Saturday, October 31, 2009

The acquisition hook

It's damn tough to find new supporters. It's even harder to keep them.

So if it's so hard to keep them, why don't we revisit the hook that got them to support us in the first place?

I think this is too often overlooked.

Your acquisition pack talks about Darfur. Or perhaps your street canvasser talks about land preservation.

We then get so excited at the lovely new person that comes on board that we forget about what made them tick in the first instance.

Get back to your (acquisition) roots. Make it normal practice to bring your new donors back to where they just were, just days or weeks ago. Use some variable copy in the next appeal or that subsequent phone call to remind them why they did what they did.

Remember, it was damn hard work finding them. If you play back why they made that decision to help you, you'll find it a little easier to hold onto them.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keeping it fresh

When was the last time you took stock of every touchpoint you had with your supporters?

Sean Triner wrote a really good blog today about how in many ways not much has changed in fundraising over the past 120 years. Namely, long letters still work, much like they did for Dr Barnardo's in the 19th century.

That is true. And I'm very much an advocate of doing things that works. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

But what I do see too often is stale communications. Ask yourself, does this communication advance the relationship with your supporters? Does it cut through the clutter?

I ask because I see lots of stuff that is downright dull. Crusty and old.

So, enough of the ranting. Here is some 'meat to the bones'. I'd suggest you:

1 Make a habit of critiquing every piece of literature that reaches your supporters. By that I mean appeals, newsletters, telephone scripts, e-communications, thank you letters, welcome packs. By 'habit' I mean at least twice a year.

2 When you analyze each of these pieces, do the following:

- Read it aloud, preferably to someone else. Does it sound like something you would actually say or does it sound like an advert for health insurance?

- Get someone else (who isn't intimately involved in the fundraising program) to critique them. You'd be amazed at how much can creep into your materials that doesn't make any sense or just doesn't sound right. Health warning: you're not looking for someone to mess with your fundraising, like suggest you take out all asks. You're wanting someone to see if what you're saying makes sense.

3 Look around you. There are a vast array of really good and very relevant supporter communications out there. Specifically look at the way other organization's communicate with their donors (online, offline, via the phone). Look out for materials that are simplistic and easy to understand.

4 Strip out as many references to you . It isn't about you. It's about your wonderful donors and those people/animals/environment they generously support. Spend most of your time talking about the latter.

5 When you think you've done all of this, repeat steps 1 through 4 one more time.

This may not be the most fun or sexiest part of your job. But it helps to ensure:

- That you're not stale
- That you're communicating with donors, not at them
- That you care enough to tell it as it, right now


Monday, October 26, 2009

Inspiring action

A little over a year ago I moved into the blogosphere.

I've just worked out how to post videos. There's no stopping me now.

Check out my first video blog on how you can inspire action as well as solicit donations this Christmas.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don't forget to actually talk to people

Tell me something I don't know, Jonathon. There is a point, bear with me.

I've been following some of the tweet action at the International Fundraising Congress, and noticed a few talking about website content and the like.

This got me thinking about my mystery shopping experiences over the past few years. Not just in Canada but early days in the UK and then later down under and in Asia. For a recap of the Canadian exercise conducted last year, check out my earlier post.

It got me thinking about this specifically because schmick websites were often the downfall of many organizations we contacted.


Because too often when we spoken to organization's (this applied in all countries we have done this) we were met with, "why don't you go check out our website, there is some great information posted there'.

Errr... because I rang you to actually speak to someone (a human being), so that's why I don't want to go to your website.

A brilliant, easily navigable, clear and succinct website is essential. But it's essential to support other media, to enable those who prefer to interact with you in this way to do so.

It isn't a replacement for real dialogue, real conversations.

And that's the point. Far too often when we rang a charity to make a donation, to make an enquiry or even to make a complaint, we were directed to the organization's lovely, very schmick (or sometimes not very schmick) site.

I firmly believe this to be one of the key reasons why do many charities failed to truly engage us and 'solve' our complaint, why many didn't take our donation or even answer our general enquiry. Because it was all too hard, and sending us to their site was all too easy.

In the age of digital enhancement and moving online, spare a thought for just having a chat to someone.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pareto Fundraising is giving away four passes to the AFP Congress in Toronto

One of the things we’re incredibly passionate about at Pareto Fundraising is professional development. I love the fact that we regularly provide free, quality training to fundraising professionals. It’s one of the parts of my job I love the most.

So I’m thrilled right now that we’ve got four passes to award to fundraising professionals who want to attend this year’s AFP Congress in Toronto. We’re giving this to people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to attend Congress.

Click here to find out whether you're eligible and if so tell us in 500 words or less what you hope to learn from your attendance at Congress.

