Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This blog has moved....

Yep, the time has come to move.

As you know I recently set up flat earth direct.

With the site live I'll now be blogging from here.

That's www.flatearthdirect.com/blog

For subscribers to this address, no need to do anything. You’ll continue to receive email alerts.

For any new subscribers, there’ll be a sign up service available tomorrow on the newly created blog for you to register your details and be kept up to speed.

This site will be kept open so you can access all of the content on it.

It's been a blast. Thanks for your support.

I look forward to seeing you over at www.flatearthdirect.com/blog


Friday, June 17, 2011

More great examples of saying thank you

The subject of great thank you's has been covered a lot in this blog. A few months back I posed this great example from Médecins Sans Frontières Canada.

Earlier this week preparing for a workshop with a client I went searching for some recent examples of simple, but effective thank you communications.

I stumbled across the following two.

The first here is from Operation Smile in the US. I love it because it does all of the things a sincere thank you should do. Says the words thank you, makes the link between you, the donor, and the impact they're having, shares the love from both staff and benefactors, and is truly authentic.

I particularly love the fact that it doesn't feel too fabricated, it's a little raw. And that's more endearing.

Take a peek.

The second one is from an organisation called the Aspinall Foundation, a conservation group in the UK.

Their's is a little quirky and fun, but also hits the nail on the head. They show you the work you're helping to make happen, they make a direct link, and it's also really warm and you can't help but like the guys presenting.

Check it out below.

You could do worse than replicating what these two org's have done here.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fundraising resolutions: mid year update

Almost 6 months ago I challenged myself with a list of resolutions for 2011. As we approach the midway point of the year, I thought it was time to take stock of how I'm doing, with a frank and honest self assessment.

- Increase my thirst for knowledge. I reckon I've succeeded with this one, so far at least. I've cast the net a little wider, and have stumbled across some terrific resources, most notably Mitch Joel's blog Six Pixels of Separation. I've also been more active on twitter, and as a result finding some real gold dust along the way. And I've become a LinkedIn junkie, spending more time on this platform than any other social outlet.

But, I can always do more.

- Stop putting things off. Again, happy that I've made stuff happen and haven't procrastinated. I took a leap of faith and set up my own business. I think that qualifies.

- Listen more. To those who I agree with, to those who think differently. Yes and no. There are times I do consciously stop and listen to something or someone I wouldn't naturally agree with. But I can definitely see why this is so important and reflecting on the last 6 months I can recall times where doing that has led to a really positive outcome, fuelling ideas I would not have otherwise found.

- Be tenacious about testing. Challenge conventional thinking, test more than ever. Failing at the half way mark. Trying, but failing. Must keep at it.

- Look outside. Not just outside the walls of the agency, but outside the sector. I rank this in line with the first point, and note again some of the people I now look to for constant inspiration. Running my own agency has meant reaching out to people I hadn't met in the past which is very cool.

- Empower others to do even better. There is always going to be a watching brief on this one, because it's what I do. I can see where I've made progress here, through the training and workshops I deliver, but there's no time for back slapping. Whenever you feel comfortable with what you've done, remind yourself of the words of the great creative thinker of our time Edward De Bono who says, "excellent, but not good enough".

- Get the balance right between learning from what worked and learning from what didn't. No doubt I learnt more in the past few months from stuff that didn't work that stuff that did. The things that didn't work force you to reassess everything and ask the tough questions. The things that do merely tell you at least one thing was right, whilst potentially masking mediocrity.

What about you? How are your resolutions looking?


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cool and clever stuff only works if also clear and easy. So what about Blippar?

It doesn't seem that long ago that QR codes were all the rage. In fact it was less than 3 months ago I write about QR codes being cool, but pointless unless used properly.

That still rings true, and I suspect the same for newer kids on the block, including Blippar. For those not aware of this new technology, read this insightful piece entitled Can Blippar make QR codes redundant?

Blippar which is just about to launch, is an augmented reality mobile app which sets about making it easier for mobile users to interact with offline advertising. It uses image recognition to launch interactive content on the user's phone, which is easily triggered by a logo or image on an ad.

I go back to the point of my earlier post. Very cool, if used properly.

People talk about low take up rates of QR code apps and the like. That doesn't bother me so much. Enough people have used them/are using them to make use of them.

But from a charitable perspective, while this stuff excites me, I'm skeptical. Not because I can't see ways to use them, but the take-up on this kind of stuff (I.e. QR codes) has been minimal, if even noticeable. So what's to say we'll release the risk shackles and dive head first into something like Blippar?

I hope we do, the possibilities are endless. Imagine you're an environmental org and want to highlight to print readers the destruction of forests. An image of some trees doesn't really cut it, but a quick snap of the ad and a 30 second "walk" through said forest just might do. The clip finishes with you posting a video message or attaching your name to a petition that's being blasted directly to the Environment Minister.

This would work because it's powerful, good content that uses a 'less' engaging media to bring home an important message. Backed up with a direct action request.

It wouldn't work if it was simply clever and cool.

