Monday, November 30, 2009

Turn off. Share. Change.

Tomorrow's the beginning of AFP Toronto's Congress which I spoke about last week.

Here's a few pointers to make sure you go back to work after Congress (or any conference for that matter) ready to embrace change.

Turn off then turn on. Turn off the crackberry, turn on the focus. Your office, staff and your latest campaign will not spontaneously combust in your absence. Trust the people back at the office to keep the ship afloat and keep your mind on the job at hand, learning.

Work out the true cost to send you to Congress. That's the delegate rate + your time. Your time isn't cheap, particularly three days of it. If you think of it like this, it forces you to appreciate what it's costing your employer to send you and puts extra onus on you to bring back some brilliant ideas.

Swap and share. In every session swap a business card with at least one new face and commit to meeting up post Congress. You'll be amazed the opportunities these meetings uncover. Share as much as you can during, in between and after sessions. Those who give the most get the most back.

Change. Be prepared to go back to the office a changed fundraiser. That change may be as significant as a shift in strategy, it may be a change in mindset. But open your mind to change and during each session jot some action points down as a starting point.

Enjoy Congress folks.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Take a bow AFP Congress team

Hats off to the organizing team at the AFP Toronto Congress.

A week out from the event and they have nearly 900 delegates signed up for the three day event. That mean's Mark Hierlihy and his team look likely to have attracted more fundraisers to Congress than ever before. Great stuff!

Recession, re-schmession I bet they're saying.

Here's why I think the team has managed to engage fundraisers in a time when so many organization's have cut, even slashed professional development budgets:

Damn good marketing

The communications I've received about Congress have been frequent, but relevant. They've been fun and made me think Congress looks really cool. They have embraced new media, using Vismail video technology, video slideshows, facebook and twitter postings plus more traditional (but still interesting) e-blasts.

They've kept it fresh

Over 50% (39 out of 74) of the speakers are first speakers at Congress. You could argue that's risky, and perhaps it is. But we live (in the fundraising sector) in a risk averse world, so good on em' for having the willingness to give new people a go.

Added to that is the list of new speakers includes a bunch of well credentialed (and I know eager) people who are bloody good fundraisers. A nice international flavor too (says the Aussie whose home is now Canada).

The format invites itself to actually learning something

You may remember me posting a while back my views on how to make fundraising conferences genuinely useful.

One of the things I'm most critical of at the majority of conferences is that the vast majority of sessions are far too short, the breaks far too long.

At Congress we have seven educational sessions in three days. Yes! Perhaps next year we could move to just three sessions in three days? Full day sessions where you come out with real, practical solutions and even physically produced something, I.e. a DM pack?

Great work Mark and the Congress team. You've overcome the biggest barrier to conferences in a long time ("we have no professional development budget") and look like having your best event ever. Bravo.

The challenge is still upon us however. Organizers, speakers and delegates. To make Congress the best ever please come prepared to share, challenge, meet, absorb and inspire.

If you do this will be a remarkable event.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Last minute Christmas appeal tips

Whether you've just dropped your Seasonal or Christmas appeal - or whether you haven't even thought about it, spend 3 minutes here for some last minute tips.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

On their way to AFP Congress..

My colleague Ruthann Richardson and I got to make some really cool calls yesterday. We got to speak to the four people we'd chosen on behalf of Pareto Fundraising as recipients of passes to AFP Congress at the end of the month.

We received a large number of really good applications, which made our job harder. But there were four that really stood out for us.

So we were thrilled to award the four Congress passes to:

Pam Bastedo from Meal Exchange
Aileen Doyle from JHR (Journalists for Human Rights)
Elaine Scrivener from Mark Preece Family House
Mary Warner from the Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative

Each of these individuals shared with us what they were most excited about learning at Congress and how they would be able to use the knowledge and experience gained to further their organizations fundraising and make the world a better place.

Thank you to all who those who took the time to submit an application. And congratulations again to Pam, Aileen, Elaine and Mary. We think you rock! And we know you'll make the most of the three days.

We’re really looking forward to a great Congress.

