Thursday, December 18, 2014

Predictions For Irish Fundraising In 2015

I've had a rough year this year and really right now I don't have the energy or mindset to do my annual predictions for Irish fundraising - I'm circling the drain. But looking back at last year's predictions I would say we're in for more of the same. So here's a recap:

The Charity Regulator Will Disappoint Many
But many people think the regulator will somehow reduce what CEOs earn, get rid of 'chuggers', and eliminate some of the more questionable charities. They won't - it just wouldn't make any sense. And that'll leave a few people lamenting the Charity Regulator as 'another quango'. In fact, it's been argued that 'fundraising' doesn't even fall under the regulator at all.

SMS Giving Will Get MORE Expensive
The Data Commissioner put the kibosh on the opt-outs in any form which made the whole thing so much more expensive. And surely the '100% goes to the charity' can't last much longer?

Negative Media Coverage
Fundraising/chugging/salaries will receive huge negative, misinformed, one-sided media coverage in February, August and October.

Legacies Will Get Big
It's already started, but in 2015 we're going to really see legacy messaging drip-feeding through everything. You may as well just go update your will now and get it over with.

Cost Per Acquisition Is About To Go Nuts
More and more charities are finally getting round to recruiting regular donors, which is a great thing. But it's also going to put pressure on the public, on the suppliers and on fundraisers. Combine that with stronger regulation, stricter data protection rules and more large charities bringing their face-to-face in-house (and driving up wages to an unsustainable level) and what you'll see is an increase in your cost per acquisition.

What do you think we're going to see in 2015?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Are Direct Mail, E-mail, Vinyl and Bruce Willis Dead?

I keep reading that DM is dead. And now e-mail and Facebook are dead. Meanwhile, people bought more vinyl records this year than any time in the last 20 years.

What's going on?

Well maybe it's just impossible for things to die.

Tobin Aldrich wrote a nice blog post pointing out the DM isn't's changing. He also says he's “been hearing that DM is dead for 20 years.”

I don't think anything is dead.

Things don't die. They change. We get nostalgic. We might prioritise differently, we might budget differently. But to say anything is dead is probably nonsense.

I could make a VHS appeal work if I sent a good strong ask on a VHS tape to the people that still own VHS players. It would work.

When you read an article saying that something is 'dead', check who wrote it and see if they own a company that sells the thing they're claiming is 'next'.

The only thing that will die is each and every person that you love.

Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

10 Key Lessons From The Fundraising #AnnualLectures

I was fortunate enough to attend the second Annual Lectures, having won my place by writing this.

Here are, not so much 10 key lessons, but my 10 highlights from the day:
  1. Pat Dade asked "What parts of humans are still chimps?" reminding me that so many of our actions and reactions make no sense. Or at least make no sense to modern, logical, tweeting us. And don't forget we share 50% DNA with bananas.
    He went on to point out that our whole society is falling apart - is that a few bad apples or is it because of what we're stuck working with?

  2. Jacob Rolin declared that "Church, State, and Financial Institutions are dying." Beautiful.
    He also confronted our habit of thinking other charities - especially children's charities - are easier to fundraise for (I call it 'The Cause Is Always Greener'). He said, "We are all children's charities." Your charity is making the world better for the next generation.

  3. Phil Barden explained a weak brand uses more energy in our brains. A strong brand uses less energy and allows us to autopilot and focus on survival. As humans we want autopilot. I think good fundraisers nurture a habit of giving...not flashes.
    "It is hardwired in us to attend to humans."

  4. Jeremy Hughes said "There is no point in standing there and not rattling the can."
    He's 50 years a fundraiser. A fundraiser who became a CEO. And a delight to listen to.
    I'm going to steal his quote and use it for years, saying it to bookend any conversation on fundraising in a poetic way, whether or not it makes sense.

  5. He also asked why isn't the first page of our annual reports about money and how it ties in to what we do? We should be proud that everything relies on and is tied to fundraising. Instead it's usually "Here's a bit about fundraising even though you don't want to hear it."

  6. A couple of people quoted the Unilever CEO as saying "Unilever is the biggest NGO in the world, but because we make a profit we're sustainable."

  7. Iain McAndrew explained that Cystic Fibrosis advertised for a 'Master Storyteller' as opposed to 'engagement' or 'marketing' person.

  8. Ken Burnett lamented, "The biggest tragedy of most charity communications is that they're dull." His large collared shirt took out the eyes of the front row and he went on to explain that charities need to deliver Fast, Frequent, Fabulous Feedback. He knows what he's talking about.

  9. Alan Clayton concluded that "People need to give...and we're fulfilling that need."
    He did what he does best: riffing on the audience's emotions like a Don McLean concert.

