Thursday, December 1, 2011

No wonder cat and dog charities do well

Back in 1994, a little kitten was born.  My friends (and mentor and brilliant fundraising copywriter) Tim and Karen gave the kitten to my partner (Stef) and me.  We lived in Walthamstow, NE London.

When he was about a year old he we returned from work and couldn't find him anywhere.  Eventually someone working in the museum opposite our home found him in the museum gardens.

He had been attacked by greyhounds.  Badly mauled, he had bits of insides poking out.  We took him to the vet and he was given pretty low odds to survive.  But the vet did a fantastic job and he pulled through.

He was a tough cat, and a tease - he used to wind up dogs and other cats all the time.  He was pretty hard actually.

We got another cat, Brian, who was nowhere near as tough and also a bit soppy and needy.  Stef used to say that Tetley took after her, and me after Brian.

In 1997 Stef and I broke up.  I moved to Brighton for a few months before South London for a few years then on to Australia in 2002.

Stef left Walthamstow in the late nineties, and took Brian with her, but Tetley didn't go and became quite a character.  A bit like a slightly less adventurous Red Dog from Louis de Bernieres book (and new movie) on the Australian mining town dog.

Life moved on, and Tetley became a memory, like any ex-pet does.  But I once got chatting to a stranger a couple of years ago in Hong Kong (or maybe Singapore) who had lived in Walthamstow.  They knew Tetley, and knew he hung about the Museum still, which was kind of nice to hear.

But imagine my surprise when Stef sent me the link below to these articles.  Tetley died at the end of September and had a New Orleans style community funeral.  I wish I had known - I was in Europe then too.

Please take a look at the story.  It brought tears to my eyes and happy memories to my heart.  (Though I was one of his bully victims.  Maybe Stockholm Syndrome at work here). Click the links below the photo.

284/365 - RIP Tetley

Funeral for Tetley.
Nice photo and article.

By the way, Tetley was named after the beer. Then they named a beer after him. Funny old world.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to set up a charity in Australia

So you want to do some good, and establish a new charity to help someone or something?  An option is to set up your own charity.  This is rarely the right option for the cause, though it may be the right option for you.  Whilst it seems, on the face of it, a selfless act setting up a charity is often as much about you as the cause.  This is not a bad thing - after all, Barnardos, Greenpeace and MSF wouldn't exist and be doing their great work if they hadn't been set up by someone.

But, and it is a big but - there are now so many charities it is unbelievable.  And many of these are set up and run by well meaning amateurs trying to do some good and make themselves feel good about it.  Maybe they are angry about injustice or just want to do their bit.

Setting up a charity is almost certainly not the best way to help change the world.  Volunteering, fundraising or donating to an existing charity is likely to have a greater impact.

The only factor that would make setting up your own is passion - it is more likely that you will throw everything into 'your own baby', which is not a bad thing.

Even so, make sure you do your research and speak with the experts.  Understand the impact that what you will do will have on other organisations.  Remember that the thing you are excited about is likely to be because you happened to see and witness it, but it is probably not the most pressing problem in that country or region.

Here are some examples of how well meaning amateurs think they are doing good but could end up causing more damage.
* Several INGOs pull out of a region to force an end to specific corruption; you come in and innocently perpetuate the problem.
* A business owner introduces a malaria eradication program in a village in a poor country she has vacationed in.  Infant mortality from malaria in that village goes down - but malnutrition zooms up and conflict with the next village escalates.  An experienced NGO would have combined the malaria reduction with sexual and reproduction advice and worked with local villages to implement and spread the model.
* A returning holiday maker decides to distribute pens, school bags and other stationary to a school they happened to visit.   When the kids go home, bullies from other schools pick on them and nick their stuff.
* A manufacturer decides to sell shoes to affluent westerners and distribute a free pair to a poor person in a particular country. Unless the shoes are made local to the poor beneficiary, it is likely that the shoe manufacturers in their region will be put out of business; creating more problems.
* A woman is helped to set up her own business buying fish direct from the fisher, not the local wholesaler.  This makes her business better, but of course damages the wholesaler.

None of the above examples are necessarily wrong; and maybe the benefits outweighed the advantage - but all of them had undesired and unexpected impacts that only someone who is involved in such work could predict.

Usually the side effects are benign, and manageable but occasionally things go horribly wrong.  Stories like this one about a false orphanage run by an Indian missionary are rare but people are often desperate when they are poor and it is easy to make up a scam and take advantage of well meaning tourists.

Of course, established charities make mistakes too - but on balance they are going to get more things right than wrong.

If you still want to set up a charity (in Australia), check out Philanthropy Australia's guide here.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Add 'eradicated polio' to your CV?

Jonas Salk made it possible.  After inventing the polio vaccine, he was asked who would own the vaccine.  He replied "Well, the people I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?"  A true hero responsible for providing the key tool to hammering polio.  It was quickly snuffed out in nearly all countries and is now endemic in only four countries - Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

We are amazingly close to finishing the job - just $535m short of funding in early 2011.