And that's the point with any new piece of technology out there. Don't be dazzled simply by the bright lights. Think about real, easy ways to bring your content to life, aimed at the right people, armed with an end goal in mind and delivered to enhance other media simultaneously.


Monday, May 23, 2011

I've started my own agency..

After 12 years of working for some of the best agencies around the world, I decided it was time to set up my own.

And so flat earth direct was born.

flat earth direct is dedicated to fundraising and social action for good causes. Quite simply it’s about direct response, digital and campaigning stuff that results in real, tangible outcomes.

There are two distinct things I'm trying to do by setting this up.

1 Deliver the best results by bringing in the best people, regardless of location.
2 Work with organizations that really want to grow, particularly those who are usually handcuffed by smaller budgets.

We're going to be really focused on digital fundraising and marketing, all things direct response and advocacy stuff that supports the pointier end of campaigns.

Our website is a couple of weeks from being finished, but in the meantime if you want to find out a little more, here's how you can get in touch with me.

Jonathon Grapsas
flat earth direct

ph: +61 7 3311 6308
mob: +61 4 0447 5551
skype: jonathon.grapsas
twitter: @jonathongrapsas


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Best advice I've been given

I'm in a reflective mood this morning.

Recalling some of the best pieces of advice I've been given by people I've worked with and for. And from people outside of work.

These are the ones that stick out.

Procrastination is the thief of time. From my year 7 English teacher. At the time I thought he was nuts. But I've never forgotten it. We all do it. Put things off we don't want to do or are just too hard.

"I don't have time", is the stock standard response.

The best rebuttal to this is, you have time, you're just choosing to use it in a different way.

Just get on with it. Those that do achieve more than those who don't.

Act the role you want to be, not just the role you are. I think this applies to life generally, but certainly in the work environment.

No point complaining about why that promotion hasn't come your way if you haven't stepped up. This is about controlling your own path. Tenacious and ambitious people do more than what they're required to do. They look to the next level up and morph into that role, while still fulfilling their own.

Judge people by the best thing they've done, not the worst. It's easy to get caught up in the minutiae of detail when someone does something you don't like. But stop and think whether that's truly reflective of who they are, on balance. Or perhaps it was just a blip. Out of the ordinary. It'll certainly help your relationships, in the office included.

What are some of the pearls of wisdom that have stuck with you? I'd love to hear them.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why I love the Greenpeace UK site

I'm constantly trawling the web looking for fundraising and action driven websites.

Look no further than Greenpeace UK. One of my fav's.

Here's where my love comes from:

It's focused. It becomes obvious really quickly what the Greenpeace team want me to do. That's to 'do something' by getting involved in one of their campaigns, or open my wallet.

Whenever you click through to any of their action or donation pages, each of them is coherent and clear. I'm left in no doubt as to what they want me to do. No distractions, no fuss. No worries.

It's clean. Well laid out, good use of white space, good web friendly fonts and design. The content has a nice balance between imagery and copy.

It's easy. I look at this from a "how painful is it for me to do what you're asking me' standpoint. And here it isn't difficult at all. Good navigation, solid search function in the top right hand corner, consistent labeling.

It feels right for Greenpeace. I'm not just talking look and feel, but the tone and the things they're asking me to do. If you had in your mind a picture of what the Greenpeace site would look like, and how it would do its job, this isn't far off the mark.

Below I took a screen shot of the homepage.

The blue highlights the action requests, the black where they've closed the loop providing feedback, the squiggle at the top the easily located and functional search box. The purple line showing where we may want to go a bit deeper to learn about Greenpeace's work, who they are etc.

Hats off to the Greenpeace UK gang. You make me want to keep coming back.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Making your presentations sticky and memorable

Mitch Joel at Twist Image shared some thoughts this week on presenting, in particular how to be authentic.

I loved this line, "Remember, you're presenting, not performing, but the best presentations are also authentic performances."

It's apparent sometimes that presenters cross this line to become performers, and forget what they're there for.

So how can you be authentic?

Mitch suggests "you have to know when you're no longer presenting with passion, but regurgitating memorized lines and trying to perform each line out instead of delivering the content with what I'll call a "quiet confidence."

In other words, be yourself, but with some renewed energy and passion.

What about being memorable?

For me, this is about being "sticky". For those who are starting to wonder what on earth I'm suggesting, get your wallet out today and buy what in my opinion is one of the best business books you'll read, Made to Stick.

The Heath brothers cover in detail how to make good ideas "stick" and not die. It's a cut through read, truly memorable. I still use it to this day.

One sticky tip I learned from this book was how to get a message across in a presentation that will stand out in peoples minds. Let's say you ask delegates a question. Typically you'd hope one brave soul would shove their hand up, whilst everyone else sheepishly avoids eye contact with you. Been there before?

Remove that. Have everyone in the room get out a pen and paper. Get them to write down what they think the answer is, and then simultaneously hold up their bit of paper with their response, as you trawl through the room scanning and commenting on the answers. Really easy, more memorable.

Thanks to Mitch Joel at Twist Image for sparking some thoughts here.


Friday, April 29, 2011

We've got a long way to go

I started reading Jeff Brook's blog this morning, Donor Retention tells half the story and admit to getting a little excited...

