Saturday, November 29, 2008

The sandwiches were great and the coffee even better..

In a recent posting I took aim at the awful food dished up at most fundraising conferences.

Kimberley Mackenzie was quick to point out that I would be pleasantly surprised at the food served up at the AFP Congress in Toronto. And she was right, the food was particularly pleasant, in fact the nicest I have had at any fundraising event to date.

But I did get more value out of the three days than the chicken breast served up at lunchtime on Monday.

In fact it was a fascinating three days, especially as this was the first time I had attended Congress and I had heard good things.

When I got the chance to deliver my session on Wednesday morning I talked about the four things that stood out in my mind as being 'topical' during the previous couple of days. Namely:

The 'Obama' effect. No real surprises here. Everyone, not just fundraisers, are talking about the US Presidential elect. My take on this was as follows: yes his fundraising team did an amazing job. But let's not try and emulate what he/they did. We simply can't. Rather than getting distracted trying to, just take out the key points. And for me the big thing that I would take out of his campaign (which many charities struggle to do) is deliver a clear and consistent message. Every time he spoke he and his party stood for one thing, change. If only we could emulate this single focused approach whenever we communicate with donors. Don't confuse them, but inspire them and make it clear what you want them to do.

Kiva. If you don't know about this little beauty then you should. The organization that facilitates mirco-lending for those budding entrepreneurs in the developing world.

My worry about mentioning this so frequently is that many are looking to be 'the next Kiva'. And when you're a small grass roots organization, you need to worry and concentrate on what matters most. Where your next dollar is coming from. How you can service your donors better. How you can have the biggest impact. Not star gazing at Kiva and wondering 'what if'..

Digital fundraising. What fascinates me about this (and hand in hand with this, the 'direct mail doomsayers') is that for as long as I have been attending fundraising conferences around the world, the last seven years to be precise, 'they' (the doomsayers) have been saying the same thing.

Now I'm not here to solely beat the drum of direct mail BUT I can tell you one thing.. it ain't dead. And I can tell you something else. Online givng won't be taking over 'traditonal' methods of giving anytime soon. Certainly not in terms of giving levels. In one sesion I saw data that suggested that around 2% of giving from individuals in Canada is donated online.

Broadly speaking that is backed up by the benchmarking work we have been doing lately (which I blogged about earlier in the week) at Pareto Fundraising which shows that whilst direct mail isn't necessarily growing rapidly, it certainly brings in a massive chunk of income for many, many charities, here in Canada and abroad.

'Recession' impact. Loads of discussion and crystal ball gazing on this one. Lots of data shown to suggest (including in my session) that to date (although I appreciate things are prone to change very quickly) individual giving is still strong across the sector, but guess what... corporates are the first ones to leave you, if they haven't already...

More info on this can be found on the Recession Watch blog.

So was it a worthwhile week? Of course. Lots of interesting debate and discussion. Lots of interesting people generating the discussion and lots of ideas floating around my head about how to move my clients programs (and the sector) forward.

Oh, and of course, just to reiterate some really good sandwiches to top things off nicely. I can't wait for next year!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Aussies and Canadians really are alike... now I have the data to prove it!

I accept there are some subtle differences.

Canadians obsess about hockey. Australians obsess about football and cricket.

Canadians say 'eh'. Australians say 'no worries'.

We're talking semantics now. And in the eight months I have been living in this beautiful country I have been banging on about (see my recent blog on this) how alike Canadian and Aussie donors are.

And now I have some data to prove it.

On Friday I delivered the first round of the Canadian Benchmarking study that we at Pareto Fundraising have been working on with nine fantastic Canadian charities over the past five months.

And whilst I won't reveal all of the key findings (you'll have to join the cooperative to get the complete lowdown!), there are some fascinating insights that are worth sharing (and that are frighteningly similar to what we have experienced 'down under'), namely:

- The economic downturn is NOT currently impacting negatively on individual giving to date (up to June this year): in fact collectively the group has increased income levels from individuals, BUT organizational giving is down from the same time last year.

- Those charities that have invested in growing their monthly giving file are seeing the payoff from this focus with ongoing and committed support increasing rapidly over the last five years, whereas conversely one-time cash gifts have stagnated in the same period.

- Major gifts (for the purposes of this exercise we are talking over $1k (CAD) have been growing steadily both in terms of number of gifts and their level of total donations. **With a health warning that this was for the first half of the calendar year and this is one area that we may see a downturn in from July onwards.

Overall there are strong similarities between the performance of Australian and Canadian charities in terms of where growth is coming from and which areas are having an impact on the sector.