But now an Australian student will be able to add those words to his CV, along with an inevitable "Young Australian of the Year" award.  

This Australian, Michael Sheldrick, was the final speaker at the FIA WA Conference a few weeks ago.  And his talk was incredibly motivating.

Even though he says "I am not a fundraiser" I think it is fair to say he bloody well is.  He managed to convince the Australian PM to give $50m, provide a platform for Bill and Melinda Gates to chuck in $40m and a few other Commonwealth countries in the UK to pitch in too.  Combined with the brilliant efforts of the global Rotary movement millions of kids will grow up, like Michael did, to never experiencing the disease. A seriously large chunk of that $535m will be knocked out thanks to the work of Michael. He is quick to point out that it was not him alone.

Managing The End of Polio Campaign was his role with Global Poverty Project. "It was very much a team effort and would not have been possible without 'All hands on deck'. In particular, a stand out Concert Producer."

It is so tempting to write up his story here, but it would ruin it - it is best coming from him.  He is a gifted storyteller, and this was key to his success. Check out his video.

Following the rock concert he was involved with, a government minister asked him to introduce the minister to Bill Gates.

If you see him speaking somewhere, go see him.  For those coming along to the Pareto party in Melbourne on 1 December don't worry about asking him to tell his story, he is happy to tell all. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Major Donors

The barriers for asking for large gifts from individuals are numerous.

"I need to do more research"
"The timing is not right"
"I don't know how much to ask for"
"The chairman should ask this one"
and lots more

Many of these are valid, but ultimately not asking is a failing strategy.  If you want to get $1m from someone then  you almost certainly need to build a relationship with them, and going straight in with an ask will not get you that $1m.  But done well, a smaller ask is unlikely to put them off their bigger one.  In fact, it is part of building a relationship.

If that person was already a donor, then there is some form of relationship already in place.

For example, to lift a donor from $500 - which they donate in response to your annual Christmas appeal - to $5,000 is much easier than following the full seven steps to developing major donors; and it helps bring them along the journey too, if you follow it up properly.

If you have a lot of higher value donors who donate to your appeals, but you don't really do anything else with them, try ringing them up and having a chat.  Ask them why they support you, if they have friends that do too.  Try and set up a meeting.  Maybe 1 in 3 or 4 will catch up with you.  There you can look to ask them for a more substantial donation.

It isn't that hard, and I have worked with many organisations to formalise this approach as a process, and with all but one it has led to significant extra income at little cost - and bringing those donors closer to a really big gift.  I call this 'Major Donors: Next Week" because you need to do it next week, or it doesn't work.

Lucky Australians can find out more about major donor fundraising from an excellent bunch of practitioners at the Fundraising and Philanthropy "Art and Science of Major Gift Fundraising" event at the end of the month.  A bargain at $600.  Check it out here.

Frankie Airey helped raise around $500m in one campaign.  Gulp.

Charlotte Grimshaw will also be speaking at the event.  She can help identify potential major donors from any list of donors.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Social media and fundraising; learnings from corporate world

The final session of day one at the WA state conference was with a young entrepreneur award winner, Tenille Bentley.
A very interesting session, beginning (like all social media sessions) with all the huge numbers but refreshingly localized for Australian market. Mind blowing numbers; I loved one analogy - as Australians continue to give up cigarettes they become addicted to Facebook. The infamous unfair break, the smoko, is replaced by the facebooko (or face-o).

Some good tips-
- Only worry about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.
- 80% of your social media communications should be about your topic, indirectly about you - only 20% about your products (something I call 'Fluff and Bite')
- don't think of social media with a 'what is the ROI' approach. That is like asking 'what is the ROI on my mobile phone'. It is about relationships
- gave example of peril of ignoring social media; someone working at Dominos spits in a Dominos Pizza, video goes viral, Dominos no idea why or what to do about it. Eventually they counter on YouTube and begin to recover sales
- always have policies that people agree to to allow you to remove inappropriate comments. But be aware they will just post them elsewhere
- all charities should have a Business Facebook page. Allows for analysis.
- great use of you tube, blender manufacturer blends things like iPads.
- how often should you update?
** Facebook 2 x a day on business page plus 5+ conversations on others walls
** twitter 5-10 days
** LinkeDIn once a day, business focus
** YouTube when you have something good and worthwhile
- biggest growth on Facebook is 55-65 year old women

Frightening end- managing a social media brand takes about 26% of a working week.

So if you haven't got time to do it, see her because that is what her company provides. Nice, subtle pitch!

Good stuff. The challenge for the fundraisers here is, of course, what role social media can have with their fundraising.

For me, social media is still best used for retention strategies, particularly for online and face to face recruited donors, and overlaying it with Game Layer is the best idea.

Tenille Bentley,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Maths and Fundraising at WA State Conference

I am at the FIA Western Australia State Conference listening to Paul Ramsbottom, a fellow fundraising geek. He is looking at revising the donor pyramid.

