Saturday, May 30, 2009

"What are we in this game for?"

This quote provided the 'lightbulb' moment for me during yesterday's AFP Toronto Fundraising Day.

It came from Rahul Bhardwaj, President & CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation, quoting Winston Churchill during World War II.
The context around this was that Rahul was asked how to handle situations in the current climate and whether it should be business as usual, or time to retreat like a frightened turtle.

He quoted Churchill's famous speech to explain that it's not about balancing the books and protecting endowments. It's about changing lives and real outcomes.

We're in this business to change the world, so get on with it. Don't cut back on investment in fundraising, history suggests those who do flounder, and those who crack on with it flourish.

There were plenty of other moments of clarity yesterday, but this resonated with me most.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

'Email' the next big thing in social media? Huh?

My Pareto Fundraising colleagues and I contribute to the blog over at Professional Fundraising.

Today as I was checking the latest posts from fellow bloggers, I was taken by Jonathan Waddingham's post. Not just because we share the same name, but because his entry was interesting.

Jonathan's entry entitled Email – the (old) new media caught my eye.

The gist of it was that disciplined, strong and well executed fundraising emails were at the moment were more powerful than the potential of stuff like twitter and facebook.

In his words, "A well written email, sent at the right time, to the right person, telling the right story is an incredibly powerful tool for any charity."

Well said.

Anyway, it's an interesting post, and reinforces the importance of doing direct marketing things right, and in a disciplined fashion, before getting really excited and rushing off to start 'tweeting'.

I'm off to AFP Toronto's Fundraising Day tomorrow. I look forward to bringing some interesting bits and pieces that we can all learn from.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Data, data, data..

Yes I love it. Enough to blog about it at 5pm on a Monday afternoon.

But data doesn't have to be about spreadsheets and complicated models. That certainly doesn't press my buttons (although it might to Mr. Poindexter in the photo attached)..

Using data cleverly is about uncovering insights that allow you to make decisions to either reaffirm what you're currently doing or change something to make it work better (and raise more money).

It's topical for me now as I'm actually writing a regular column for Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy around how to use data to grow your program.

So, two columns in and I thougtht I'd share them. Especially as when talking about data I recently promised to "make it sound less daunting, more exciting"

The power of data: fueling program growth with donor information

The power of data part 2: how looking around at others can raise more money for your cause

Let me know what you think.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Have we got over the 'R' word?

Three months ago every single fundraising, direct response, marketing blog talked almost daily about that big bad, dirty word.

You know, the 'R' word. Do I need to say it?


In fact you will remember I imposed a ban on that nasty word for a week back in January.

So, what's happened since then?

Social media seems to have replaced the economy as the buzz topic. And let's face it, that's not a bad thing.

I figure we have all just decided to 'get over it' and crack on with business. Which is great, because that's the message many of us were trying to get across. Don't worry about things you can't control and just do the things you know you should do. Simple.

In fact I've refused to allow the 'R' word to creep into my vernacular. Not when discussing my client's fundraising programs, or when I talk to my board about the progress of my agency.

I just don't see the point. It's tough, yes. But I believe in knocking down barriers, not building them for ourselves. It can be a cop out at times.

Anyway, I'm glad we seem to have moved on and have got back to focusing on what we do best, fundraising.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bookmarking some cool stuff to help you become a better fundraiser

I often try and remind myself that blogging isn't just a forum for me to rant. Ok, well most of the time it is..

I digress.

Today I wanted to share some useful fundraising and direct marketing resources to check out.

Some blogs to have fun with

There are the obvious sites you may be familiar with, like Donor Power Blog and The Agitator, both brilliant because they have interesting, sometimes challenging and always up to date stuff on there.

Another one that you may not know about but that I'd also suggest checking out is Ted Grigg's blog. It has a direct marketing (not necessarily fundraising) bias. Really practical backed up with lots of data. Worth some of your time spent here.

Of course, I also have a list of a few other favorites posted on the right hand side of the page here and it would be remiss of me to give them a shameless plug.

A book you need to get your hands on

A good mate and colleague Jon Duschinsky just released his book, philanthropy in a flat world. Jon talks about the challenges we face as fundraisers today and conversely the opportunities we are presented with living in a 'flat world'.

In particular I love the part where Jon talks about how charities really need to rationalize and decide what the hell they really are better than anyone else at and how they should focus on that, and that only. There is a great case study to back up his views on this.

A website that's a must to follow

You can't go past SOFII, the showcase of fundraising innovation and inspiration. If you haven't yet registered for this FREE site with LOADS of great fundraising and communications bits and pieces, then do it now.

You'll find campaigns from charities all over the world, commentary and opinion from some of the world's leading fundraisers and if I haven't mentioned it already, it's all available to you for FREE. Go and register now.

So there you go. No ranting today, just pointing out some resources to help you become a better fundraiser.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Humber students rocking Canadian fundraising, but is social media doing the same?

I've said it once, I'll say it again. The fundraising program at Humber College in Toronto rocks.

More importantly, the students there are highly motivated, smart and well educated in the world of fundraising.

Oh, and not to mention they can run a mean fundraising conference. Heck, they even stood on the side of the road, much to the amusement of passers by I'm sure, with signs pointing us in the right direction. That's what I call commitment! See attached photo..

Today I attended and was fortunate to speak at their all day Humber Initiative on Philanthropy, which attracted around 60 fundraisers.