70% retention rates for one organization, 90% second gift rates. I was scratching my eyes wondering if my morning caffeine fix hadn't yet hit me.

It continued to get better as I discovered both net income and organizational growth.

And then it hit.

Comments about stopping acquisition for five years, and how its unethical to tell a donor their (small) gift will make a difference when in fact its going to postage, printer bills etc..

This is not a dig at this organization who made the comments, it's a sector/society wide concern.

I actually wondered if time had stopped still. It was over two years ago I blogged about this very matter in Imagine a World whereby...

Citing Dan Pallotta's game changing book Uncharitable, I provided three practical recommendations for charities to control what they could control and flip the following dreaded question on it's head.

"How much of my dollar goes to the cause"?

The first suggestion was this:

1 Stop apologizing to donors for $ spent on overheads, administration, fundraising. These are genuine costs that are actually necessary and part of the work you do to fulfill your mission.

Enough said.

Finally, it reminded me of listening to Bob Geldof talk about his experiences and his response to the question "Don't you feel the scale of the problem is too big and you aren't making a real difference"?

His response: If I've helped one person, one child, then I've made a difference.

The same can be said for a donors gift, regardless off the size.

If you haven't done so already, please go and buy Uncharitable here at Amazon now. Send a copy to each board member, your boss, all your colleagues.

Because we really do have a long way to go to educate ourselves, as well as punters on the street.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Budgeting beyond spreadsheets

It’s that time of the year again for Aussie fundraisers, when heads are down and doors are closed as we feverishly plan for next financial year. The budget cycle.

So what should be top of mind when sorting through a myriad of spreadsheets and detailed discussions about the future?

Think three years, not one

Whilst it’s easy to look at the immediacy of our decisions, we know as fundraisers that the real impact often comes a lot later than the toil involved. Regular, monthly giving is a great case in point.

So to overcome the potential blockages placed in front of us when we present our plans, ensure all budgets include the longer term payoff, through years 2 and 3 as a minimum. Even longer where necessary.

That may mean overlaying your income expectations with expected life time value and not just income in the coming year.

Start from scratch, the zero based approach

Whilst I’d agree with the old adage about not fixing what ain’t broken, stagnant programs or those looking for serious growth could do worse than start from scratch.

Consider this. You’re an organisation that generates $1m a year in income. You’ve been tasked with growing that fivefold in three years.

Doable? Most certainly.

Doable within the current program framework? Likely not.

Ambitious growth requires solid investment, informed risk taking and organisational commitment. If you’re planning to transform your program, looking at what you’ve done the last ten years and tweaking it isn’t going to help you make that leap.

Starting afresh and asking yourself and your colleagues “what do I need to do to generate $5m a year” is the question you need to be able to answer. Not, “how can I turn $1m into $5m?”

Balance your portfolio

Diversification and balance are key. A balanced program means investing in areas that will deliver:

* Short term income (cash appeals, emergency appeals, events)
* Medium term income (regular, monthly giving, major donors, donor care)
* Long term income (bequest marketing, donor care)

Having a reliance on more than 80% in one income stream can put you in a precarious place should the landscape move.

If you take a look at those charities around you that have gone through massive growth, there’s no doubt most of it will be driven by one channel. In Australia over the past ten years that’s been F2F (street canvassing) recruiting regular, monthly donors.

But if you look closer, the charities that have harnessed this best have dipped their toe into other vehicles, including more traditional channels like the telephone, DM, direct response television and more recently digital.

When trying to decide how to allocate funds, applying Google’s 70/20/10 rule for investing in innovation is a great way of working to achieve both balance and diversification. This would see:

* 10% of funds dedicated to exploring new initiatives, with the expectation that almost all will fail but occasionally one or two will show potential and end up reshaping the future
* 20% of funds be given to those initiatives that showed promise from the previous year’s new trials, to see if they are sustainable as an income stream
* 70% of funds dedicated to roll-out and optimisation of what is proven to deliver the bulk of (fundraising) income

Invest in donor care

Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. An acquisition budget with no real commitment to donor development and supporter care is flawed. It’s hard enough to hang onto donors and even hard to look after them without any investment.

That means donor care and stewardship pieces, training for supporter services staff, mystery shopping other charities and generally keeping this topic on your agenda. Acquisition needs to work hand in hand with great supporter development.

So whilst its heads down at the moment, take the time to see the forest for the trees to enable you to help your organisation change the world, now and down the track.

This post featured in the March edition of Pareto Talk.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Regular giving growth continues in Australia/NZ

Last week at Pareto Fundraising we released our latest benchmarking results from Australia and NZ.

Thank you firstly to the 41 organizations involved. Hats off to you all.

Some snippets from the latest report:

- Regular giving continues to be the key driver of income growth from individuals. Income growth of around 12% in 2010.

- 3 out of 4 of the charities involved in the study grew their income from individuals in the two years between 2008 and 2010, despite the recession.

- Investment in new donor acquisition continued as volumes of new supporters continued to grow.

