Friday, March 30, 2012

Imagine Two Organisations

Imagine two organisations - a Charity and a Business.

The Business gives 50% of its income to some of the most vulnerable people in the world. For this they are heralded as one of the most generous, benevolent and ethical companies in the world.

The Charity spends 50% of its income on overheads, wages, marketing, etc. - way above the 'acceptable level' for a charity. For this they are criticised as a scam, inefficient and unethical.

The two organisations are the same, except one is called a Charity and one is called a Business.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Session at the Fundraising Ireland National Conference 2012

The slides from my presentation don't give the full picture of what I discussed at my Fundraising Ireland session, but here they are regardless:

In addition, I thought it would be useful to highlight what I feel were the most important points I hope attendees took away from the session.
The overall theme of the session was knowing your donors' trends, analysing your data and adapting what you do accordingly. I mentioned this article which discusses how a U.S. supermarket analysed their customer data and figured out who was pregnant, even if they didn't want anyone to know. They could then market to these customers accordingly.

I don't know if that's ethical but what it showed me was that the private sector is so far ahead of us in terms of analysing data that it's embarrassing. There is a whole lot more we could be learning from our data so as to give our donors and supporters what they want, when they want it (even if they don't realise it).

Open Your Direct Debit Date
There are significant differences in failed payments and cancellations depending on what day of the month you debit your donors. So what is the 'best date'? The answer is 'it depends'.

Rather than choosing the best date to process your Direct Debits you need to instead allow your donors to make their monthly donation on any day of the month. The majority of Irish charities only offer the choice of 1 or 2 possible debit dates and there doesn't seem to be any logic to how this date was chosen historically. No organisation in my session allowed the donor to choose any day of the month.

Charities will claim that they do not have the resources to process direct debits every day of the month but I would absolutely challenge that. It takes a few minutes to process each day and your finance department should be doing this. If they won't then consider paying them from your fundraising budget and see if that changes their mind. Rather than spending your budget on retention and recruitment the simple act of paying your Finance Manager to process Direct Debits every day will improve your retention conveniently and cost-effectively.

In addition, instead of asking your potential donors what day of the month they wish to give, consider asking them what day of the month they get paid, and then process their donation shortly afterwards.

Consider The January Spike
We all know your failed Direct Debit payments peak in January. And if you don't know that then let me tell you...your failed Direct Debit payments peak in January. The biggest risk is that donors see a single failed payment, panic, and cancel. You know it's going to happen, so what are you going to do about it?

The easiest thing you can do is offer your donors (by mail or by phone) a payment holiday in January. Your donors will respect you for treating them like human adults and very few will take you up on the offer. They might even be so flattered with your offer that they make an additional donation (assuming you allow them to).

Any donations you lose out on through the payment holiday will be easily compensated for by additional donations, better donor retention and a stronger relationship.

Work With More 'Challenging' Donors
Attrition of students, unemployed and younger donors is bad. You'll also notice donors that live in certain locations are more likely to cancel.

But don't write them off and don't stop recruiting them.

Instead consider putting more work in to these donors. Change the language you use to communicate with them. Offer them a lower gift amount...even the lowest gift amount. Ask them to volunteer. Ask them to fundraise for you.

Eventually, try to reactivate them. The won't be challenging donors forever. And when they're ready to give and give loyally then the months and years of work you have put in to nurturing the relationship will be well worth it.

Upgrade Your Donors
Upgrading your donors by telephone works extremely well. The return on investment is amazing. The response of donors is positive. Statistics are showing that an attempted upgrade call will result in improved attrition rates regardless of what the outcome of the call is.

Start upgrading your donors now. Get an agency to do it. Total Fundraising do it...and we do it very well.

Create A Donor Community
The attrition of male and female donors are similar, although not the same (do you communicate differently with men and women?). But what I find really interesting is that donors that give jointly as a couple are significantly better quality than donors that give by themselves.

In the same way that running and exercising with someone spurs you to push yourself harder, giving is more enjoyable when you do it with someone.

So how can we manufacture 'joint' donors? You can't ask your donors to start having sex.

But what you can do is build a community of donors who are funding one project and who are visible to each other. Resources like Facebook make this free and easy. Consider setting up a private Facebook group for 50 of your donors that are funding one project. They can interact, support and encourage each other, and most importantly motivate each other to stay involved.