This is how the National Park Service in USA illustrates their donor pyramid.

Ken Burnett, who brought the donor pyramid to the attention of many of us in 1992, recently blogged that it was no panacea. Also, the Agitator (The American one, not me) recently blogged about it and how it was not really useful.

Paul agrees. The problem with the pyramid is that it infers people move along it. You bring them in, they make another gift, then another, then become an automatic donor, then a major donor and finally a legator. This doesn't really happen.

He is getting into some pretty neat maths stuff now - looking at state charts; a mathematical approach in this case looking how people change their state. The key question is what triggered the change in state.

A donor can, at any point, move from one 'type' to another. As time moves along, the state of the donor is only ever at one fixed point. He points out that this needs to be managed within charities - he says that Amnesty International in Australia are the only charity he knows of to be working on this topic. If you can't afford it (but have a database that justifies it) then simply outsource data entry and hire data analysts.

His second maths thing is graph theory. For those who haven't heard of this, it is simply the theory behind things like how LinkedIn suggests who you should connect with. Also called social network theory.

He shows how Jason Boley managed to use this to spot an incredibly important link between a donor, through the LA Foundation and to another donor - they would never have known without this connection.

The first network map is complex, but Jason drilled down, focusing on LA Foundation and Atlanta Foundation (the red nodes).

Drilling down we see these new connections - that were unknown to the university.

So. We have learned a little about state theory and graph theory, but what does that mean for you?

The key here is that the technology overlay changes the game through four things.
Speed, Scale, Automation and Analytics.

These two theorie will help you target better, saving money on marketing to the wrong people and increasing money by getting the right ones. And of course, major donor fundraising will benefit from networks discovered through graph theory.

Paul Ramsbottom

Direct Mail Acquisition Presentation at FIA WA

For those attending the conference, as promised, here is the presentation.
Click here.Even if you didn't attend, you are welcome to check it out!

Major Donors: Next Week

I am presenting at the FIA State conference in Perth.
One of my two sessions is all about major donors next week.
The bottom line is that the biggest obstacle to getting money out of potential major donors is the fear of asking.  So how do you get over that?

The presentation, and more useful information is below.
The FIA Presentation, in Prezi.
An explanation of Hitch-Hikers Guide to Major Donors
Identifying major donors

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The evil of communications departments

At the recent IFC Conference in the Netherlands, I did a session on story telling, and that all fundraising needs to revolve around stories.  Abstract and clever marketing, as well as stats and 'how clever are we' stuff just doesn't work.

Margaux Smith from UK agency bluefrog realised she was the devil.  (A devil with a good wit and prose though).

And another fundraiser's reaction on the masterclass to some of the tacky stuff that works...

Check out here what Margaux learned....


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Raising capital for fundraising investment: A new future?

Good fundraising programs have excellent returns.  Despite the constant nonsense about high cost of fundraising, most charities achieve extraordinary results from little funds.

Investing in direct mail, phone or face to face / direct dialogue can achieve amazing results for charities - an investment of $1m could generate between $500k and $1m net 'profit' every year for five years or more - a great return and better than the stock market.

According to Givewell, the top 100 Australian charities* by investment portfolio have about $6.8bn in reserve.  These reserves will be invested in property and traditional investment markets.

I have argued before that charities should consider fundraising as part of their investment portfolio.  The chart below shows how a decent fundraising program would outperform investments in property or shares, assuming they achieve an average of 8.4% and 10% respectively - both excellent returns in this day and age.

Clearly fundraising can be a better option, but it needs to be good fundraising built on proven techniques to be invest-worthy.

But what if you have no money to invest?  Although these big charities have plenty of money, most charities are simply not rich.  So how do they take advantage of the excellent returns fundraising can offer?

I know of one charity in the UK that borrowed money from a bank to invest in fundraising.  Another decided to use all of it's income to reinvest in fundraising - not doing any charitable work until it had enough capital.

But Scope in the UK has taken this to another level. Their fundraising shops are doing well, and they want to increase the number of shops from 250 to 350.  This will cost more than they have spare, so they are launching a bond.  This is the first I have ever heard of at this scale.

They are asking investors for $30m.  Just like a company would raise capital.  They will repay investors just like a company would.

Brave and Brilliant, and hopefully the start of a new trend of social investment portfolios.

More info here.

* As declared in annual reports 2009/2010.  Some charities in Australia so not produce annual reports, including some very big ones with very large reserves.

PS - thanks Jan Chisholm for the info!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Adrian Sargeant is brilliant

I was lucky enough to attend two of Adrian's sessions at the IFC. I say lucky because the first was packed and they were turning people away.

Adrian looks at the psychology of giving, and it is great stuff for example using 'social information' to increase average donations. Social information helps make people decide to make larger donations. By asking a couple of questions right before the ask, HUGE increases in donations are realized.

For example, when they tested a prompt v no prompt based on others' giving they got over 30% increase in average domation.