- On average, 0.9% of active cash donors have indicated they have left a bequest to that organization. The benchmark for one charity was 6.3% of all active donors having confirmed.

- Recency, Frequency, Value, plus tenure all correlate with propensity to indicate leaving a bequest.

- Income from onetime cash gifts grew less than 1% over the two years between 2008 and 2010, in line with the continued shift toward investment in regular, monthly giving.

If you're interested in knowing more about our benchmarking program please get in touch with our man on the ground, Clarke Vincent.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's about the (online) journey, not just the (online) destination

I don't want to sound like a walking book of jargon, but it really is about the journey.

As much so when we talk about the online world. We as a sector spend far too much time worrying, finessing and getting distracted by the destination.

By the destination I mean your website.

Don't get me wrong, it's an important place. And making sure you keep people there, capture data, share stories, and ultimately generate donations is critical.

But getting people there, and finding ways to attract new sources is paramount.

As my colleague Sean Triner says, having a brilliant website (with no traffic) is like having the world's best department store in the middle of the desert. Useless.

When I talk to fundraisers about developing a digital road-map for raising more money online, I often hear people say "yes, well we're building a new website" or "our website is rubbish".

They're focused on the end result, the destination.

Yes it's important, but spending a tonne of effort and resources on building the world's most aesthetically pleasing website is going to be a complete waste of time without any traffic to drive there.

Consider these traffic driving questions:

- Are you looking at ways to re-engage and drive online prospects back to your site? By online prospects I mean previous activists, e-newsletter subscribers or enquirers.

- Are you investing time managing your search activity? See here for an earlier post on Google AdWords for charities. What about your organic listing? Are you spending time to make sure you are ranked as high as possible in search engines, such as Google?

- Are you re-targeting visitors to your site with a different offer? For example, of the 5,000 visitors to your site each month, the majority visit and then bounce away, meaning you haven't 'closed the deal'. Re-targeting allows you to present your offer again to these prospects in an effort to re-engage them. It's relatively inexpensive and is used regularly by those in the commercial world. Yet we seem to be slow on the take up on this. Easier to re-engage that introduce ourselves to those who don't know us.

- Have you investigated the new frontiers in online advertising? The power of behavioral and contextual advertising, where you can present your offer to people whose online behavior dictates they have some affinity/interest in you. Again the commercial world is leaps and bounds ahead of us here, but the technology exists, it's about tapping into whats out there to ensure we're locating real prospects who are showing characteristics that suggest they care. In real time.

Don't get me wrong, the destination requires time and effort. It requires thought around ways to engage and capture. But remember, that without the traffic it really is like the best department store in the desert.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Downgrading: where asking for less results in getting more

For years some of my colleagues and I have been banging on about the need to seriously consider actively downgrading regular, monthly donors.

Are you going mad, Jonathon?

Possibly, but not on this one. The rationale is simple. There are certain groups of regular givers for whom we know, statistically, they are likely to stop their ongoing giving. Their characteristics have predetermined that they'll fall out of love with us really quickly and hence cancel their gift.

I'm talking about 'younger' face to face recruited donors. By younger I'm talking under say 25 (may vary by client).

We look at data for F2F donors every day. Whenever we run the data through some geeky data modeling, its spits out the same result every time. Younger donors are more likely to stop their giving in the first 3 months than 'older donors'. There are other criteria that dictate attrition levels, like payment type and housing type, but hands down every time age is the most significant variable.

So for me its always been simple. If we know statistically that a group is likely to cancel, would we not be better off tackling this head on rather than sitting back waiting for the inevitable?

Well, I was incredibly excited a couple of weeks ago when a Canadian client shared they have been doing exactly this. And guess what, its working.

Of course, by working you need to ensure that the drop off in income from either doing nothing and the lower average gifts is offset by more supporters staying on board.

Let's do the math.

Scenario A. I have 1,000 donors giving me $20 a month ($240 a year). The data shows me that I'll likely lose (because of the make up of the data) 300 in the first 3 months. So my $240k in annual income is, in crass terms likely to be around $168k if we do nothing.

Situation B. What if we took the 300 "likely" cancellations (the "younger" ones identified above) and asked them to consider dropping down to $10 a month? Assume of those 300 two thirds of them say yes, the other 100 we can't reach of decide to cancel anyway. We now have 700 donors @ $20 per month and 200 donors @ $10 per month. That means my annual income is now $192k, a far better result than sitting on our hands and doing nothing.

There are a few things to consider here:

- Do it on the phone. Make sure the call is intended as a donor care one, not an administrative one. Thank, check in, share, acknowledge. Then discuss their giving level and how comfortable they are.

- Test the timing of this. Likely done best around month 1 after sign up, but play around with this. See what works for you.

- Just because someone may agree to lower their financial commitment, don't forget them. F2F recruited donors need to feel the love, albeit in a slightly different manner. They don't behave like donors from 'traditional' media. Long letters and dry newsletters are a waste of time. Punchy, shareable and relevant content all the way.

If you do this, let me know how you get on.

When asking for less means getting more. Sometimes direct response just doesn't make sense.


