Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Selling real 'benefits'

I was catching the subway yesterday in Toronto when I saw an advertisement by the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) for their weekly metropasses.

I shook my head in disbelief when I was reading the respective 'benefits' of getting a weekly pass. I'm thinking some creative guy in an ad agency was clutching at straws when he came up with this as the 4th benefit listed..

"Access through Automatic Entrances"

What the?

Now correct me if I'm wrong but even if I have a token rather than a weekly pass I can go through the automatic entrance. But seriously, why the hell would that convince me to get a weekly pass?

It wouldn't.

It did at least get me thinking however about how charities sell 'benefits'.

And I have to say that I'm often amazed and disappointed when charities say things like this to people..

"As a benefit of becoming a monthly donor, we'll send you quarterly newsletters, and we'll ensure you don't get mailed any further appeals".

Huh? How the bloody hell are those benefits?

For starters, a newsletter is not a benefit. Most charity newsletters are rubbish/garbage/crap (use whichever vernacular depending on where you are in the world).

Simply because they aren't personal, they try to do a million things badly rather than a few things well and focus mainly about the organization rather the people that matter: donors and benefactors.

Before you lambast me for such a big statement, there are of course exceptions. But they are that, exceptions. And trust me I've looked at hundreds of newsletters all over the world.

Additionally, getting less appeals/contact is not a benefit. In fact it's downright stupid on the charities behalf as monthly donors (excluding certain types like those recruited on the street) are the best responders to appeal mailings.

That's beside the point. Benefits don't have to be physical, tangible things you 'get'. In fact more often than not they are intangible.

For example if I support a cancer organization who funds cancer research, benefits may include:

- Helping support world class research that may lead to a breakthrough in

- Insuring the safety and health of myself and my loved ones by supporting research that aims to cure cancer in my lifetime.

You get the point. It isn't necessarily about getting a glossy newsletter or a promise to leave me alone for the next 12 months, it's about showing me how my support will make a difference and the feeling that I get from that.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cash is King: but is it really?

Cash in King.

Well that's what our Finance Director keeps telling me. And I guess when running an agency, he is dead right.

But let's face it, when it comes to generating new charitable direct response donors, cash really doesn't stack up anymore.

Consider this: when we look at the balance of cash versus monthly givers recruited through the benchmarking we undertake at Pareto Fundraising invariably we find the balance stacked heavily towards more cash donors recruited.

Often up to five times as many cash donors are recruited in a period than ongoing, monthly donors.

Yet when you compare the retention rates, even those channels delivering the lowest retention rates (typically street/door recruited donors, followed by DRTV) still retain around 75%-80% of monthly donors per year.

Contrast this with cash recruitment. When we recently looked at this the average 2nd gift rate (I.e. those donors who gave a cash gift and then gave a subsequent cash gift) it was as low as 30%. In other words, around 70% never gave again.

Of course the obvious rebuttal is that monthly donors are much harder to recruit and the cost per acquisition is higher, but the pay off long term is a no brainer.

In other words, you might pay more for a monthly donor upfront, and it may be bloody hard work finding them, but when you do, it's difficult to find a case for recruiting onetime cash donors through your direct response program.

So cash might be king when balancing the books, but it ain't when finding your next group of donors.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Getting the real lowdown on what makes your donors tick

I've covered this in the past, but was reminded this morning about efforts to genuinely engage when I read this post on the Agitator about online loyalty building.

The post rightly points out that when building relationships, it's simply best to ask donors which aspects of your work they want to hear most about.

I touched on this during my three past survey posting back in January.

Collection and using personal (demographic type) data is an interesting one. There isn't any real evidence to prove that it makes an ounce of difference in the short term. I.e. referencing that someone has in the past supported your work in Africa doesn't increase response to an appeal that talks about that area.

However transactional data does make a difference. Asking someone for a gift which is based on a previous giving level, repeated throughout copy, within a letter for example, does help increase the performance of the appeal.

The repetition increases the response rate. And if you base the ask amount on an amount they have previously given and increase it (say 1.5 times their highest appeal gift) this increases the average gift.

This makes perfect , logical sense.

I digress.

The use of the non-transactional, more warm and fuzzy personal information works long term. I have seen loads of examples of where clients have captured this type of data and then used it appropriately.

Over time, and by doing all the other things that they should be doing (feeding back, updating, asking appropriately, thanking), this has resulted in big increases in donors propensity to become a monthly giver, leave you a bequest an even over time begin to give you more through your appeals program.

Here are some examples of how you could use different types of personal data to get closer to your donors which makes them feel they are genuinely cared for.

- If you are a health/medical research organization, ask whether they have a personal affliction with your cause (I.e. knew and possibly lost someone to cancer).

- If you are an animal welfare organization, find out their pet names and replay this back to them from time to time.

- If you are a child sponsorship agency, nice and easy - you update them on the progress of their sponsored child.

- If you are an environmental group, find out the areas your donors love, the wildlife they adore or the projects that you are working on that they are motivated by.

- If you work in development, ask your donors which area or country are they most interested in, or the issue they feel is of most importance.

Bottom line is, there are ways to get closer to your donors. It's simply not good enough to use the fact that you are not a child sponsorship organization as an excuse for not engendering a level of commitment and closeness.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The simple, yet happy lives of the locals on Amantani Island

I'm back from a 2 week hiatus. Well, my two week South American 'adventure'.