I founded The Retention Consortium where charities can plug in their own figures and in return see other organisations' anonymous figures. Through this shared learning we can make huge advancements in what we're doing and we can avoid making the same mistakes another charity has already made.

For more information e-mail me.

These are just some of the ideas I explored in my seminar. If you wanted to know more or to see why one client was surprised to find out how cynical I am then, well, you should have come to my session.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fundraising Ireland's National Fundraising Conference 2012

Inspired by Howard Lake's usual collection of resources from UK fundraising events I decided here would be a good place to collect useful and interesting tweets, links, resources, etc. from Fundraising Ireland's National Fundraising Conference on 20th & 21st March 2012.

The hashtag for the conference is #finfc12 - follow live updates here.

Here are the Twitter pages of the Masterclass speakers:
Mike Johnston - @hjcnewmedia
Beate Sørum - @beatesorum
Damian O'Broin - @damianobroin
Aline Reed - @alinereed
Margaux Smith - @margauxs

And the rest of the speakers:
Tobin Aldrich - @tobinaldrich
Patrick Boggan -
Simon Burne -
Derval Costello -
Kevin Delaney - @kevmagic
Aíne Gibbons -
AJ Leon - @ajleon
Mark Pollock - @markpollock
Simon Scriver - @TotalFR
Chris Washington-Sare - @CWashingtonSare

And other people tweeting about the conference:

Here's a selection of Tweets:
 the truth goes a long way. Tell it all - the good, the bad, the complete story -@evthewolf 
 ' Sometimes best to go low tech, voice 2 voice, in real time's called the telephone ' ;-)  - @patcarrolltouch 
How about writing a letter to people.. An actual letter.. Thats right.. A handwritten personal letter. Revolutionary.   - @neilirwin 
Never let your organisation get in the way of a great story -  - @damianobroin 
Very good point from Simon - flashy databases that aren't properly used make sloppy communication easy   - @qaoileann
  direct debit date flexibility vital, we should be asking people when they get paid and set dd as close as possible - @ask_direct 
  being a donor can be a lonely experience without any sense of being part of a community - @ask_direct
85% of session attendees have recieved legacy gifts in their orgs but only 25% have an actual legacy programme!!  - @mylegacy_ie
Time and time again its the story making social media fundraising work. But social media that lets people hear it, see it, feel it. - @neilirwin 
Are geeks an untapped seam of fundraising gold?   - @neilirwin
Do u have control of who receives what-where? Dont lump the digital donor in with ur other donors.Identify why they donated & how! - @jennydouglas2
Digital fundraising not working because we are forgetting to prioritise, to ask, to analyse - - @OrlaithFoley
need to prompt people and give them reasons to share on social media.. Not just a little 'f' on your website - @neilirwin
3 second delay in loading a website will cause over 50% of consumers to click away - @timodea
Looking forward to in Dublin on weds , great bunch of speakers there. And me too, I'm afraid - @tobinaldrich
"finance + sales are the 2 most evil industries... But put them together +you get fundraising!" - Simon scriver   - @qaoileann 
Did my "do I have everything"-routine. Did not have everything. Returned for power adapter. Now en route to  again. - @BeateSorum
As an aside, amazed that so many people in the room never heard of Kickstarter. Or didn't admit to it:)  - @qaoileann 
Between AJ Leon and Simon from , the geek chic quotient is high so far at  - @qaoileann
I'll be following you from a grey-skied vantage point in Cork - @omaniblog

Speaker Presentations

[None pics?]

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Why Charities Are Doomed

This is a speech I made in February 2012.

I wish I could tell you that charities are doomed because they will no longer be needed. I would love to tell you poverty will be history, unnecessary disease and death will be eliminated, there will be a cure for cancer and AIDS, and that all of the problems charities work so hard to fix will be eradicated.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. While I do think all these problems can and will be fixed, if we continue down the path we are on charities will not be the ones responsible.

Instead, charities are doomed. They are doomed because of the restrictions we put on them, and because of their competition.
We restrict charities by telling them they cannot operate like a business and this attitude is strangling them. Let’s think about it...