Friday, March 25, 2011

The mobile movement

Stumbled across this brilliant schematic yesterday which encapsulates perfectly the incredible shift in the mobile world.

It's time we accepted (granted, I know many of you have long ago) that our use of technology and the way we share content, communicate and transfer information has changed forever.

Consider some of these pieces of data, and alongside them 'thoughts' about what they mean for fundraisers:

- 1 in 4 mobile users have smart-phones globally (in Australia it's close to 1 in 2). Does your online approach consider the way people are viewing your content? Are you mobile enabled? If not, consider the barriers you're placing in front of your constituents.

- 86% of mobile internet users are using their devices while watching TV. Your supporters and prospects are becoming more and more distracted. Are you working specifically on 'sticky' material and messaging that cuts through? The 'traditional' way to evoke emotion and capture someone's attention may not have the same impact when American Idol is blaring in the background.

- Within three years mobile internet usage will overtake desktop internet usage. The 17 inch monitor is becoming less and less relevant. It isn't simply about adjusting our creative for smaller screens or tablets, but thinking through how our shift in mobile behavior is impacting when and how we're viewing stuff. "I'll go online during my lunch break" is a far less used term. A shift in our online behavior dictates a shift in our online thinking and approach. The when, where and how has changed.

Who knows, I'll soon be crafting these posts on my mobile.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

QR codes are cool, but pointless unless used properly

There's been a heap written over the past few months about the use of those funny little barcode looking things we know as QR codes in marketing and fundraising.

For those who are not sure what they are, QR codes are a matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by QR barcode readers and camera phones. QR stands for quick response. In essence they speed up the response process, removing the need to "get online" or "send that letter" later. They potentially remove one of the biggest barriers to response: shortage of time.

Unfortunately as fundraisers the take-up of this technology (seems) to have been slow. I've found it difficult to locate examples of where they have been used, and if so, were they effective?

My colleague Paul De Gregorio piqued my interest on this a few weeks back over at his blog. Similarly Katya Anderson provided some insights on their potential value via a guest post from Blase Ciabaton.

Last week I attended the AdTech, digital marketing conference in Sydney. Google revealed some startling data snippets about mobile usage in Australia, most noteworthy that by the end of 2011 more than 50% of Australians will own a smartphone.

I'm often cynical about statistics like this, because whilst it's an interesting insight, it doesn't alone suggest people will change their buying/giving habits. Just because you build it, does not mean they will simply come.

That being said they do provide an exciting opportunity. And if used properly they have the potential to lift marketing and fundraising effectiveness.

We're about to test them with some of our clients in upcoming DM appeals. However instead of using the same, generic QR code sending donors to a general landing page to donate, we will be sending QR codes embedded with a personalised URL.

The upshot of this is again decreasing the amount of work a donor will have to do. If they scan the QR code they'll bounce through to their own, unique donation page. They'll simply need to fill in their credit card details and presto, a gift is made.

A couple of things to consider:

- If you're testing the impact of QR codes, don't just include income raised from the QR code mobile landing page. The key consideration is, has the advent of the QR code increased income overall from the group who received them?

- Despite the prevalence of smartphones, the usage of QR codes is reportedly quite low. Therefore, education and assurance is going to be key. I'd suggest any effort to push people to using them should include simple instructions explaining how to download the app and how to use the QR code reader. Put people at ease. Provide guidance.

Remember, these aren't going to revolutionize your fundraising, at the end of the day they are merely a response device. But well executed, and used for the right purposes, they may help you bring the online and offline world just that little bit closer.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Facebook fundraising, that works

We were fortunate this morning to have Leonard Coyne from the Soi Dog Foundation spend a couple of hours with myself and my colleagues at Pareto Fundraising sharing how they had successfully managed to recruit hundreds of regular, monthly donors directly from facebook.

Yes you read that correctly, recruited monthly donors from facebook. An organization that generates around $300,000 AUD a year has managed to find more than 500 ongoing, monthly supporters (giving $20 a month) in the last year. That's over $100,000 a year (over one third of their income) coming from facebook recruits.

Incredible. And all very doable.

So here are the secrets to their success, and what Leonard candidly explained to us that they have put into practice over the past few months. It isn't rocket science, but it bloody works.

Perspiration. They worked hard, they sweated. They were also incredibly patient. One of the mistakes organizations make is falling out of love with social media as quickly as they fall in love with it. "We need to be on facebook". The proceed to set up a page, recruit a tonne of 'fans', then run out of ideas or energy and simply do nothing.

Leonard has invested time and effort into ensuring not only do Soi Dog have a social presence, but that they commit to making it work, from a fundraising perspective. Not everything has worked, they've got stuff wrong, it's been about trial and error. And it's paying off.

Let go of control. The Soi Dog page now has adaptations in 6 languages, driven purely by advocates who have offered their support, and then run with it. Soi Dog isn't playing big brother and micro managing, they let their administrators post new comments, interact with fans, suggest new applications.

I once heard someone at a fundraising conference comment that they were afraid to relinquish control because people would 'talk about them' and that they weren't able to control their brand. The reality is people will talk about you anyway, rather than try and sanitize it, encourage it. Soi Dog has.