The prompt (to people who had not donated before) would be something like 'thank you for agreeing to donate, I just took a donation from someone else... They gave x amount. How much would you like to give?'

The control group, with no prompt had an average of $86.
A prompt at $75 got just $1 more, but prompts of $180 and $300 got averages of $96 and $111. Brilliant.

Tons of information here,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dan Pallotta

At the final hours of the IFC conference in the Netherlands. Nearly 1,000 Fundraisers here including 27 from New Zealand and Australia. Lots of great learning, and a very worthwhile conference to invest in.

The closing plenary was delivered by Dan Pallotta - and evangelist on cost of fundraising and fair compensation for charity employees. Great stuff, really great structured arguments and well worth listening to.

For you Australians, you don't need to leave the country to see him. He is presenting at FIA in February 2012 at the Gold Coast. As well as lots of other learning opportunities - with lots of great local trainers and Tony Elischer, Kay Sprinkel-Grace and Adrian Sargeant - the conference looks fantastic. I reckon this is one Fundraisers should drag their CEOs and CFOs along. for the conference. for information on Dan.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A fundraiser, fundraising

Please will you help me raise money for Amnesty International - and enjoy a good yarn too?

I am running a storytelling masterclass at the International Fundraising Congress and thought I would get it off to a good start with a story which has nothing to do with fundraising!

For just $3.99 (GBP2.49) you can buy my 'e-book' Haruki The Knife Maker and all the proceeds that I receive will go to Amnesty International.

Telling a good story is essential for making fundraising work. It doesn't matter what tactics you use, what good data selections or targeting you do or what staff you employ, you have to tell a good story.
For years now, I have been writing and directing stories to raise money for fantastic charities. So I thought I would write a special story that is not in my normal forte. I have decided to dedicate this story to Amnesty International and all the staff and volunteers there as well as the people who have survived human rights abuses - or are surviving right now. 
The story is just 4,500 words. It took my friend Tom Ahern about fifteen minutes to read in an airport lounge so it shouldn’t take you long.  This is what he said.

5.0 out of 5 stars
 Unforgettable tale, exquisitely illustrated
Thomas Ahern (Foster, RI USA) 
This review is from: Haruki the Knife Maker (Kindle Edition)
I wasn't prepared for Haruki to take over my life ... but he did. Sean Triner is a soulful writer. His folkloristic tale is poetic, clear-eyed, and quick ... a brilliant evocation of how the simple, orderly world of a masterly village knifemaker is torn to pieces by modern economics ... and Haruki's heart-wrenching journey to recover his livelihood. The surprise ending ... well, I'll leave that for readers to savor. The matching illustrations are lovely and apt. And all proceeds go to Amnesty International, a cause Sean Triner has advanced for years. Read it. Share it. Gift it to your Kindle-loving friends.
Joan Clarke at the Bedford Foundation had a glimpse of the story on my iPhone. The illustrations got her interest at first but "I started reading the story and was gripped straight away, it was thought provoking and very poignant. Without noticing, I had ignored my red wine and the rest of the group. Fifteen minutes flew by and I had finished the story, disappointed it had ended.  Thoroughly recommend it."
The official reviews have been great so far too. I do hope that you can spare the time to read it, and the $3.99 that it costs to buy. All the proceeds will be donated to Amnesty International.
The story is published as an ebook. If you have an iPad or iPhone, you can buy it easily through iBooks. It is also available on Amazon Kindle and various other ereaders. If you haven't an ereader, then you can buy it at Smashwords, or else donate at least $5 on my fundraising page and send me your email address and I will send you a copy.

Still not convinced? A load of reviews are below...

Thank you, and I hope that you enjoy it.

Airdre Grant, 5 stars.
"I found this to be a very elegantly written tale. It works as a fable for me as it tells an egaging story and also invites us to think about the relationship between violence and beauty, and the collision between old words and new, greed and sacrifice. I recommend it." 

Review by: Sharon Dopson, 5 stars
"What a beautiful fable, a sad very realistic view of our greedy changing world. I will recommend to all my friends." 

Review by: Alexbecky: 4 stars "This modern fable is beautifully illustrated and is a fascinating read. It really makes you think about the beauty of simplicity, and what can happen when both greedy capitalism and monolithic communism combine to destroy an ancient way of life."

Review by: Christiana Stergiou, 5 stars
"This is a wonderful, meaningful and easy to read book. It's simple language conveys a deep story that is a fable for our times. It is beautifully illustrated, too. It's sad to think that there have been many Harukis whose simple and sustainable existence have been sacrificed for our modern, convenient and consumerist lifestyle. I would love a set of Haruki's knives!" 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Tom Ahern at F and P Forum

Short lesson from from F and P Australasian fundraising forum...
Tom Ahern on newsletters. The purpose of the newsletter is kind of like the lessons from 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'. Tell your donors how good they are.