For more information on just how Canadian charities are stacking up, get in touch with me at or call me on +1 416 786 4059.

And for those going to the AFP Congress in Toronto starting tomorrow, I look forward to seeing you there!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fundraisers helping raise funds for fundraisers

That's a bit of a mouthful isn't it?

Well, that's the premise behind a brilliant new initiative called The Fundraisers Fund set up recently by the Resource Alliance and charity specialists The Good Agency.

A simple model. Fundraisers coming together to donate a few dollars, pounds, euros - to help fundraisers in the developing world have the same training opportunities that we in the developed world sometimes take for granted.

Now given my obsession with investment in personal development and training (see my latest rant) I was drawn to this idea and quickly signed up. How could I not when I looked at the gallery and saw some images of some of the bursaries from the recent International Fundraising Congress held in Holland.

We think we have a tough job as fundraisers (which we do). Imagine doing it with no training and development budget, little access to some of the world's best fundraising practitioners and working on a shoestring..

Makes you stop and think.

Ok enough thinking. I have signed up.

Will you help get a fundraiser from the developing world to a fundraising conference?

If so visit The Fundraisers Fund to join now!


Friday, November 14, 2008

Getting more from conferences than really bad sandwiches...

For some, fundraising conferences mean horrible sandwiches and really bad (almost airline like bad) coffee..

I know that's what it often means to me!

But seriously..

I often wonder what delegates goals are when they attend such conferences. Is it to look at what others are doing and rip it off? Is it to satisfy you or your board that you are delivering 'industry standard' or better results? Is it to meet some fellow fundraisers?

Or is it just to get out of the office for a couple of days? That's the cynic in me coming out now..

Let's face it. Conferences are expensive. And I'm not talking about the registration and travel costs. But YOUR time! Often we forget to factor that in when we work out the real costs of training and development.

So my point is - make the most of your time at any conference or training you attend. You owe it to your employer and more importantly, your beneficiaries.

I'm really (no seriously, REALLY) excited about the upcoming AFP Congress in Toronto in two weeks time.

For a number of reasons. It's my first Congress since moving to Toronto. I'm told it's a great conference (by lots of people who attend LOTS of conferences). I'm speaking - which I love doing.

But most of all, there are close to 1,000 delegates attending. And if I can't walk away from three days of meeting other fundraisers, attending sessions, listening (an undervalued skill as a fundraiser) and the occasional social event with a minimum of three brilliant ideas then I don't think my time (and Pareto Fundraising's investment) has been well spent.

So that's my challenge to you. Three ideas and three concrete actions from the next training event you attend.

Go away from there and make real change. Do I sound a wee bit like the Democratic party now? :)


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cracking on with it and efffective donor engagement..

I had the pleasure of meeting with Dave and Leisha from a brilliant organization called Meal Exchange yesterday.

They had recently attended one of Pareto Fundraising’s workshops on donor engagement and I had arranged to meet with them to find out about what they do, and hopefully give them decent and useful advice.

We had a great chat over an hour so and I met their lovely dog who wanders round the office, brushing up to your leg occasionally.

But the best part of our catch up was when they showed me this brilliant thank you video clip they had developed for participants and sponsors in their recent Trick or Treat campaign.

In the workshop they came to, we had showed another example of a great thank you video that a small, grass roots charity had developed. So these guys just cracked on with it and within a few days had developed this. Well done guys – bloody great stuff.

Not only that but they wrote a fantastic, heartfelt thank you to their participants of which, I loved the copy below which told (a personal story) of how this program can change lives.

“ … One Trick or Eat participant was standing on the sidewalk with her grocery cart full of food, the rest of her team was visiting another house. As she stood there, a boy around 10 years old came up and asked what she was doing. She explained that she was trick or treating, but instead of candy she was asking for donations for the food bank. Without a word the boy upended his bag of candy into her cart and walked away. This is just one of the many stories from Trick or Eat that illustrate the generosity that exists in our communities…”

Hats off to Dave and Leisha for getting on with it (or as well call it as Pareto fundraising, JFDI – I’ll let you work out what that stands for)… and not just getting on with it, but applying some simple but effective donor care and engagement.

Keep up the great work guys.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Canucks and Aussies behave the same...?

Thats what I am expecting to see next week when Pareto Fundraising releases our first Canadian Benchmarking report.

The cooperative we have formed pools the data from nine leading Canadian charities: WWF Canada, Amnesty International Canada, Médecins Sans Frontières, the David Suzuki Foundation, Care Canada, Street Kids International, CBM (Christian Blind Mission), Canadian Feed the Children and the BC Cancer Foundation.