Advertising and asking. Leonard's been using facebook advertising for the last year, recruiting regular donors from targeted ads (particularly focusing on individuals with an interest in animals), and also placing ads to their own 'fans'. As Leonard commented, advertising to their fans seems counter intuitive yet in fact it makes sense. They are essentially what I'd call tepid prospects and we know tepid prospects respond better than those with no affinity at all.

They regularly attach asks (to become regular givers) to stories and photos they share, like the one below. They're not afraid to show confronting (real) imagery, attached with a dog that needs help. And then ask.

Great, regular content. It needs to be relevant, shareable and regular. It isn't just about posting a story about an upcoming event or a new blog on your website.

It's about beneficiaries. Leonard realises their fans want to know about the dogs they help, or that need help. So content, whilst shared regularly, is also very focused on imagery and on the work they actually do.

Consistent, real dialogue. Leonard and his colleagues respond to, talk and actually engage with those who have taken the time to comment. They don't just talk the talk here, they walk it. If you don't believe me, take a peek yourself.

In fact get on facebook now and check them out. A wonderful example of how to make money from facebook, from someone who's actually doing it. Hats off to Leonard and Soi Dogs.

Oh, and here's Leonard's presentation which he has kindly shared.


Soi dog preso by leonard coyne march 2011
View more presentations from Pareto Group.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Donor: "May change mind"

Great time in Melbourne at the FIA Conference last week.

I usually figure if I get two pieces of gold dust from a conference it's a good result. I got tonnes over the three days.

One of things that has stuck in my mind is something Ken Burnett said during one of the wonderful sessions he delivered.

Ken shared a story about a fellow fundraiser's insights about donor loyalty.

The three words that were forever etched at the top of this persons mind were "may change mind", referring to the constant battle as fundraisers we face.

May change mind.

Pretty powerful few words.

We probably entertain these words when we study the chasm between good and awful donor care, or on the back of a supporter complaint.

Yet in reality, they are arguably the three most important words in fundraising. Just as Ken said.

They change the way we think about donor conversations. They keep us forever on our toes. They prove the how volatile the relationship between a supporter and our organization can be.

Ken also quoted Canadian fundraiser and author Harvey McKinnon who articulated beautifully where the buck stops when it comes to donor relationships by saying, "donor loyalty is about you being loyal to your donors, not the other way around".

So what should you do?

Keep reminding yourself of those three simple words.

May change mind.

And perhaps consider plastering one of these on your monitor?


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lesson from Vodafone

It's not often I'll draw on something a telecommunications provider has done to inspire fundraising greatness. I'm often the first one to scorn at my phone company.

But I make an exception here.

Last night I got this email from the CEO at Vodafone.

Pretty candid. Quite gutsy. He even put his photo on here so we could visualize him apologizing. The only thing he could have done to expose himself more is done this via a video clip (but then the reach would likely have been lower).

I like the way that Nigel makes no bones about the fact that they haven't been up to scratch. He doesn't try and make excuses, simply tells it as it is.

"The simple answer is that we’ve been growing fast, and when problems came, we responded too slowly. "

He could have given us some garbled response tinged with big words that would have left us flummoxed but he didn't. Merely admitted they tried to run before they crawl.

I love the rawness of this. It reminds me of a client a few years back who had a major internal meltdown days after an appeal lodging. Database crashed, staff shortages, the works.

And what did they do?

Something similar to Nigel Dews. Wrote to their donors, explained what happened and asked for a little patience as it may take longer to get back and thank them if they had indeed already sent a gift.

What happened?

Gifts flowed in. To the apology letter. It wasn't the point, nor the intention. But it proved that showing their cards, opening themselves up, was absolutely the right thing to do.

Now if this client had done this again, and if Vodafone doesn't deliver, then people will walk.

But right now, it's hats off to Nigel Dews and the Vodafone gang. Never thought I'd say that.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Charity merger: Operation Smile Train

I was thrilled to receive a call from a colleague yesterday sharing the brilliant news about the merger of two wonderful organizations, Operation Smile and Smile Train.

Brilliant news because it will, if successful, give smiles to more kids around the world. Plain and simple.

Brilliant also because good, robust and successful charity mergers are few and far between.

There have been a handful of leading case studies over the past decade in the UK. Cancer Research UK is a cancer research organization formed in 2002 by the merger of The Cancer Research Campaign and Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

Before they merged, they generated around £225m between them. They've now more than doubled that to over £500m. Not bad in less than 10 years. More than twice as much pioneering research delivered, lives saved. Case in point.

More recently Age UK was formed, the coming together of Age Concern England and Help the Aged.

So what's the point?

Done correctly, well thought through mergers allow collaborators to further their great work. To quote the leaders at Operation Smile Train they're mission is simple, believing they can "capitalize on each other’s strengths to:

- Reach more children than either of us could on our own
- Launch more medical missions and train more local doctors
- Operate more efficiently so we can accomplish much more."

Simple, but inspiring, right?