  10. Richard Taylor of CRUK neatly surmised every conference (and life itself) by saying "It's worth remembering we don't know what we're talking about."

It's a bit of an injustice not mentioning Tony Elischer (King of The Quotables), and the rest of the legendary speakers. Great day.

Now get back to work.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What's Next In Fundraising?

This is the 500 word piece of writing that won me a place at The Annual Lectures.

I read recently that we only spend a couple of hours each day actually working. Who has time to fundraise? Between countless cups of tea, checking my phone, Twitter, reading blogs, watching videos and crying in the bathroom, really there is very little time.

The next big thing in fundraising - and in everything, really - is actually doing stuff.

Talking about what a mess we’re in, attending conferences and reading ‘67 Ways To Improve Your Productivity’ isn’t going to cut it anymore. We need to start actually doing this stuff.

I love fundraising conferences. Genuinely, they’re like little holidays for me. But it strikes me as odd that year after year some of the greatest fundraisers in the world are telling rooms of people that we need to thank our donors. That we need to look after them. But when I mystery shop charities it still feels like someone didn’t get the memo.

We’re coming away from these sessions feeling invigorated and inspired, but then life, love and True Detective gets in the way. Are we to blame? Are we choosing an easy life over working - I mean really working - to do all the stuff we know we should be doing?

You know picking up the phone is more effective than sending that e-mail so why don’t you do it? You know handwriting a letter to a major donor will do more for you than reading yet another article on donor retention, but you don’t do it. Even this sentence...this one here...that you’re reading...right’s unnecessarily long and really doesn’t tell you anything...shouldn’t you have used this time to ask someone for money?

I actually blame digital for some of this. Even though I’m young (at least according to the Annual Lectures) I think digital fundraising is overhyped. It’s a method, not a motivator. And as long as humans are born and raised with physical contact and human love we are always going to thirst for it. It will always trump digital.

Instead, this new media has made it really easy, really convenient, to not communicate like humans. While we try to keep up with the latest revolutionary, innovative fad (“This will change everything!”) we move further and further away from giving humans what they require. All because it promises to be easy, to fix all our problems, and save us from having to actually do this terribly difficult thing called ‘fundraising’.

What’s next in fundraising? Let’s be brutally honest and admit we haven’t implemented half the classic stuff we should have. Let’s continue to learn what works from each other and from the greatest minds in fundraising. And then let’s actually do it. Let’s do it now, with the same level of urgency we impart to our donors.  We have to...there are so many people relying on us.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

See You Next #GivingTuesday?

#GivingTuesday - similar to movements like the 1% Difference Campaign - are a nice idea. I don't believe they work, but they're harmless (aren't they?) and do bring about a few positive results. Albeit, not in the way they intend.

So why don't I like it?

Well, other great fundraising blogs have already beat me to it:

  • Michael Rosen points out that there is no evidence that Giving Tuesday actually does anything.
  • Claire Axelrad wonders "if #GivingTuesday encourages token, one-time transactions or small gifts that might have become larger gifts if solicited another way.
  • Joe Garecht of The Fundraising Authority says you should avoid it - Your message will get crowded out, social media sucks for fundraising, it encourages “spot giving”, and the Return On Investment is just awful. 

Let's delve a bit deeper...

Relationship Fundraising
Every good fundraiser knows good fundraising is about building and maintaining good relationships. Giving Tuesday is an attempt to build a relationship with a day, when you should be building a relationship with your charity.

One of the overwhelming problems with Giving Tuesday is there is little or no consideration on what should have happened in that relationship before and what's going to happen after Tuesday.

I think we see, and will continue to see, positive results because charities ask where they wouldn't have asked. The day gives shy charities a license to ask. It's not that donors have been compelled to give because it's Tuesday. It's because your 'ask' compelled them. Really we should call it #AskingTuesday and just admit to ourselves that it's a campaign for charities rather than the public.

Why Do People Give?
Do you really think people are going to give because it's Tuesday? Are you hoping that they're going to give to you because a different charity or person told them it was #GivingTuesday?

No...they're going to give because you reached out, and because you asked.

So then ask yourself, is the fact that it's Tuesday your most compelling 'ask'? Or do you think perhaps feeding that starving child, finding a home for that puppy, or helping someone who has been sexually abused is a more compelling story and a better ask?

As a charity, is #GivingTuesday the most effective way for you to raise money? Or is it just noise?

Instead, I urge you to boil it down to your usual emotionally captivating story. And go out to the public with a clear call to action, whatever the day of the week. Let others spend time and money on it if they need to.

And to the umbrella groups and suppliers that spend money on these types of campaigns: Ask yourself if this is the most effective way to support the charity sector?

