Friday, July 31, 2009

Who are we missing at fundraising conferences?

I read a great piece this morning in the latest edition of Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy's e-newsletter about Canadian fundraising stars missing from conference stage.

Hot on the heels of my post about endeavoring to make conferences really useful, this caught my eye.

The author, John Webster Hochstadt goes into some detail about some of the inherent problems of fundraising conferences, like the domination of consultants speaking and lack of senior staff attending. Both true.

I talked about something similar last year when I called for sole fundraisers to start flying the flag, to come out from under their desks, beat their chest a little and start sharing.

As someone who does the conference rounds a lot, I too am constantly frustrated and let down at the lack of charity representation, particularly from 'small shops' (I love that term and my Aussie colleagues think it's hilarious).

I can sort of understand their absence. I'd ask myself if I was a fundraiser, from a small or big shop, why should I present, how can I possibly do it and when will I find the time?

Now each of these has a quick rebuttal, but the purpose of this blog is simply to put this back on the agenda and challenge fundraisers to knock us agency folks off our perch.

Frankly, I get sick of people whingeing to me about lack of charity speakers. My answer to anything like this is if you want to make change, create your own destiny and don't sit on your hands waiting for someone else to do it.

Thanks for brining this up John, I hear you wholeheartedly.

Let's share your story fundraising folks - you have something to tell, and we're waiting to hear it.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

9 steps to doubling your Christmas appeal income

I ran a workshop recently focused entirely on raising more, in fact doubling, income from upcoming Christmas appeals.

I know most of you are thinking: come on Jonathon it's only August! Alas, it's time to start preparing folks, it ain't that far away...

So with that, I thought I'd replay those 9 key ingredients for you. Put simply, they are:

1 Targeting the right people
2 Asking for the right thing
3 Getting the message right
4 Getting the letter right
5 Getting personal
6 Getting the execution right
7 Making it easy to respond
8 Getting the follow up right
9 Test, test and test again

But rather than do this a disservice, here is the presentation.

Feel free to drop me a line if you want clarification on any of the slides.

Oh, and don't forget Christmas doesn't end in December!


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Time to make conferences genuinely useful

Now, that may sound a tad harsh and that I'm just taking aim at all conferences or the people that organize them.

I am not.

This is not a personal dig at anyone, and if you read on you will see that I'm even prepared to back up my words with action.

I have to say I am critical in general at the value that conferences deliver and the lack of takeaways that delegates actually put into practice, as I talked about last year.

But what gets to me even more than what we actually do with the learning's we get is how fundraising conferences around the world are crafted. I got thinking about this over the last few days whilst attending and speaking at the DMAW Bridge Conference in Washington, DC.

Some of you may have read Sean Triner's article some time ago where he was (rightly) critical of the flawed scoring system at conferences. If you haven't read it, it's worth a look here.

I agree with Sean on this one, but I also believe we need to change the way we run these (very expensive) events to do the following:

1 Make the sessions longer.

As a speaker and delegate its nigh on impossible to learn anything in a 60 minute session. Many speakers travel internationally to present for an hour, or less, like I did this week. Crazy stuff.

But I'm not talking about making sessions 90 minutes or even 2 hours, but all day, even 2-3 day streams.

Sean recently ran a session at the IWRM conference in India where they phsyically helped delegates produce a direct mail over the course of 2 days. Brilliant stuff. Rather than just dazzle delegates with countless PowerPoint slides, the small group actually walked through the key ingredients of a direct marketing pack and then step by step were shown how to actually produce the pack.

And then they did it. Each developed a great pack ready to post. Fantastic. Now that's what I call real learning.

2 Don't just do what you did last year and the year before.

It's easy for conferences to rollout stuff that was done last year and every year since 1998. In other words, bringing back the same speakers 8 years in a row, using the same (useless) speaker evaluation forms - refer Sean's article on this - or having 2 hour 'networking' breaks that delegates end up using to check their emails.

We should do what we do because it's right, not because it's easy.

As a side note: conference evaluation forms are absolutely critical for the future success of a conference. Not making them do what they should do (accurately evaluate a speakers value and impact) means that we aren't using real data to drive the future direction of upcoming conferences.

I digress.

3 Ensure the speakers make the sessions 'sticky' to maximize learning.

If you don't know what I mean then go and get a copy of Made to Stick, one of the best books you can read, regardless what profession you work in. It will show you how to make your ideas stick so they resonate with your audience, whether that is donors, your colleagues or even your clients (for us agencies) etc.

There are some great tips in here that speakers should follow to ensure that their ideas stick with their audience. 'Stickier' ideas means better learning and more chance the ideas will actually result in change.

That's it for a Friday afternoon. The challenge is out to all conference organizers to ensure we deliver the most value for the investment (in time and $) that our delegates make.