If it works, yes. The reason I think this coming together is so important is it is the only one I know of (I'm sure there are more) when the organizations have a checkered history. It isn't any secret that things haven't been rosy in the past between Operation Smile and Smile Train.

But who cares. They've seen through all of the reasons mergers don't typically happen: ego's, territorial-ism and inability to see the bigger picture (and long term impact of coming together).

They've done it purely and simply because it is the right thing to do, ensuring Operation Smile Train will do what they do better than anyone else. No other reason.

And that means more smiles for kids who otherwise wouldn't been able to do what we all take for granted. Smile.

My colleague Sean Triner wrote a great piece about charity mergers a couple of years ago, worth a read.

That's not to say charities should merge merely for the sake it. There are arguments against it. Like losing your ability as independent organizations to be nimble, and as a result becoming less effective. But usually examples like this are hurdles. And hurdles are meant to be overcome.

Those who ignore it because its too hard or will put our own jobs at risk are doing those we're out to help a disservice.

And that means less of what Operation Smile Train will no doubt so better than anyone else. Create more smiles like the one below.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why the 'flood levy' shouldn't harm good fundraising

It’s been a horrible start to the year for Australia, in particular the state of Queensland. We’ve been hit with some of the worst floods in our history and one of the more brutal cyclones; all while other parts of the country suffer through bushfires and heat waves.

With the impact of the floods likely to be in the billions of dollars, the federal government has introduced a 12 month flood levy, which increases personal income tax (by around 0.75%) for a year, for those earning more than $50,000. The levy is designed to help rebuild Queensland’s infrastructure ruined by the floods.

In the aftermath of the announcement, my friend Cam asked me what I thought, and whether I expected charitable support to be impacted by the levy? Did I believe that by the government ‘forcing’ people’s hands to support would be to the detriment of Aussie charities?

I really don’t think so. For two reasons:

People tend to give above and beyond what they normally would in emergency situations

Last year we had a Canadian client due to lodge an appeal the day after the Haiti earthquake. My client rang me in a panic wondering whether in fact we should post the appeal, or delay it.

My response was a categorical yes. The Haiti situation was horrendous, beyond belief. But the kids we were appealing on behalf of needed help. Their situation hadn’t changed one bit. It couldn’t wait.

So the pack went out, net income increased 25% from the previous year’s appeal. It was a strong appeal. No doubt some of those donors also reached into their pockets to support organizations working in Haiti. But they didn’t forget the kids that also needed help locally in Canada.

I believe the same will ring true after the floods. But a word of warning the next time this happens (and it will happen, disasters are occurring more frequently). Don’t offer an excuse as to why donors shouldn’t or don’t need to respond. Good appeals for support are about clarity and need, not easy ‘get outs’. So avoid wording that mentions conditional support, like “I know you’re probably helping in the aftermath of X, but we also need your help”. That provides an excuse to switch off.

We saw a similar situation as part of the economic meltdown a couple of years back. All of the direct response testing I saw showed what we intuitively thought. Mentioning the recession suppressed response.

People give when they see that something needs support, not when they’re presented a raft of excuses why they shouldn’t.

This was about infrastructure, not people

The flood levy is about rebuilding a state’s resources. Roads, buildings, technology. Decimated by a natural disaster.

Whilst that indirectly helps individuals, the levy isn’t about handouts to those affected.

Hence why I believe it won’t affect charitable support, assuming of course it’s backed up with damn good fundraising.

My advice to those fundraising post emergencies is to continue doing what you were planning on doing. Good results follow good practice.

And that’s what I told my mate Cam.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Don't give me an excuse not to donate

Enjoyed Jeff Brook's post today about fundraising words we don't like.

It got me thinking about 'excuses'. I reckon in direct response we offer too many ways to 'get out'.

Excuses not to respond. Like reminders of tough financial times, or other significant events that may take precedence. Don't provide an easy way out. I need to feel this is the most important thing I've heard, seen or read today.

Excuses to put something down, turn away.
Perhaps in frustration or annoyance. Like cumbersome and clumsy words. Trying to be too clever comes across that way. It can make me feel uneasy, even angry. But don't open the door for me to walk away.

You've got my attention, don't allow it to wane.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Why aren't charities doing more digital fundraising?

The cynic in me could answer with the following:

- Online income is still a small portion of all individual giving.
- No-one really knows how to/where to start.
- They are, but its unreported (attributed to other channels).

The above points all have some merit.

But for me, specifically related to recruiting new donors online (I'm not talking about retention, integration, optimization), I've noticed that the following rings true, for most organizations:

A lack of genuine understanding about the online targeting landscape.

Not enough depth of knowledge about how to buy media online. Either none, or limited understanding of how to use paid search. And similar lack of inventiveness around how to move cold/tepid online audiences to become supporters.

Let's take online media.

Think about when you last went online. You're browsing your favorite news site and you see an advert for flights to Mexico.

Whilst you didn't think much of it at the time, in retrospect ask yourself:

- Have you recently searched for any travel online or clicked on a travel related advert?
- Have you recently used any terms in Google/other search engines related to Mexico or other central American locations?