For example, the Gillette children's charity, instead of saying how good your work is 'At Gillette, medical pioneers set the standards for spine care' tell the donor how good they are. 'Zawadi says "Thank you" you helped Tanzanian girl stand tall on her own two feet'.

This lesson should of course apply to all donor communications.

It is not about you, it is about the donor. Getting this right will increase your income, period.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Better story telling

Many charities have proven that telling individual stories is more motivating for potential donors than throwing statistics and numbers at them.

Telling people that there are 10,000 people diagnosed with x disease per annum is not as effective as telling a story about one person with that disease, and what you can do to help.

Story telling hammers fact sharing when it comes to soliciting donations.

Assuming that you have already been convinced that this is the case, then the next stage is to write those stories in a really engaging way.

I often get involved in writing copy and a trick that I have found is that stories flow better, and are more engaging if they are personal, involving, directly thank the donor, and are witnessed.

By witnessed, I mean kind of like what preachers do. Don't just tell someone a story, make it personal. Since good direct mail letters should be written in first person singular, to a donor, the writer should be telling the story from their perspective,

In a story about someone with x disease, the writer should have met that person or their family. It is more compelling to say 'when I met Bill, I was shocked when he told me that...' 'it brought me close to tears...' than just saying something like 'let me tell you about Bill. He was diagnosed with ....'

Take a leaf from preachers - witness change.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Measuring the success of emails

The Australian tax year ends 30 June.  Our system for making donations tax deductible requires people to make a tax claim including their donation.  Anything they donate is tax deductible.

This has a large impact on giving patterns of large donations, but also gives charities a useful deadline, and excuse to create urgency.  Such as John Jeffries has done in the email below.

I have received five of these types of emails in the past 48 hours, which is good stuff. Gets more every year; every charity should do something like this.

But what should a charity measure to assess the emails?  The usual answer is to look at actual responses to the emails.  This is useful, but doesn't tell the whole story, and could be looking at money that would have been donated anyway.

For charities with less than about 5,000 email addresses of donors, I am afraid they will never know for sure; they won't be able to get a statistically valid test answer.  But, on balance - send the emails and trust that your donors are not that different from everyone elses. 

For charities with more email addresses  Without a properly structured test, the charity can never know for sure how much extra was raised.  So test.

Assuming you are mailing everyone and using email to support the mailing, the best structure for the test is:

1) Complete your mailing targeting as usual.
2) Ignoring the presence or absence of email addresses, split each 'cell' or group of donors into two; control and email.  Assuming that your mailing expects about 10% response rate in to  (eg donors who have donated once, in last 12 months, $26-$50 could be a cell)
3) Email all the people in the email group that you can. It could be that only half of them have email addresses; that doesn't matter, still call them the email group.
4) Measure the total giving at the end of the appeal; control v email.  See which one raised the most net income, and look at total response rates. Check they are statistically valid. 

The alternative approach is to just select all those with email addresses, and email half of them - making sure the split is random and that each cell has about the same number of control and email subjects.  Again, measure total giving at the end of the campaign - not just email donations.

If you email me your test results, confidentially, I will add my interpretation for you.

Good luck.  If you are an Aussie charity and haven't sent a tax time email, you have about three hours to do it in...


Monday, June 27, 2011

How many times to mail?

Last week the UK Fundraising Group on LinkedIn began a thread about how often to mail people.

So how often should you mail?

At Pareto we look at data and try to work out what the optimum communications program should be to maximize lifetime value from donors. Donors are very expensive to get on board, and it is imperative that you look at your data to maximize return on that initial investment.

The most important factor for whether someone will give to you is whether they gave to you previously. Then, the most important variables are how recently and how many times. The more recent someone gave, the more likely they are to give again.So, mailing, emailing or phoning more often means that you are constantly communicating with donors more recently, and therefore more likely to get gifts from them.

Also, the biggest cause of attrition is not giving for a while (!). Fewer communications mean that the gap between giving is greater. If you don't communicate very often your attrition goes up, not down. Unless your communications are not very good.When it comes to asking donors for a monthly gift we also note that there is an optimum time. It does vary slightly, depending on cause, channel of solicitation etc but it is always going to be within a couple of months of a gift.

Four to six weeks is the right place to start. We are not alone with this approach, anyone else who measures life time value and optimum 'conversion' timings finds the same answer.

And this does not appear to vary between countries. We took that learning from data in the UK and applied it in Australia to find the same. Analyzing data across other countries gives us the same result.This approach is not aggressive, and is not subjective or an opinion. It is maths. Across any given data set, increasing communications tends to increase the lifetime value of that data set. Not just short term income, but overall giving.

Managed well it should also increase your number of bequestors.Jeff Brooks of the best fundraising blog, Future Fundraising Now advocates at least thirty asks per annum. That seems a lot, but he says that he has never seen increasing the number of asks decrease the total value given.The limit on the number of communications is likely to be forced on you for internal reasons - your capacity to produce multiple communications.