Oh, and I've just been dobbed in to help on one of the conference committees next year, so I won't just rant, I'll be doing my best to make some of these ideas a reality.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

The power of data: using information on your donors to fuel growth in your program

Check out my latest article on using personal data which talks about focusing on past behaviour and finding emotional triggers to raise more money.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Stewardship: who bloody cares!

I hope that got your attention.

Of course, I care. Lots in fact about how we care for all those wonderful people who support our organizations.

But frankly, I am sick of the word stewardship/donor care, whatever you want to call it, being the buzz topic at conferences. This was the case last week at the IOF Convention and quite frankly it drove me a little bongkers.


Because we over analyze it.

Some of the sessions were actually debating whether we need different terms, what the definition of stewardship was/is. Blah blah blah .

Let’s be honest. Good donor care isn’t brain surgery. They don’t hand out Nobel Prizes for it. Just do it!

I’ve posted lots about this topic (so maybe I am being hypocritical here?), but my posts provide practical, real life examples of what it means to look after your donors: thank promptly and appropriately, feedback regularly, treat people like they are your friends, continue to ask, get personal, tell them how they are making a difference. Simple.

It’s almost as if we (the sector) feel we need to continually put it on the agenda. But my friends, we don’t. We just need to do it.

Remember, innovation isn’t about doing new stuff, it’s about doing things you’re not currently doing. Same goes for looking after your donors.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller

Whether we like it or not, our world is about to get a whole lot smaller.

That’s the view of economist and author Jeff Rubin who recently released the fascinating but frightening book entitled “Why your world is about to get a whole lot smaller”.

I’d suggest all fundraisers read it, for it has connotations for all of us.

Now granted, this is one man’s opinion.

But there’s lots of evidence to back up Jeff’s words. In a nutshell Rubin talks about the worlds obsession with oil, and more importantly the relationship between the price of oil and the state of the global economy.

In regards to oil he says, “it will never be cheap again. Take away cheap oil, and the global economy is getting the shock of its life.”

The most alarming part, for a novice on this issue like me, is the rate at which we are running out of the commodity that we rely so heavily on.

Which means, hence the book title, the world is going to get a whole lot smaller.

If that is the case, and travel becomes exorbitantly expensive, what does this mean for the charitable sector? What does that mean for how far the charitable dollar reaches?

If this really is true, then the global downturn will look like a storm in a teacup in comparison. Let’s face it, charitable giving has only fallen a few % in the last year amidst what we keep defining as the word recession since the great depression, but even when it picks up again, can we be sure we can have the impact we really want/need to have on the world?

If the cost to transport relief from say the developed to the developing world is ten times more expensive, what will happen to those who need it most? Will it not get there or will be have to raise ten times as much in the first instance?

If there are fewer cars on the road, how will the local soup kitchen get their daily meals to those in far flung places?

And if it is more difficult to cross the country, or even the city you live in, how will you meet that potential major donor face to face to ask them for that $1m lead gift you need to build your new animal shelter?

Believe the evidence or have your doubts, but regardless, these are issues we will face, and in our lifetime.

I think it’s time charities starting planning for disasters, and I don’t just mean tsunamis. I mean financial downturns. I mean the warming of the planet. I mean the world running out of oil.

The latest downturn has shown us how exposed we can be. It’s time we start looking ten and twenty years ahead.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Please, please share!

I’m currently in London to speak at the Institute of Fundraising Convention.

I love this conference, hence why it’s my sixth time here.

If I have to be picky though, there’s one thing that I always walk away disappointed in however (like most conferences) and that’s a lack of sharing. And by sharing I mean results/evidence/case studies.

I’m not sure if it’s an unwillingness, nervousness or perhaps even fear?

But let’s be honest. Sharing for ‘the greater good’ is exactly that. Often the fear to share is from those who have moved to the ‘third sector’ from the commercial world. And I can understand that, it’s a different space to operate in, culturally at least.

Coke don’t share their recipes with Pepsi, and why would they?

But we’re not Coke and Pepsi here.

We should be about increasing the size of the pie, or getting more from those within it. It isn’t about getting a bigger chunk. Wrong attitude. Seriously, we don’t have anything to lose from sharing. Of course we need to respect confidentiality (certainly as agencies on behalf of clients) but discussing the good, bad and the ugly from our programs can only benefit the sector.

And that means helping more beneficiaries.

So I’m imploring those at the Convention to open up and tell us:

• What’s worked, what hasn’t and what are you trying that you’re just not sure about?
• About some monumental stuff ups. I’ll buy you a drink in the bar if you do.
• About your latest results.
• About the latest test learning’s
• About others you know who are doing some kick ass stuff

Please, please, share with us. We need it to get the most value from the conference.

I promise I will during my session entitled How to Look at What Others Are Doing to Raise More Money