What if you put that budget in to fundraising campaigns or fundraiser training instead? What if your budgets were used to turn bad fundraisers in to good fundraisers? And ask yourself what could a DM or Telephone fundraising expert in a little charity do with these budgets instead?

Those are the actions that would bring positive increases in fundraising each and every day of the week.

Update: Only just discovered this awesome post on Giving Tuesday from Sheena Greer.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

How Good Does Your Fundraising Chicken Taste?

This blog post originally appeared on the excellent

People talk a lot about how often you should be mailing, e-mailing and phoning your donors. Charities often ask me how often they should be contacting their donors. And whenever they do I always think about the Chicken Variety Meal at KFC.

Yes, KFC.

If you’re my age or older you might know them as Kentucky Fried Chicken. But they rebranded in an attempt to hide the word ‘fried’ (or, as some might have you believe, to hide the word ‘chicken’). KFC is my secret shame. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’m generally a good person. But, despite myself, I love KFC and have had to manage my addiction to the point where now I can proudly say it’s just a ‘special treat’.

Every time I go in to KFC and order my meal they ask if I want to give them more money to Go Large. And every time I say yes. And I never get annoyed.

Even if I went in there every meal of every day they would continue to ask me to give them more more money. And I would never get annoyed.

Why not?

Because I love their chicken, I love their fries, and I love their Pepsi. I crave for it. Every bite is a euphoric journey to a salty land of nostalgic love. KFC and The Colonel are giving me exactly what I want, when I want it. And when they offer me more I’m grateful.

You see, junk mail is only junk if it doesn’t apply to you. I get pizza menus dropped in my letterbox every day...and they annoy me every day that I don’t want a pizza.

I hear anecdotal evidence on Donor Communications all the time: People don’t want to get mail, don’t want to get e-mails, don’t want to get phone calls. And people don’t want to be asked for money.

That’s simply not true.

People don’t want to receive bad mails. They don’t want to receive bad phone calls. They don’t want to receive bad e-mails. And they don’t want to be asked for money...badly.

If people don’t want to receive your updates and your appeals it’s not the donors fault and it’s not the mediums fault. It’s your fault.

The public want to hear from you as often as you have something interesting and relevant to say. How often should you be contacting your donors? Well, ask yourself how often have you got something good to say?

And ask yourself, honestly, how good is your fundraising-chicken?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Simon's Weekly-ish Charity Fundraising Videos

So I've started trying to do a weekly-ish video ranting about all things fundraising and charity. You can watch a couple of them below:


And if they floated your boat then you can subscribe to the whole playlist here.

Please feel free to like, share or leave comments. It's all I have.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Here's a photo I took of a charity with no admin costs or overheads

So yesterday I tweeted what I think is my most popular tweet of all time:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Restorative Fundraising

I've been learning about Restorative Practices, a concept new to me. It puts forward that “human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”

Makes perfect sense, right?

And the more you read about it the more obvious it becomes that it's an effective way to communicate with criminal offenders, employees, kids, friends and family.

And donors.

I'm not a clever man, so a really easy way I found to picture it is using the Social Discipline Window:

Social Discipline Window

Our communications fall in to one of these categories: punitive, neglectful, permissive and restorative. Restorative is where you want to be. In plain English, think about whether you are doing something to someone, for someone, with someone, or not doing it at all.

So where does your fundraising sit?

The majority of Irish charities sit in the 'Not' section - willfully or unwittingly neglecting their donors and potential donors. You never contact your donors or you don't contact them enough. Money might come in, but it's pretty much a stroke of luck and unlikely to be repeated. As any good fundraiser knows if you don't ask you don't get.

Or you might be permissive. If you find yourself organising golf classics and black tie events because your Board like them, or you've been running the same loss making events for years because your donors 'love them', then you're working for them.

Punitive fundraising is one-way communication, guilting and begging the public in to handing over their hard earned money. If you've ever written a letter saying you're at risk of closing down or you've never shown a success story then you're probably sitting in that 'To' box.

But Restorative Fundraising...that's where something beautiful happens. That's where you want to be. Your communications and appeals are regular. They focus on the donor and the beneficiaries. The show they need, they show the success. They are humble but confident.

And they successfully raise money.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Wrong Numbers In Telephone Fundraising

[This article has been published previously on 101fundraising – Crowdblog on Fundraising]

I grew up in that profoundly awkward era where we all had landlines and nobody had mobile phones. When I phoned a girl I was trying to woo it was paralysingly scary - one of her parents may well have answered and you'd have to deal with that.

That was bad...but even now, where we essentially have a direct line to anyone, making that call can be terrifying. Maybe that's why so many people try to avoid picking up the phone?