I joked that I'd been given the tough gig. I was asked to talk about the role of social media and to take the angle that it was just a waste of bloody time. After I'd ranted for 20 minutes Sudha from HJC New Media had the right of reply to talk about why it was such an important area for fundraisers to explore.

I think I surprised a few with my balanced argument. Let's face it, there are loads of reasons why we should be doing it: social media usage is skyrocketing, other channels like the mail not growing and in some cases declining, the advent of new ways to communicate with people through technology including the newest fad, twitter.

And then I cautioned delegates as to why it was dangerous to invest too much time focusing on this stuff right now:

- There is no evidence to date that social media has risen any substantial money so far. Check out this post on the Agitator with some recent data.

- There are other areas that are still growing here in Canada. Monthly giving being the best case in point. Recruiting on the street is bringing in hundreds of thousands of donors and millions of dollars for charities. Likewise other direct response channels.

- Direct mail, whilst not necessarily growing, is still delivering a big chunk of income to protect. (In our Canadian benchmarking study at Pareto Fundraising last year we found that the mail still accounted for almost one quarter of income for the charities involved, on an annual basis).

- Charities are generally pretty poor at caring for donors. With seven years of mystery shopping charities all over the world under my belt - I'm often amazed at why the hell we're so obsessed with 'new stuff' when we can't get our house in order when it comes to looking after the lifeblood of organizations, our donors. Lack of thanking, not responding to enquiries, poor communications in general. I could go on..

And finally, who really knows what to do in this area? I'm not saying there aren't some really smart people in this area, Sudha Krishna is one of them.

BUT do we really know for sure what we should so, or is it the blind leading the blind? I fully encourage testing and trying new things, but not at the expense of stuff that works. Things that have a big impact on your beneficiaries.

There was certainly some lively discussion after Sudha's 20 minute gig. Interestingly, we didn't really disagree. Sudha commented that we definitely need to embrace social media and spend some energies on it, but not necessarily at the expense of other tried and tested mediums. He showed a couple of case studies how things like twitter had bought people together and raised some serious dollars.

All in all a healthy, and no doubt, ongoing discussion.

There were lots of highlights during the day. We were treated to a great session on harnessing the power of youth volunteers from Dave Kranenburg and Denny Young and listened intently as Mark Sarner walked us through some brilliant examples of organization's truly understanding how to develop and live a brand.

And finally we were blown away by the exuberance and inspiration of 13 year old philanthropist, motivational speaker and author, Bilaal Rajan.

To the gang at Humber, kudos to you. A super day, pulled together by a super bunch with a big future.

To the world of social media, we will watch with baited breath to see whether you will rock the world of fundraising ..


Friday, May 8, 2009

Data is just plain dull to most people...

To me, it's not. But clearly I am a data geek of sorts.

I'm not a number cruncher, data analyst type, but I love gleaning insights from meaningful data and helping charities on the back of it.

But after several years of doing this, I think the penny had dropped for me.

Most people find data incredibly dull, and somewhat frightening.

I presented yesterday at the AFP Ottawa Fundraising Day. My session was entitled, Using donor insights to drive growth in your direct marketing program.

The session description said that I was going to talk about the different types of data available to drive your program forward, blah blah blah...

Just 18 people showed up.

That included the session host, the session volunteer and two people from one of our competitors checking us out.

Of course the session focusing on online and raising more money from your website was packed to the rafters, not a seat left. The mere mention of the world online at conferences sends delegates into a super-excited state, much like a teenage boy who's just landed a date with the girl of his dreams. Seriously.

So what Jonathon?

I'm not critical of fundraiser's desire to absorb as much as they can about the digital world, truly I am not. BUT the lack of interest in finding ways to better understand what's happening in your database and how to make inroads is an issue in our sector.

This is not an isolated comment about conference choices.

This is a comment made from encountering this over a number of years meeting with hundreds, literally hundreds, of fundraisers all over the world.

Either people couldn't give a damn about understanding data or (quite possibly) it just freaks them out!

So I have 2 options: either just get over it and keep doing what I'm doing. Or, the more logical and sensible thing to do, help people understand it better and allay their fears.

Of course I'll go with the latter option.

And the first step to doing that is for me to sell it better. Make it sound less daunting, more exciting, and more likely to help them do what they're paid to do, raise shed loads of money.

There you go, that's my challenge to myself on this Wednesday evening.

I'll keep loving data and make sure others around me do as well.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Strong call to action: Epilepsy Action Australia

I wanted to share a good example of a strong call to action linked to the current economic climate.

It's from an organization in Australia called Eplilepsy Action.

When you visit their site now you are immediately presented with a video clip featuring one of their board members and patrons Tony Greig (for those non Aussies/Brits out there Tony is a former English cricketer and now cricket commentator).

I won't rant about the use of celebrities for charity endorsements, I'll leave that for another time.

What I do like about this is that it is clear, upfront, honest and links to the impact a lack of support will have on Australian families who have someone living with epilepsy. As a side note Tony also mentions that he has epilepsy so immediately grabs your attention as someone who has firsthand experience of what it must be like living with this condition.

Tony says, "without your support, families will miss out". Simple, but impactful.

If I have to be critical it's that the ask is watered down by giving people an option to "promote awareness" by joining their facebook group. It's a an easy default for someone to take. I'd remove this option and go straight for the donation request, and that only.

All in all though, good on Epilepsy Action for showing the tenacity and foresight to put this on their homepage. I hope it pays off for them.