Also, increasing the number of asks is likely to increase total given, and increase retention but each time it also increases costs and reduces the amount given on that occasion. Consequently an initial increase in ROI as you go from say four to eight communications will reverse and you will probably begin to see a decline as you go from say eight to sixteen.

Even so, net income is the best measure - not ROI - from warm mailings to your own donors. It is better to raise $700k at a cost of $300k than $500k at a cost of $100k. More donors, more security, more room for error, more legacy potentials etc = more money in the end.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

WNYC Radiolab podcasts

I am currently in South Dakota, on the Great Plains of the USA where I spent the day with some lovely people from St Joseph's Indian School.  We have been talking, unsurprisingly, about fundraising.

However, we did go off topic a little, when talking about cats and in particular, Toxoplasma.  This parasite is amazing - it makes rats and mice not scared of cats - in fact, they think they like cats.  Yummy says the cat!  Will it make humans like cats?

Ten minutes of listening to this will really change how you think about cats.

By the way, all the WYNC Radiolab podcasts are brilliant.  Public Broadcast Radio at its best.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

What's in a name?

""What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

William Shakespeare, through Romeo and Juliet may have had a point.  But actually, a common knowledge is useful, especially in teaching.

I presented two sessions at AFP last week, to a mostly American audience and spoke about two things - what we in Australia call regular giving and a method of recruiting them, called face to face.  

By regular givers, I mean someone who has money debited automatically again and again in an agreed time period, usually monthly.

By face to face, I mean the act of speaking with someone, in person, and asking them for such an automatic donation.

These two names don't really work.

To many fundraisers, a regular giver is, understandably, someone who gives - um - regularly. This could include people who donate every Christmas.  So regular givers is not the right term. The Canadian approach is to call them monthly givers doesn't quite work either, since some are quarterly and some are fortnightly.

As for face to face, many fundraisers have, for decades, referred to the act of asking major donors for money, in person, as face to face. So this confuses people. Even if you define what you are talking about, people need to train their minds to the crossed meaning, which reduces the impact of the point of the teaching.

My proposed solution is to grab the best descriptions that exist and make them universal (for English speakers anyway - I don't know where to start with Chinese or Spanish equivalents).

I recommend for monthly donors / regular donors / automatic debitors we take on the American descriptor:  "Sustainer".  It makes sense, isn't a re-branding of the word and is not ambiguous. 

For face to face / street fundraising / chugging we should go with the old British descriptor: 
"Direct dialogue."  I won't even complain about the inevitable American misspelling (Dialog) which is more environmentally friendly anyway.  (Think about it).

Anyone want to help me with the re-branding campaign?


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is nuclear energy a viable solution?

The pain and fear for people in Japan is truly horrible.  The government has lost credibility in what it is saying about the partial meltdown of the now infamous reactor 2 at Fukushima.  But what is the real data?

I am currently in Canada, having spent some time in the US where Americans have been buying iodine to such a degree that there were TV ads running in the USA informing people about scams around radiation treatments.

And when they said on the news that a pool of water had one million times the safe dose of radiation - what did that actually mean?  No wonder people - even across the Pacific - are worried with statements like that.

This superb graphic puts into perspective in a very easy way. Whilst the graphic makes you realise things aren't that bad (at this point in time) it doesn't take into account indirect effects of the nuclear industry - weapons and waste in particular.

I am still torn on nuclear energy as part of a solution for energy needs.  Just because it is not as bad as coal* does not necessarily make it a good thing.  Especially when weapons and waste are taken into account. But what, real alternatives are we going to actually take up?

* In terms of anticipated deaths, environmental impact etc - even including a Chernobyl size disaster every couple of decades, coal power appears to be worse than nuclear.  This blog has useful links to other relevant data sources.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cost of fundraising is the wrong measure

Several people at the AFP conference talked to me about how cost of fundraising (or required return on investment - ROI) was a challenging obstacle for their fundraising efforts. Especially if they were a small organisation or had a challenging 'type' of cause.  For example, it is easier to raise money for breast cancer than cystic fibrosis.

The state of Oregon in the USA is the latest place to totally misunderstand this concept.

Dan Pallotta tells you more here.  He also puts out a useful argument to present to your board about why it is the wrong measure.


AFP Congress presentation - monthly giving online

Here is my first presentation from the AFP - I hope that you find it useful whether you were there or not.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Second presentation at AFP - do your 5 day job in 3 days!

Today I presented a session titled "How to be so good at fundraising you only need to work afternoons 3 days a week".  I was a stand in for Jonathon Grapsas.  He came up with the title which is clever way of saying - do your data analysis!

This presentation is much more detailed, with the case studies not hidden so a massive wealth of information for you, even if you didn't make it along.

Hope it is useful.


Afternoons, 3 days a week
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

AFP 2011 Harvey McKinnon on monthly donors

Blog from Harvey McKinnon's session at AFP.  He is talking about 'How to Build.a Highly Successful Monthly Donor Program'

Right from the beginning some data - all organisations should be able to get 5% of their current donors to monthly giving. Some will get 20%.