A recent study in Ireland found that only 2% of charities used the phone to fundraise. Compare that to 3.6% of charities using 'international treks'. Some people would rather climb Kilimanjaro than pick up the phone. And haven't we all be in the position of sending way too many e-mails back and forth rather than a quick call, simply because we couldn't face talking to someone.

I've found one of the common traits of great members of staff is a willingness to pick up the phone. Seriously. If a fundraiser (or any staff member) delays and deflects that phone call then I'm sorry to say it's probably not going to work out.

For me, nothing beats telephone. It's relatively cheap, instantly adaptable, completely personalised, scalable, and it integrates with everything you do. It's easy to launch and easy to stop. Anyone can do it - you don't need an agency. Your charity should know what it's doing with its phones (and I mean really know what it's doing) before it touches anything else.

So, as the eloquent telephone fundraising guru Adrian Salmon once said, "Why aren't we protecting Voice?"

"Voice"! Have you ever heard a telephone call described so wonderfully? And maybe that's part of the problem: we think of the telephone as this lump of plastic on our desks rather then this amazing instrument that allows us to put our voice - one of our most powerful fundraising tools - in a potential donors home and head.

The truth is that we undermine phone. We prioritise digital and all these fancy new medias while we hang up the phone. Perhaps because we undermine it, in many ways we're seeing a race to the bottom...

Lovely dedicated telephone fundraising agencies exist, but very often we're seeing charities hand their calls over to sales companies with scripts and auto-diallers. We suck the life and love out of the calls and strip our fundraisers of their personalities. Why? A lack of trust? Because it makes the calls cheaper?

And then the smaller charities who keep their telephone work in-house very often don't invest in training or skill. Why? Because they don't believe in it? Is it actually only 2% of charities that use the phone to fundraise, or do they not realise that every phone call is a fundraising call.

Yes...calls to your fundraisers, calls to your volunteers, thank-you calls...they're all fundraising calls. And every time your phone rings? That's a fundraising call.

At the IFC in Holland I'll be speaking about why Voice is worth saving and why there's room to grow. I'll be spelling out exactly what makes a good and bad fundraising call and we'll be listening to actual samples. We'll mystery shop some charities and I'll tell you about the multiple times I phoned up to make a donation and was unable to do so.

You might also come to understand why I love telephone fundraising. And why so many girls have dumped me by text message.

[Find times and details of my IFC seminar here]

Friday, September 26, 2014

Charity Begins At Home

Mike Maguire pointed me towards some of the things in this blog post. I promised I wouldn't write it until he'd done his own, but since he's now crossed to the for-profit dark we go...

As someone who fundraises for international humanitarian organisations, one of my least favourite phrases in the world is 'Charity begins at home'.

Whether or not it is explicitly racist, I hate the notion that there might be a mathematical relationship between how far away someone is standing from you and how much their life is worth. As someone put it to me: When a person says charity begins at home what they really mean is that it ends at home.

I especially hate it when Irish people say it, forgetting how recently it was that we depended on international aid and relied on other countries to welcome our emigrants (We still do).

The Sun in 1989

There are some truly beautiful stories of how people around the world step up to help the Irish - in particular during our most desperate time: the Great Famine.

There was the Choctaw tribe in Oklahoma who, despite having so little and suffering so much, donated $170 (worth tens of thousands today) to help the Irish. And the Islamic Ottoman Empire sent us a fortune.

And why are we so happy to ignore the fact that our economy is propped up by customers 'over there' and foreign visitors. It is sad to see some of the xenophobic comments that float around Irish news stories and charity social media posts, knowing that their authors may not even have existed if it weren't for the compassion and generosity of others.

I hope my country and my generation will be remembered as charitable.

And I hope we will see the phrase 'charity begins at home' disappear, or at least revert back to it's original meaning. You see, it doesn't mean help yourself (and people who look like you). Quite the opposite. Instead it means that by being charitable and kind to all, others will follow.

Lead by example. And dismissing the most vulnerable in our world flippantly with some meaningless catch phrase - well, that's not the example I want to set.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Some Dates For Your Fundraising Diary

Here are some great events coming up, if you're in to charities and fundraising:

Fundraising Essentials
On 24th September Fundraising Ireland are running a really cool 'introduction to fundraising'. There are some really good speakers lined up - some of the best fundraisers in Ireland...and me.

Fundraising Ireland's DM Series
This looks really good - 4 separate seminars run by some of the most experienced DM fundraisers around. It's not too late to book for the sessions on the 18th and 25th of September.

International Fundraising Congress
The IFC in Holland is always a great event. From 14th to 17th October fundraisers from around the world get together to learn, develop and gossip. It's pretty epic. I'll be running a session on Telephone Fundraising.

