how long.)

Strike one: Indian audience no different from anywhere else I have presented this.

Two: The next example is where I explain that corporate fundraising is crap and a waste of time for most charities, most of the time - despite the fact that some great charities like WWF and Habitat for Humanity do really well from corporates. There is disbelief and lots of "Ah, but it is different in India". (Reminded me of "Ah, but it is different in Hong Kong/New Zealand/Philippines etc).

I didn't have the data to prove this in India, and was asking the audience what they knew when just at the right moment a guy called Anup Tiwari from UNICEF India pipes up "Look at the biggest Indian charities - you will see that they get 85% of their money from individuals - only 5% at most comes from corporates."

Phew. But still more grumbles and arms folded from people, despite the evidence. Why is it that despite logic, reason, evidence and data our prejudices and assumptions take so much knocking down?

Strike Two: India no different from anywhere else - corporate fundraising enjoys a disproportionate standing in the fundraising mix.

Of course, my point in the session was don't take my word for it. Apply your logic and reason, and most importantly - test it. Find out for yourselves.

1 comment:

Fundraising Today said...

I was exited to know about your workshop in India, so I couldn’t stop writing my views.

The most important factor that we need to develop fundraising in India is to “build trust”.

With time and so many scams non-for-profit sector has lost its trust from majority of the masses. I still remember my mother donating 10 Rs three times in a year which was a huge amount for her 25 years back. But each year this donation started reducing, as she started loosing her trust and a day came when there were no contributions made from her. However, I believe that if we can show results and trustworthiness for the organization many more like her can become regular donors of the future.

However, I can see the change now, as I see celebrities like industrialists, actors and cricketers taking interest and contributing their time and money for the development of the society. Still majority of the middle class masses are to be captured and to capture them NFP sector needs to build trust. To build this trust they have to do "trust marketing" your abilities and achievements and than ask for help and support. I know it sounds for profit work, but the reality is you have to spread your cause by using fundraising techniques.

I do agree with testing and may be initially the response is low, but trust building should continue to increase the response.

I think I am too long, but I am happy that you are in India and doing an amazing work.

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