I'm personally looking forward to bring inspired, challenged, taken out of my comfort zone and perhaps having some fun along the way.

See you there.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Time to stop our unhealthy obsession...

I read with interest this morning the latest philanthropic trends report delivered by KCI Ketchum, which you can read here. Thanks to KCI firstly for releasing this.

Actually, I read more with angst than interest. The fixation by our sector (not donors) on 'cost to raise a dollar' bugs me for four reasons:

1 We perpetuate the problem ourselves. Organization's claiming that they spend no money on fundraising and administration set unrealistic expectations for the rest of us.

2 It's a storm in a tea cup. When was the last time someone told you they don't or haven't supported you because you are not fiscally responsible? Or the last time a donor left you because they weren't happy with your ratios? Or the last time you asked a donor why they support you and they responded with "I am passionate about your low administration costs".

Give me a break.

Ron Dumouchelle, President & CEO, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation says, “however, in our experience, it is not an issue that is often brought to us directly by our donors.

3 We spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying about this. I'd argue time that could be spent more effectively, actually fundraising.

And finally, but probably most importantly..

4 Cost per dollar ratios are flawed.

As Innes van Nostrand, Vice Principal, Upper Canada College says in the KCI article, "..The way this ratio is positioned with the public leaves the impression that a low cost per dollar raised indicates good overall performance on the part of the organization..

..The problem is that the ratio doesn’t take into account other factors that are critical to how well an organization is performing – factors like the quality of services, the kind of fundraising being done, the longer term outcomes of programs or even whether donors gifts are being used as intended. As a result, for most charities, I don’t think it is wise for it to be the sole or primary indicator of a charity’s performance or worthiness for investment..”

Here, here Ingrid. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Let's stop the obsession with this and get on with doing what we do best. Fundraising.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Canadian charities rocking on monthly...

Amongst all the doom and gloom, there is some good news.

At Pareto Fundraising we recently released the latest findings from our ongoing benchmarking studies.

Firstly, a big thank you as always to the 10 amazing organization's who participated and who are raising the bar when it comes to leading edge fundraising. Not to mention their openness to sharing.

Quite simply, you rock.

Check out our media release here.

In short, the biggest message that came through this was: monthly givers are recession proof. This form of giving continues to strengthen, on every measure. They are resilient in every way. Frankly, they are just bloody brilliant people.

In addition to this latest evidence, if you need any more ammunition about why its such a fantastic way to engender support, I have loads of old posts here, including this one from last year entitled getting the most by getting it monthly.

There are some other really interesting insights uncovered in our latest findings, including our members collectively increasing individual income in 2008. Although in terms of sheer impact, none was more impactful than the reiteration of the power and magnitude of committed, monthly support.

So in case I didn't make myself clear enough: monthly, monthly, monthly, monthly, monthly....


Friday, November 6, 2009

Thinking ahead rather than looking behind

It's been a week of prognosticating and big thinking. Kicked off by Ken Burnett's future of fundraising vision, which I commented on here earlier.

Ironic actually as I'm in the midst of reading a great book on how bad we are in the world at decision making and creative thinking. Check out Edward De Bono's Think!: Before it's Too Late: Twenty Three Reasons Why World Thinking is So Poor

Ironic also because we do tend to spend a lot of time (guilty as charged) looking back. Talking about past successes and failures.

I remember hearing Bernard Ross talk about this at a session once, critical that all we do at fundraising conferences is regurgitate old stuff. A showcase of what's happened in the past, an almanac of fundraising campaigns, if you like.

So Bernard has done something about it and pulled together the aptly named fundraising scenarios site that's generating lots of interest right now.

I've used this forum to follow up my earlier post about where I see us needing to go as fundraisers moving forward. You can view my thoughts here.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Crystal ball gazing

I thought it would add my 20 cents worth on Ken Burnett's interesting piece about the Future of Fundraising.

Thanks to Ken and Bernard Ross for opening up this dialogue.

It's about 5 minutes long, enjoy.


PS - I'm going to follow up with some more detail on the 4 items I discuss over the coming week. Watch this space.