Launch of #GoodCharity
The website has been live for a while now, and the response so far has been great. We're trying to run an official launch next month, and get the media involved. At the moment we're pencilled in for 30th October.

Increase Your Fundraising By 85% - Event In The Wesht Of Ireland
I'm running a really special morning seminar with The Southern Branch of Fundraising Ireland in Cork on November 11th.

IoF Northern Ireland
On the 13th of November the annual NI fundraising conference takes place in Belfast. It's always good and really reasonably priced.

Toastmasters For Good
I'm still getting this set up, but working towards a series of early evening meetings in October/November. These will be free opportunities to help improve your public speaking if you work in the non-profit sector.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Recommended Fundraising Reading


Telephone Fundraising

Friday, September 5, 2014

Charity Videos: Good versus Bad

Here are two recent Irish charity videos:


One is cheap, poorly acted, with bad sound quality, and looks like it took about half an hour to make. IT IS AMAZING!

The other is slick and fancy, loads of people involved and obviously took a lot of work. I don't like it at all.

The Irish Cancer Society video is so average because:

  • It's all "We we we". We launched this, we did this. No you didn't! Your donors did!
  • There are so many many stats.
  • As much as I like their CEO, he shouldn't be in the video. And get rid of the fundraisers too. Give me more nurses! Give me more service users!
  • Get rid of words and phrases like 'Strategic plan', 'incognisant', 'collaborative', 'oncologist'.
  • Thank you count = 0

 The IMNDA video is so good because:

  • It's all thank yous
  • So many service users, so many nurses. Not a CEO in sight!
  • It's filled with real people with first names. No surnames!
  • Real descriptions of how they spend money, spoken like humans.
  • It's so cheesy and cute!

When you're making a video for your charity (and you should only need a phone) there is one simple thing to remember. It is a bitter pill to swallow but it is really one of the most important things in fundraising:

Nobody cares about your charity or your CEO. It is all about your donors and the people they help.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How Your Charity Can Replicate The #IceBucketChallenge

Let me just get it out there straight away:

You can't replicate the #IceBucketChallenge,
the #NoMakeUpSelfie
or the next big thing.

(I'm sorry - I kind of tricked you in to opening this blog post. But wait! I will tell you how to increase your chances.)

As I said before you can't replicate these things and instead your fundraising should focus on things that are more scientific and more reliable. You also need to be ready just in case it does happen. I've got some tips here about how to be ready and Zoe Amar did an excellent post here.

So how do you increase the chances of an #IceBucketChallenge kicking off for your charity?

Through good old fashioned fundraising.

You see, ALS didn't really benefit out of nowhere. When the Ice Bucket Challenge started it was vaguely for any charity, until one guy decided to bring ALS in to the mix. Why did he do it? Because one of his relatives had ALS, he had confidence in the charity, he knew they needed money, and he'd probably already donated to them.

So how do you replicate that?

  1. Gain people's confidence by running effectively, being transparent, and showing the public how you help.
  2. Tell people you need money and what you're going to do with it.
  3. Get people to donate to you through traditional fundraising which is proven to work.

If you have all that stuff in place then there's a better chance the next big thing will come your way.

And even if it doesn't? (Which it almost certainly won't)

Well, you'll still be raising money.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Your Donation Page Is Out-Of-Date

Your donation page is probably not as good as it could be. As a result you're losing donations and the people who are giving to you aren't probably giving as much as they could.

You need to overhaul your donation page and there's plenty of great tips out there on what it should look like:

But even if you follow all that great advice your donation page is going to be out-of-date.


Well, because you don't know what your next appeal is. You don't know what the next big news story is. When you designed your donation page you might have know why people were visiting it, but you probably don't know why they're going to visit it today or tomorrow.

So how do you deal with that?

Well, the next time you're putting your money in to your website make sure you get an adaptable donation page. You almost certainly don't have an in-house website person and can't afford to pay an agency every time you want to change something, so you need to make sure you can edit your donation page from the back-end at no extra cost.

More than that, you need more than one donation page. You need to have your standard donation page, but you need to be able to quickly set up up a donation page customised to the #IceBucketChallenge, #FreeGaza, #MigrantX or whatever is going to motivate people to want to help you.

The customised pages need to have relevant images, relevant text, relevant stories, a relevant Thank You, and a relevant 'shopping list' - even a relevant URL. Have a look next time and what you'll see is almost all charities have the same generic donation page with no mention of what drove them there.

Remember, your donors aren't donating to you. They're donating to your cause...or more specifically how they interpret your cause. Your donation page needs to match their interpretation.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Obligatory #IceBucketChallenge Blog Post - Criticism of Criticisms

It was inevitable that I'd do a blog post on the #IceBucketChallenge. As a Fundraising Consultant and Service Provider my business model relies on me piggybacking my thoughts on to the latest trend, attempting to add some insight that you'll associate with my name. As this post is shared it spreads my name and moves me up the search results, which then converts to more business and increased income, allowing me to accumulate more material objects until I die at 64. Anyway...