Shocking - of 300 or so fundraisers, no one put their hand up to having more than 5,000 monthly donors.  Nearly all had less than 500. But at least half had some form of monthly giving program.

The USA really is behind Europe and Australia on embracing and growing monthly giving.

Why bother?
Monthly programs....
1. Increase income - value of the donor will at least double
2. Better relationships
3. Donors stay longer - monthly donors stay for ten years on average
4. Predictable - the money just keeps rolling in
5. savings
6. Income grows over time
7. Convenient for the donor

Although some monthly donors make their payments by cheque, as opposed to EFT or credit card they tend to be worth half of their automatic debited peers.

Myths about monthlies...

1. It didn't work - it may not work straight way, need to get the proposition right
2. Small amount of money, it is a lower average donation, but not over a year
3. Worries about access to bank and credit card info - insignificant number of people
4. Are donors too old - some old people will sign up, it is still worth it

So, you want to start a program? What are the essential components.

1. A donor base
2. An appealing mission - accept that some organisations are easier to fundraise for, but it works for pretty much every cause that can get single donors
3. An audit - what are you doing well?
4. Effective processing - must debit quickly and act when people drop off
5. Strong communications
6. Integrated marketing - don't talk about it, do it
7. Senior management support

Harvey was saying to take people out of general direct mail appeals programs once they become monthly donors. He did say there are some caveats, but we find that monthly donors who used to respond to direct mail appeals should still get them - but perhaps fewer, and always personalized and recognizing their monthly donation.

How much to ask for?

Try and tie the amount to something specific. 'Your $50 a month will buy...'

According to Harvey, the easiest method of gaining some monthly donors is having a monthly option on forms. This has worked really well for many charities, but at some point you should send specific monthly donor asks (my opinion not Harvey's).

Phones are a great way to do it too.  In his opinion there is not a lot to decide between the hone and mail. I say do both.

Harvey reckons that face to face (direct dialogue) can be too expensive to start for smaller organisations. 

Age is a huge factor on early attrition in Canada. This reflects the pattern in Australia. His data shows that average donations effect attrition too. The higher the average, the worse the attrition. To fix, always proactively downgrade young donors giving higher amounts.

Greenpeace and Amnesty are pioneers of monthly giving fundraising - check out their websites. They 'slice the salami' - 33c a day etc.

Showed a direct mail stoning pack - sending stones the same size as those used to kill women accused of adultery. It was a campaign, but all responders were asked for monthlies. They got 25,000. (I think he said that much - it is a lot!) 

Monthly programs are worthy it for example,  a specific charity where the average monthly donor gives 6x as much as their non monthly counterparts. It takes a while, but it is brilliant.

You should look after the donors though. Send them invites to special events, open house, send cards - give them a good experience.

Great session.  If you are at a conference and Harvey is speaking, even if you know about monthly giving you should go watch him.

For more on monthly giving, search this blog for 'regular givers' and 'fundraising is beautiful' and listen to the podcast on If you are at AFP, come to my sessions tomorrow! 

What do you say to identify a major donor prospect?

I am at the AFP conference in Chicago, listening to Eli Jordfald from the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Carolina.

Amazingly 85% of the major donor portfolio was developed from existing donors - smaller gift donors. The majority of these were ex patients. 

In the US, major donor fundraisers talk about 'The Discovery Call'. These are calls that connect people with what the organisation does. Physical, or by phone they are not really cold calls. Yet fundraisers still dread them.

Her first angle is to look at people who are already grateful. Ex-0atients are obvious choices, but other 'alumni' should be considered.  But you have to be quick. People are not grateful forever.

Her list for prioritizing targets is remarkably similar to the Pareto major donors next week program. 
- past donors
- first time donors (everyone!)
- alumni
- board
- donors to similar causes
- screened grateful patient lists

The screening is wealth screening - similar to the service that Charlotte Grimshaw offers through Fundraising Research.  

So you have a list. So what do you do next?

Discovery calls.  Whatever you do, at some point you have to call the prospect.  And listen. These are not sales pitch calls (unless the donor is not a major donor prospect), they are question sessions.

The purpose of the first call is not to get a visit but to asses whether a visit is appropriate. Be prudent - is it worth it? Visits are expensive.  And in that first call, be upfront about title.  Also, she says not to worry about avoiding discussing diagnosis. Ie ask them about their diagnosis and treatment.

If you do determine that the prospect is not a major gifts prospect, it is fine to ask during the call. Unless they give you a reason not to ask - ie the person says they are broke, just lost their house, gone bankrupt etc.

So, you get to speak to them, what do you say?

- Opening
- Assess interest
- Validate capacity
- Determine next steps

Examples of openers.... Introduce self, thank for previous gifts and ask something like 'I understand that you were recently at my hospital and I would be interested to hear about your experience there'

Examples of questions assessing interest.... Tell me about your personal experience
How do you see your involvement
Would you be interested in learning more about our research and clinical programs?
What areas interest you most in the field of cancer?