Firstly, we tell charities they can’t spend money on advertising and marketing, or they must rely on free ad space or can only spend minimal amounts. But why? Businesses spend on advertising because it works. Pepsi, Apple, Microsoft, these organisations built their empires through advertising. You might not like to admit it but charities are competing for the money we spend on these products, and yet we tell them they can’t spend money trying to secure it. As a result they lose out.

Secondly, we tell charities they shouldn’t spend money on wages, and certainly not high salaries. Charity sector chief executives earn on average 18% lower than their private sector counterparts. Charities are often not able to attract the best and brightest minds because these people can earn so much more working in the private sector.

The Irish Examiner recently ran an article criticising charities for paying their CEOs more than €100k. Now think of some of the most brilliant business minds of our time - the Bill Gates, the Steve Jobs, the Warren Buffets - would it be unreasonable to pay them more than €100k to run a charity? I don’t think so - they would do amazing things. Steve Jobs was making millions through stock and expenses - the company bought him a $90 million dollar jet. Do you think his board and do you think the public criticised that move as a waste of money? Of course not...look what he did for the company.

I’m not saying paying someone over €100k is acceptable or should be encouraged - but if we’re going to allow it in the private sector we need to allow it in the charity sector. Otherwise we put these amazing charities at a disadvantage.

Finally, we tell charities that they cannot spend more than 10% on overheads. Nonsense. Let’s simplify it - a really basic example. Imagine I work in a small charity and I spend hours every week putting letters in to envelopes. I get paid for this, albeit my wage falls in to that acceptable 10%. Now imagine we wanted to buy a machine that could put all these letters in to envelopes quickly. It’s going to cost me thousands for the machine, but for years afterwards it’s going to save us time and money. A business would look at that and ask how quickly will it pay for itself and if it makes sense it will buy that machine. A charity however will not – because every year they have to deliver a financial report showing their overheads are minimal.

Not only are these restrictions holding charities back, but their competition is gaining ground and eventually will overtake them.

Who is their competition? Profit making corporations.

We are at a point where profitable companies are making numerous donations to charities throughout the world. But these companies are demanding more and more from their donations - more recognition, more involvement, more say in how this money is used. We are at a tipping point where very soon these companies will take full control of the charitable work they pay for by absorbing it fully in to their company.

Think about this - why would someone like Google continue to make donations to a charity that provides computers to schools in developing countries? Why would Google not make a direct connection with these schools? They’ll have full control over how the computers are distributed, full control over how this gesture is marketed - they’ll do it more efficiently and more effectively because they don’t have the restrictions we place on charities.

How about someone like Specsavers? Rather than their charitable work being merely donations it is only a matter of time before they do the ground work themselves. Why would Specsavers continue to make charitable donations when they could instead have a division of their organisation that works to cure unnecessary blindness themselves?

If we continue down the path we’re on it will happen, and the number one reason it will happen is because of the huge benefit these profit making companies will derive.

If Google provides computers to developing schools what browser and search engine will these schools use? Googles - they would have grown their own customer base. If Specsavers cures your blindness (and 80% of blindness is curable) who are you going to buy your glasses from for the rest of your life? Nike will help people to walk so they buy more shoes. SherryFitzgerald will house the homeless until they are in a position to pay rent. Pharmaceutical companies already pump millions in to researching cancer and AIDS - not because they are selfless but because a cure will make them the most successful company in the world.

We will save your life but you will be a loyal customer for the rest of that life. THE most loyal customer.

It makes sense for profit making companies to tackle world issues directly and because of the restrictions we put on charities they will do it better. Charities are doomed. The question you need to ask yourself - is that a bad thing?

We live in a market economy where the most cost-effective businesses survive and thrive. If charities can’t compete then why do we care? If businesses do more good work, do better work and more of the worlds problems are fixed then why do we care?

Or do you believe businesses are greedy and unethical? Do you believe charities do their good work selflessly? If that’s the case then we need charities to survive, and thrive. So let's let them.

Why couldn’t a charity have created Facebook, the iPod, Coke? Imagine! Instead of profits for shareholders these things were funding life changing projects?

We need to allow charities to excel by allowing them to be competitive. We need to stop choking them - allow them to be run like a business, advertise like a business, pay like a business and compete with businesses.

Only then will we eradicate the world’s problems.