In case you missed it, the Ice Bucket Challenge is the latest on-line viral sensation which also claims to raise money and awareness for charity (in this case ALS a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's Disease).

It's interesting...but more interesting is that the tide is starting to turn and it's becoming more and more fashionable to criticise these things rather than support or just ignore them. You'll see that - we see it with every positive movement, as we have with charities themselves.

I've seen articles call it a 'damaging fad' and even 'the end of charity fund-raising'.

The criticism's I've read so far are:
  • It's not raising extra money for's just taking money from elsewhere.
    No doubt some people that donate $10 to this challenge will then find themselves having to decline a $10 donation elsewhere. That's unfortunate but it's still a donation. However, the people we're interested in are the ones that donate the $10 and then find themselves having to buy less drink, cigarettes, crap, etc. What the 'for-good' sector has effectively done is stolen some business from the 'for-bad' sector and made an effort at increasing national percentage donation levels that have otherwise remained pretty steady.
  • People are having too much fun.
    And presumably they're not having more fun...they're just taking fun away from other places?
    I never understand this - even if you work in a morgue or warzone or charity you're allowed to find fun as long as it's not at the expense of others. Jesus, otherwise what's the point of anything?
  • It doesn't raise any awareness.
    While 'awareness' may well be useless, you can't argue that more people searching for and reading about the disease is in fact raising awareness.
  • Some people aren't even donating.
    That's right. And these people weren't going to donate anyway. But some people are donating that hadn't before. And some of these 'some people' will go on to donate again.
  • Some people are donating to the wrong charity!Well they're probably doing so because they have a personal connection to that cause. So, whatever.
  • We should be donating without these fads. And we should be donating monthly because it's more cost-effective!
    We shooooould...but if you've ever met a human and/or have any self-awareness you'll know that we don't always do what we should.
  • It's a waste of waterReally? Kind of sounds like you're clutching at straws, like the people who say that electric cars use more energy than normal cars. But if you're really worried about it then use sea water. It's freezing.
  • It's so annoying!
    The reason the Ice Bucket Challenge is so annoying is because it's working so well. If your Facebook timeline was filled 20 million news stories about a cash collection on Tara Street you'd be annoyed too. Now you know how I feel about GAA and Harry Potter.
    But my buzz with fundraising is always that the results justify a tiny bit of annoyance and inconvenience. I always try to picture a kid who will benefit from these donations and someone telling his parents he shouldn't be helped anymore because their Twitter feed is annoying. You know where you won't hear about the Ice Bucket Challenge? In a book, a park, or a Marx Brothers movie.
  • Ice bucket purists are annoyed that the charity element is detracting from their first love.
    OK, I made that one up.

You'll notice a lot of these criticisms can be applied to cash collections, challenge events, galas, etc.

For me there is only one valid criticism, and it's not even a criticism of the campaign. It's more of a criticism of consultants, bloggers, Boards, and fundraisers that encourage you to try and replicate these things.

As I said in my #NoMakeUpSelfie post, charities should be prepared and ready to capitalise on these amazing things that crop out of nowhere.

But don't waste time and money trying to replicate it. Forget chasing the viral dragon and instead focus on good old-fashioned, reliable fundraising. And have some fun.

Here's my Ice Bucket Challenge:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Become A Better Public Speaker in the Charity Sector

Do you work in the Irish charity sector - either as a paid member of staff or as a volunteer?
Do you need to make presentations to groups of people? Maybe to co-workers, potential funders, or volunteers?

Do you think your public speaking could use a boost? Want more confidence?

If so, I hope I can help. I am looking to bring Toastmasters to the Irish charity sector - and I want to hear from YOU if you are interested.

What Is Toastmasters?
Toastmasters International is a worldwide, non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills. It's a friendly, fun and supportive environment. Every day around the world like-minded people meet to help each other improve their skills.

There are already over 100 clubs in Ireland, usually made up of members who share a common location or common employer. So far, there is no organisation dedicated to the unique needs of the Irish charity sector.

How Is A Meeting Structured?
A typical meeting is divided in to 3 parts:

  1. 'Table Topics' helps people to speak 'off-the-cuff', delivering short impromptu speeches with little or no preparation.
  2. Prepared Speeches gives you an opportunity to deliver a speech you have been working on for days or weeks. It's a great chance to practice an important presentation or speech before the real thing.
  3. Evaluations are constructive feedback, used to help everyone become a better speaker. It also helps you get better at delivering constructive feedback.