Basically, ask why they believe in your cause.

Examples of validating capacity questions....
- did you work while in treatment?
- now that treatment is over, do you plan to travel?
- do you have favorite organisations you like to support? .... Tell me about your involvement.

Examples of questions to determine next steps...
- I'm planning a trip to (your town) next week, would it be convenient to meet in person?
- I would like to invite you to a unique tour of the new cancer hospital
- would you like to tour ... Something else
For lower level people
- would you like to be a member of the .(donor club)

Now and then you will here people say you are in my will - make sure it is documented and they have the wording right.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fundraising is Beautiful Podcast Data 3 - F2F v non F2F

As I promised on the Fundraising is Beautiful Podcast, here is some more useful information on regular donors. This short presentation compares the implied life time value of average monthly donors recruited across a group of Australian and New Zealand charities (data is two years old now but the trends are the same).
F2 f v non f2f
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The worst disaster in developed world since WW2

At a scale greater than 911 or Katrina the devastation in Japan is surely our worst developed world disaster. The main differences between such huge human disasters in poor countries v rich countries are in media coverage and the ability of the nation to cope.

Whilst the number of people killed in Japan is huge and rising, the number of displaced persons appears to be comparable to the number of displaced people in Libya, yet the media has relegated the humanitarian crisis in North Africa to a bit part. We have Japan earthquake and tsunami, potential nuclear disaster and then the poetical impact of the Libyan crisis, political impact across other Arab and North African countries and maybe something about the North African humanitarian crisis.

The Japan disaster has also introduced a watershed in acceptable media coverage. Not long ago we weren't shown dead bodies, this time we were shown people fleeing for their lives, with neighbors screaming them on only to be caught up in the wave and had their lives extinguished in front of us, again and again.

The emotional impact is huge. I have no idea how it will affect fundraising. Appeals in Australia have been relatively low key so far - people are still shocked and no agency seems to be shouting for funds like they were over Christchurch and our local floods.

Unlike the floods, where there was a hastily constructed collecting tin in every pub, and no ten minutes on TV without an appeal there is no out-pouring of community spirit and people led fundraising here in Australia. I am sure millions will be raised but the impact on giving will be different. Only time will tell how.

What I do know, however, is that if you are are making decisions about your fundraising activites, and are not working in an organisation raising funds for the earthquake appeals then please, don't alter your plans. If you think the disasters will harm your fundraising so you postpone activities or cancel them then you are right, it will harm your fundraising - a lot more than if you carried on.

If you work in an organisation fundraising for the people of Japan right now, please don't forget the follow up. Check out to assess my point by point plaN against your own plans. It may be helpful.

In the meantime, please donate to Save The Children who have launched an appeal for Japanese children affected by the disaster,

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fundraising is Beautiful Podcast Data 2

The second of three bits of data on the value of regular givers, relevant to the recent podcast on Fundraising is Beautiful.It shows the value of regular givers recruited from thirty odd New Zealand and Australian charities.  (Australian and New Zealand charities, email Clarke if you want to come into next year's benchmarking program).SeanRg numbers for podcast part 2 value
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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fundraising is Beautiful Podcast Data 1

The first of three bits of data on the value of regular givers, relevant to the recent podcast on Fundraising is Beautiful.It shows the number of regular givers recruited from thirty odd New Zealand and Australian charities and what sources they came from.(Australian and New Zealand charities, email Clarke if you want to come into next year's benchmarking program).
Rg numbers for podcast part 1 recruitment x
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Fundraising is Beautiful - Data and information

During my recent interview with Fundraising is Beautiful, I said I would put up some data and information backing up some of the points I made.

If you want to know when they go up, please sign up for updates, and they will be going up one at a time - first one (data showing Australian recruitment numbers) is going up tomorrow.



Emergencies should not overwhelm

Emergencies Should Not Overwhelm
ImageIt always seems like there are more and more emergencies. This year fires, flood and earthquake have hammered Australia and New Zealand, as well as at least seven other countries. La Nina is not finished with us yet. The massive displacement of people in North Africa looks like it is just going to get worse, and the spectre of civil war raises its ugly head into the limelight again.

None of this takes away the needs caused by crippling diseases like arthritis, killer diseases like liver cancer, runaway species extinction and rainforest destruction. But let’s face it – it is the emergencies that get the news.

Colleagues and I have written about the perils of fundraisers holding off fundraising activities due to an emergency that doesn’t directly affect their charity. For example, a New Zealand cancer charity deciding to postpone its donor appeal due out the first week of March because of the earthquake. Few commentators disagree with our point that you should go ahead with your campaign.

But what if your organisation is directly affected? For example, if there is an earthquake, and your charity is a development agency tasked with helping out.

In this case, the emergency should affect your fundraising. If the event is gaining lots of media coverage, then it is likely that you are already affected by the phones ringing, and your website being overwhelmed.

Read the full article here.
Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here