Applications close on Thursday, November 5, 2009.


"I really don't know..."

It would be nice to hear these four simple words more often than we do.

Working agency side, there is a perception, often correct, that consultants aren't prepared to mutter those words.

Ted Grigg posted a great blog about consultant credibility last week broaching this very topic.

Ted notes that "..competence is reflected by the easy manner in which such consultants readily admit that they do not have the answers to everything related to their field of expertise.."

Well said Ted.

People, in charities and even for-profits, hire agencies and consultants because they want access to an array of learning's and testing, because they want to have their ear close to the ground to ensure they are up to speed with latest sector developments and finally (although many won't admit this) because they want their lives made easier.

That's not to say that life is always easier working with a consultant, but that's the aim...

I'm digressing.

In addition to Ted's blog I was reminded of how important it is to throw your arms up sometimes and say "I really don't know, please help" when I was back in Australia recently. I was doing a workshop with the brilliant team at the Children's Medical Research Institute in Sydney.

One of the guys who had been part of the organization for 30 years at one point during the session put his hand up and said to his peers "Look, I've been here 30 years. That doesn't mean I know everything. If you think something is wrong or we could do it better, feel free to challenge me".

The point was recognizing that longevity in a role doesn't mean you're always right. Nor should you be expected to be.

Ask questions, challenge and do what's best. Not what is easiest.

If someone who has been in a fundraising team for 30 years is prepared to admit they don't have all the answers then that's good enough for me.

Consultants know far from everything, and the best ones readily acknowledge this.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Taking a break means really taking a break...

I'm back online after a few weeks in Australia including a short hiatus (to get married).

On the plane on the way back I had a lot of time (24 hours in fact) to reflect on my trip and what I'd learnt during my time back home.

The three things that stuck with me were:

1 When you go on holiday/vacation have a real break. That means no checking of emails, sneaky looks at your blackberry or the occasional check in phone call to the office.

It means complete and utter distancing of yourself from your work environment. Hard for many, some may say impossible. I used to think like that, but realize now that in order for me to be at my best, ooze passion and commitment when I am working, I need a real break. And even though this break was less than two weeks, I feel reenergized and craving my next challenge.

Linked to how well you can do this (have that 'real' break) is the next thing, which is...

2 Surround yourself with brilliant people.

Might sound bleedingly obvious but in order to switch off completely you want to have the confidence in your colleagues who take up the slack whilst you're away.

I went on vacation two weeks ago completely relaxed once I walked out the door as I knew my team around me would deliver what was needed (and more) whilst I was away. And they did.

3 Believe in yourself and what you do.

Again, hardly a revolutionary piece of advice, but I was reminded of how important this is whilst watching a documentary on the plane of David Ogilvy, known by many as 'the father of advertising' as we know it today.

His story is quite extraordinary, particularly when you consider that a former door to door salesman and a man who had just left living amongst an Amish community took on the big boys of the advertising world on Madison avenue, with no advertising experience. It really was David taking on Goliath at the time, but it's fair to say the Ogilvy Group is now the Goliath of the advertising world.

So what did David Ogilvy have that made him succeed? He had an ability to generate lots of big ideas for his clients, but fundamentally he could sell and believed in himself. If he didn't I'm certain he would have packed up his life and moved back to the UK, given that by his own admission he initially struggled to win clients.

Most remember David Ogilvy for his creative and advertising brilliance. I take my hat off to him for his entrepreneurial tenacity, drive and above all, belief.

The trip was a good reminder of the simple things that help keep me going on a daily basis, doing what I love.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Does your charity have a commander's intent?

I love the notion of a commander's intent, articulated so well by the Heath brothers in the must read, Made to Stick. Side note: if you haven't read this little gem, do it.

To quote the Heath's, “Commander’s Intent manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels without requiring play-by-play instructions from their leaders. When people know the desired destination, they’re free to improvise as needed in arriving there.”

Probably the most best example of this was the now famous quote from President Kennedy: "I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

At the time of his statement, no American had even orbited the earth. In fact, the U.S. had sent the first American into space only 20 days earlier

Some challenge, huh?

The point wasn't about the detail, or the journey to get there, it was about the end goal.

This makes me think back to Jon Duschinsky's book, Philanthropy in a Flat World: Inspiration Through Globalization. I love the part in here about rationalization.

Jon talks about the fact that most charities fail to rationalize and rather being bloody good, in fact the best, at just one thing, they end up being average at lots of things.

And hence the reason why I believe many organization's don't have a commander's intent.

We try to be too many things to too many people. If we were focused on one overarching goal, you could argue the outcomes and impact delivered by charities would be far greater.