What Are The Benefits?
You'll become a better public speaker. You'll get a chance to meet other people working in the Irish charity sector. You'll learn loads about lots of random topics. You'll have fun.

What Does It Cost?
It depends on the club, but you're usually talking about €5 a meeting.

Why A Toastmasters For Charity Staff & Volunteers?
Your public speaking is so important. How you deliver your message can be the difference between someone donating, volunteering, or doing nothing. We can all benefit if we have better public speakers in the charity sector.

I'm Interested Already! Shut Up And Tell Me What To Do
OK, at the moment I'm recording interest with a view to launching an introductory 'Speechcraft' set of meetings. From there, with enough interest, we will work together to launch an amazing club which meets every 2 weeks.

So please e-mail me, with no commitment, and let me know if it's something you'd be interest in.

Thank you!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Raise More Money On-Line Tomorrow

I just read The loveable Agitator's latest post on raising more money on-line. They suggest:

1. Make our fundraising emails ‘mobile friendly’.
2. Take a fresh look at our Facebook and other social media presence.
3. Improve the conversion rate on our website (and generate more traffic to same).

I'm going to add to the list, (and I'd also move their #2 waaaaaayyyyy down)...

4. Add an on-line donation 'upgrade'. Us agencies are doing it so why can't you?

5. Optimise your donation forms. Reading all of this from Beate Sorum is probably the most productive thing you can do today.

6. Write a better auto-thank you e-mail. These are usually put together as an afterthought. Can you improve yours? I'm not talking about prettier, I'm talking about good writing. And it needs to look like and sound like it comes from a human.

7. Add subtitles to your videos. YouTube makes that really easy and it means people with no speakers and people who are pretending to work in an office can watch them.

8. Bring them off-line. Follow up with a call if you can. Follow up with a letter if you can.

9. Make sure your donation button works. Seriously, in the last month I have visited 3 different charity websites where the donation button was a broken link. On top of that I've seen others where the donation button is well and truly hidden, or at least camouflaged as an 'Add to Shopping Basket'.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Updated Irish Code Of Practice For Face to Face Fundraising

This month sees the roll-out of the Code of Practice for Face to Face Fundraising (Ireland edition 2014). It has been created by Ireland's Face To Face Forum (formerly the IFFDR - the Irish Fundraising Forum for Direct Recruitment).

As part of Total Fundraising I am proud to be part of the forum, alongside the respectable charities and agencies who put time and resources in to being involved.

Code of Practice for Face to Face Fundraising

This Code of Practice applies to Face to Face fundraising to secure committed regular gifts for charity and non-profit organisations in the Irish market. This code applies to unsolicited personal approaches to members of the public in public places and should be understood in the context of “non-cash collections” in the Charities Act 2009, and when implemented, amendments to the Street and House to House Collections Act 1962.

The purpose of face to face fundraising is to secure vital regular and committed donations for the good work of charities. Face to face fundraising provides effective, secure and appropriate means by which the public can demonstrate their committed support to a charity, through their bank account, credit card, mobile phone or other means of electronic giving.

The Code of Practice for Face to Face Fundraising aims to ensure the highest standard of face to face fundraising in an effective and sympathetic manner for a charity without causing public nuisance or disturbance.