I'd be surprised if you didn't answer yes to the above. Use your own recent experience and work backwards in terms of how that ad may have been placed in front of your eyes.

Now think back to the organization you work for.

How can you apply this thinking? If you're:

- An environmental org: you can reach out to those offsetting some carbon.
- Helping animals: you can place your message in front of someone who has searched for a pet adoption agency.
- Helping the homeless: you can locate find those who have signed a petition online to increase the number of housing shelters in your areas.

I'll be writing more on this. But next time you're playing around online, don't just ignore the ads being places in front of your eyes. Or on the right of your screen.

Think about how can apply the same intelligence to help you find more generous supporters online. People whose behavior dictates they are in the mind space to consider supporting your cause.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Cricket and data: all is not always as it seems

I've been copping a lot of flak from my English friends over the past few weeks.

You see, Australia and England have been competing in The Ashes series over the past two months. For those not familiar with cricket or The Ashes, check out the history of the series here.

For those in North America, think Canada v USA in the hockey. Or the Lakers versus the Celtics. Bitter sporting rivalries that ignite two nations, or two cities and sets of crazed fans. For those wondering what the hell cricket is, think a longer version of baseball with two batsmen, 11 players on each team and five day games.

Have I lost you yet? Stick with me, there is a point...

The upshot is that England annihilated us, winning the series 3-1. Which wouldn't be as hard to take except for the fact that until recently the tables have been turned. In fact Australia ruled the cricket world for the best part of two decades.

Now we're losing and we don't like it.

So the ribbing between mates has been at an all time high recently, and I in particular have been bearing the brunt of it (I'm now wishing that I shut my mouth during my time living in England).

But I got a chuckle this morning when my Aussie mate Tyron, living in the UK, sent an email, with a rather amusing story attached including the following graph. It plots the relative success in Ashes history over the last three decades with the relative employment levels of each country.

In short the story and chart suggests an inverse relationship between holding the 'Urn' (the trophy awarded to the winning team) and the health of the country's economy.

The blue line plots the Australian unemployment rate minus the UK unemployment rate, the red line showing the net result in the Ashes encounters.

Amazing. Win ashes, economy suffers. Sluggish economy, great cricket team?

Wish it was that simple, for fear of the humiliation we've put up with recently, I'd trade it for double figure unemployment. It would spare me the barrage of insults from my northern friends.

Not really.

The point?

Data is not always what it seems. As the adage I often refer to explains, data + insights = intelligence. And as much as I'd like to point the fingers at our insipid cricketing performance to our strong economy, I think that's a long bow to draw.

Don't look too hard for something you desperately want to be there. Ensure you're armed with the right information, all of the context, and not seeing things through rose tinted glasses, merely to see the picture you want.


Here's more on the Ashes and economy relationship via Business Spectator.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Trust and charities: getting on the front foot

Over Christmas, I caught up with lots of friends and family I hadn't seen in some time.

Twice during this period, the conversation turned to charity. Once, ignoring the fact I was sitting there (despite knowing broadly what I do for a job) and the other time because I was sitting there. In other words, friends felt they could vent with/at me knowing what I do.

Both dialogues were similar. Murmurings of "not sure which charities I could trust" to "Can't believe they waste money sending me these letters".

At the heart of both of these tirades from those close to me, was a severe lack of trust born out of two things. No real education on how charities do their work and an inherent belief that if charities spend money it must be wasteful.

So after some pretty lengthy discussions about the world we live in and the economics of fundraising, I got thinking.

Are we doing ourselves any favors or do we sit on our hands and cop this flak?

Not surprisingly, for the most part its the latter. It's reactionary. And of course is hurts us as a sector.

I turned to the web to take a peek at whether organizations help themselves either 'organically' through search (in other words, are they helping themselves with the content on their sites), and/or through paid advertising.

Here is what I found.

The first screen shot here shows what happens when I enter 'which charities should I trust?'

The answer is not much. Wikipedia references to to charitable trusts, as opposed to trusting charities ranks first. In terms of paid ads (right hand side of the page) little action, and nothing at all from industry groups promoting giving and philanthropy.

Of course you'll notice that third on the organic listing is charity watchdog Charity Navigator. That's about as much air time as they'll get here, their measures flawed and destructive as they're based solely on unfair financial measurements and not on real charitable impact.

So where are we?

I found it interesting that industry bodies, nor charities for that matter have taken the bull by the horns here? Do we not talk about why we're a trustworthy organization that is having impact? Either within the content on our site, or by paying for keywords through Google ads?

Then this, when I typed 'which charities should i donate to?'

A slightly different story here. Whilst you could argue they're different scenarios, a much more proactive approach taken with several organizations (highlighted on right hand side) bidding for these keywords either using paid ads or through their Google Grants.

The point?

There's a lot written about mistrust of many wonderful organizations in our sector. We spend a lot of time talking about industry bodies, task-forces, working groups. All aimed at sticking up for what we do. Being on the front foot.

Yet there are some perfectly good opportunities to do this, very simply, very easily. And we're missing it.

Please get on the front foot.

For more stuff on how to use Google AdWords, visit an earlier post.