Firstly, hats off to these brilliant organizations for being early adopters to this exciting initiative.

The exercise will allow us to take a good look at what is happening with some of the leading charitable organization's in this country. Where growth is coming from, what's working and what isnt and what impact (if any) is the global economic downturn having on Canadian non profits. (For more info on that visit our Recession Watch blog).

Now if I had a dollar (or what's commonly referred to as a 'loonie' over here) for every time someone said to me "...but Canadian's are different..." then my retirement would come a few years early.


Just like Brits, Aussies, Kiwis - Canadian's behave the same. I'm talking as donors right now. We have proved this in Hong Kong over the past year and a half after being told repeatedly that the Chinese culture was very different, that they wouldnt respond to fundraising techniques developed in the Western world etc. And guess what... they did! At ridiculous levels.

So I fully expect to see the same trends, behaviours and patterns from Canadian donors as we have seen at Pareto Fundraising in other markets.

Oh, and if you're interested in finding out more about this exciting project let me know.


Friday, November 7, 2008

You may remember back in August I posted a blog called Its not you, its me.
I talked about the fact that often we get caught up as fundraisers writing about us, rather talking to donors about them, and more importantly, their beneficiaries.

I'm revisiting this because its so bloody important!

Sean Triner wrote about telling personal stories in his blog yesterday when referring to thew story Obama gave in his election speech about the 106 year old Atlantan woman.

And I read a gret story in Canadian Fundraiser recently from Alan Sharpe which talked about turning statistics into a compelling story. The copy he references is fantastic.

This was the first line of a 'thank you' letter he discovered from a hospital to newly acquired monthly donors...

"Dear Mr. Sharpe,

I shook hands with our country’s youngest heart transplant patient the other day, and he asked me to thank you. You are now a vital member of the team that’s keeping Brad alive."

I love it.

The personal and heartfelt tone is brilliant. Its all about you (the donor) and is real and moving.

As Penelope Burk, one of the leading authorities on thanking in our sector has written, we (charities/fundraisers) need to find unique ways of saying thank you because let's be honest most thank you letters are rolled out from the year before, which were used the year before that...

You get the picture.

The one above was truly unique and stood out from the clutter.

So the message for the day, use personal and human stories - and don't forget to continue using them in thank you letters.

Look how powerful they can be.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Change, change, change

The key word in the US Presidential election.

And as I sat on my couch last night trying to come to grips with such a monumental occasion, I tried to put my finger on the key ingredient in Obama's campaign. (And of course, always trying to find something to blog about)!

And then it hit me. Consistency in message. Clarity. Single focus.

Yes there was some brilliant fundraising. And yes he captured the attention of millions of Americans, not to mention a record voter turnout (the biggest in America in 100 years).

But for me, Barrack Obama and his team kept it simple. And very focused. It was all about change.

In fact if you check out Obama's website today, just hours after the victory, plastered all over the site is that six letter word time and time again.

Consistency and clarity.

The change message encapsulates so many things. Change for the American people, change on their position in Iraq, change on climate change action, on economic reform.

But the Obama campaign has never missed a beat when ensuring that word (in case you missed it, it is change) is always at the heart of their messaging.

And as I have banged on about several times before, charities often fall foul on keeping a clear, consistent and single focused message.

Don't conflict or confuse donors. Let's learn from Obama's message and make some changes today!


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Getting the basic's right...

I've talked lots over the last few months about getting back to basics when it comes to caring for your donors.

Check out my latest instalment on this subject in Mal Warwick's latest newsletter.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Are you tuned in?

I've just finished reading a great book called Tuned In, a really easy read about how to connect deeply with your customers, or in our case, donors.

But before you tune out, it's valuable for anyone, regardless of whether you are a fundraiser, work in an agency or any type of service delivery for that matter.

The book shows you six simple, but powerful ways to creating products, ideas or services that resonate with your buyers.

I love it because it changed my mindset, and when you're a tad stubborn like I can be, thats not easy to do.

The premise of the book is getting you to think about what your buyers, customers, whatever you call them want.. rather than you forcing upon them what you think they want.

So why am I blogging this?

Because I reckon for fundraisers this rings true. We often/mostly tell donors what we think they want to hear, rather than what they actually want to hear.

I'm not talking about asking them how often they want to be mailed (because that is destructive), but being Tuned In to what donors want to hear, what resonates with them and for these very special people, what empowers them.

I work with my clients on developing communications that are relevant, timely and incredibly personal. We ask donors questions about their motivations for support, what makes them tick and what they think about us.

Then we develop communications that reflect their individual desires.

So, don't become tuned out. And read Tuned In.