The highlight being trekking the challenging Inca trail over four days and arriving at the spectacular Machu Pichu, the lost city of the Inca's. Amazing stuff.

The lowlights? There were many. Mainly frustrations like road blocks due to farmers strikes, train strikes, almost having a car accident.. oh, and getting caught in the middle of a football riot. Fun and games.. but part of the 'experience'.

But this isn't my facebook page so I won't bore you with my personal journey and pull out scrapbooks and slide shows of my trip.

Though I did want to share my other trip highlight, and that was spending a night with a local family on Amantani Island.

This beautiful island on Peru's Lake Titicaca is home to just under 4,000 people. This was a real eye opener and a very moving and humbling experience.

The locals there have no electricity, no running water, no real income and survive on almost entirely locally produced goods, which usually involves no meat. The staple diet is vegetables, rice and pasta.

Their existence is simple, but they are happy.

Their lives are uncomplicated, and they live long.

So what are you on about Jonathon? What did you learn?

That we can occasionally turn the crackbery, errrr Blackberry off and the world won't spontaneously combust (hard for me to get my head around before this visit).

That even the most basic existence can truly make people happy.

That fundraising from the frontlines really is the best way possible. Now, I wasn't there to fundraise, but boy can I tell a story about these amazing people having visited there? It prompted me to again think of the need to get closer to our work in order to tell stories.

This really was a humbling experience. I was completely disconnected from the rest of the world living with these people for a day. They reminded me of the importance of good health, family and the need to smile.

Some subtle but important life lessons and reminders amidst lots of doom and gloom.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

I´m on holidays and will be back soon..

I haven´t forgotten about my blog, I´m actually on holidays.

In fact I´m sitting in my hotel lobby in Cuzco, Peru about to begin the Inca trail and arrive in 4 days time at Machu Pichu.

I´ll be back online and full of lots of posts on Monday the 20th of April.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Easter break.


Friday, April 3, 2009

Social networks and strategic alliances: the 'word' from a fundraising guru

Well, I’m back in Toronto and pondering my first trip to New Orleans.

Day 2 was full of meeting lots of interesting people in the hallways and after sessions.

I went to a session about using blogs to fundraise. Some interesting stuff there, whilst fairly basic. But some real pragmatic advice about how to use blogs to your organizations advantage and some simple tips to actually raising some money on the back of it.

I quite enjoyed Ted Hart’s session on Success Online. Not least because for someone’s whose career has centered around online fundraising and who has made a living on the back it, said the following:

“You don’t have to have social networks integrated into your fundraising to succeed right now”.

Hallelujah! Well said Ted. Let’s face it, Ted has a vested interest in the online space but was prepared to say that. Respect!

He did go on to say that he felt it will play a big role, granted. But pointed out that there was no point trying to be clever with peripheral things like social media if you haven’t got your house in order with genuine online and offline integration in the first place.

What I also liked about Ted’s session was that right upfront when talking about how he felt charities should manage these times is to seriously consider mergers and strategic alliances. Very poignant and link’s to Sean Triner’s blog from yesterday on this very matter.

Yesterday I delivered my session which went well. The attendees were a good bunch and I had fun.

All in all a worthwhile few days.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Learning’s from ‘the big easy’: day 1

I’m sitting in the hotel lobby of my hotel in New Orleans, making some last minute changes to my presentation which I’m delivering tomorrow at the AFP International conference in New Orleans. (I should be telling you that it was finished weeks ago, blah blah blah, but this is the reality!)

Thought it would be worthwhile to note the key highlights from day 1 of the conference.

I kicked off the day by going to Penelope Burke’s session on Philanthropy in a turbulent economy. Burke revealed the findings from her latest research on donor trends and attitude toward giving that were conducted earlier this year in the US, which reached out to 1m donors and received 22,000 responses.

Some of the noteworthy fining that I took from this session:

• Whilst there was a bias toward donors using ‘over solicitation’ as a reason for discontinuing support of organizations, Burke went to on to say that over solicitation didn’t equate to a certain number of times people were asked in a given period, but that this meant ‘under communication’, in other words being asked far more than being cared for and fed back to about where their money was making an impact.

• Despite what intuitively many might have thought, there was no significant change in the types of organizations donors planned to support in 2009. Whilst it may be thought that human services org’s may be the ones to see increased support, this was not reflected in the findings.

• Half of those who responded said they were willing to make sacrifices in their life to continue their support of nonprofits.

I then wandered down to hear Dr Tom Steiner talk about transformational leadership in tough economic times. This was a truly entertaining session, with no PowerPoint! Tom talked about matters as varied as developing a 30 second pitch for your cause, through to practical ways for real leaders to inspire others in their organization. He resonated well with me when he commented that in the most part people are emotional and make emotional rather than rational and data led decisions in their lives.

Jon Duschinsky then kept us equally engaged with his session on Philanthropy in a flat world. Jon talked about the emergence of businesses infiltrating ‘our’ sector and starting to do charitable things that we hadn’t previously had to encounter, therefore adding to the competitive space we operate in. He also talked about the need for us to rationalize and figure out what the hell we (I.e. each organization) truly are the best in the world at doing and focusing our energies on those things rather than trying to be everything to everyone.

Day 2 is now upon me, which means I'm even closer to delivering my session. Time for more coffee and less PowerPoint slides..