Professional Conduct

As organisers of face to face fundraising, we undertake to:
  1. Manage fundraising activity to ensure that approaches are undertaken in compliance with legal requirements (including employment law), and with this Code of Practice.
  2. Respect the dignity of our profession and ensure that our actions enhance the reputation of ourselves and the profession of fundraising.
  3. Ensure our fundraisers understand the emphasis on the charity’s reputation, and the nonaggressive nature of all approaches.
  4. Provide adequate procedures to protect the health and safety of our fundraisers and the public (including procedures when a fundraiser is invited into a premises).
  5. Seek to ensure that all who work with us have appropriate levels of competence and training to represent charity and carry out their fundraising duties.
  6. Work with all other organisers operating a location management group, to avoid overburdening the public with face to face approaches, to ensure fair and equal access to fundraising sites, and to liaise with any future authority for permissions.
  7. Ensure fundraising will only occur in the time and place agreed by the site location management group. All issues or changes, and any breach of agreement will be reported to the site location management group.
  8. Comply with data protection law and have procedures to ensure there is appropriate care and protection of confidential data.
  9. Ensure that any form being used clearly displays confirmation outlining recipient details and donation schedule prior to the first gift.
  10. Have a feedback and complaints procedure for addressing questions and complaints associated with our face to face fundraising.
As face to face fundraisers, we undertake to:
  1. Comply with, and encourage colleagues to embrace and practice this Code of Practice.
  2. Bring credit to charity and the fundraising profession by our public demeanour, conducting ourselves at all times with complete integrity, honesty and trustworthiness.
  3. Verbally inform the donor that we are paid professional fundraisers, including who we are employed by, and who we represent. This must be done by the fundraiser before the donor completes the form.
  4. Wear ID badges, visible at all times, with the charity’s name, CHY number, the fundraiser’s name, who we are working for and on whose behalf we are fundraising.
  5. Never knowingly or maliciously give false or misleading information to the public about any other charity or our employer.
  6. Never follow members of the public to engage them in conversation. Never cause obstruction or congestion in a public or private place, or to a doorway or passageway.
  7. Be sensitive in conversation and not put undue pressure on the public to donate. Fundraisers will politely terminate a conversation at any stage, if asked to do so.
  8. Never approach a member of the public with more than two fundraisers at a time. This includes supervisors and trainee fundraisers.
  9. Exercise caution and sensitive judgement if confronted with potentially vulnerable people. Face to face fundraisers will not knowingly sign up any person who we reasonably conclude may be incapable of informed consent.
  10. Never enter a premises or household unless invited, and exercise caution and sensitive judgement if invited to enter a household or premises.
  11. Make sure the donor is not under 18 years of age and that all donors understand that the purpose of this fundraising is to secure recurring, long-term donations.
  12. Accept no cash, cheques, or property. Cash collections can only be accepted by fundraisers if they have a valid cash collection permit.
  13. Inform the donor how the charity will communicate with them after subscribing, and that they will receive confirmation of any direct debit with advance notice of the payment schedule.
  14. Comply with data protection law and confidentiality agreements with the organiser. Fundraisers will ensure donor information and charity branded material are kept secure at all times.
  15. Never fundraise after 9pm (unless specifically requested by a member of the public, and agreed by the organiser).
  16. Provide a clear point of contact for the general public, if they have complaints or feedback. Fundraisers will comply with the complaints procedure as instructed by the organiser of the face to face fundraising.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Is Your Charity More Important Than Netflix?

A couple of years ago Netflix raised their prices by about 50% and they lost about 800,000 customers. That sounds bad until you realise it was only about 4% of their customer base and the move saw the Netflix executives riding their golden Segways all the way to the bank.

I started thinking...What would happen if your charity decided to increase all of its monthly donors' gifts by 50%? would be bad. Sure, a good upgrade call would do it, but I don't think anyone would be stupid enough to make the increase without asking their donors first.

But hang on...Is it fair to compare Netflix and your charity?

Netflix provides entertainment when their customers want it. Some of the stories are sad, some are harrowing (OMG...Owen in the crate in Boardwalk Empire!), some are funny and inspirational. Strong characters, twists and turns, cliffhangers. So many tears. And at the end of every story they guide you towards the next one...and they know just what you like.

Wait a minute...isn't that what your charity's fundraising department does? Or what it should be doing?

'Storytelling' is the word most likely to be beaten to death at this year's fundraising conferences (Move over 'donor-centric'. Get lost 'innovation'.)

There's a reason for that. You love stories. You respond to them. You can't get enough of them...if they're good. If your donor communications were great you could send a newsletter every day. If the way you tell your charity's stories suck then even one newsletter a year is too much.

Imagine your donors hanging on your every word. Imagine if they anticipated your next YouTube video they way they anticipate the next season of True Detectives. Imagine if they binged on your website like the time I watched 18 episodes of the US Office in a single day.

It's not far-fetched.

You can compete with Netflix because your cause is infinitely more important.

So tell me - if one of your monthly donor decides to cancel a direct debit then which would be the first to go: You or Netflix?

And let's not even broach the subject of Potato Salad being more entertaining than you...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Notes From A London Fundraising Conference #IoFNC

I've been at the Institute of Fundraising National Convention all this week. Interestingly, people have moved away from the trend of making notes on iPads and are back to pen and paper.

Me? I take my notes on Twitter and this here they are:

Website Donation Optimisation
You read bits and pieces about improving donation forms but Beate Sorum and Ida Aalen put it all together nice and succinctly. And they were realists - usually when you see people presenting on digital they imply that simply doing digital stuff drives donations. But the #NorseGoddessesOfFundraising know that it's still real, human emotion that makes people want to click your donation button.

Anyway, the main points:
Be mobile friendly, get rid of unnecessary extras, role-play your form as if it's a conversation, "Nobody comes to look at your homepage", don't ask for something unless you absolutely need it.

Too Much Fundraising Advice Is Too Vague
You know what sessions I like? When fundraisers present what they actually did and show you actual results - good or bad.

JustGiving's Care Button
God, I hope they've tested this before they've rolled it out to every single charity. JustGiving are usually so good (although...sales is so much cheaper) but to me this new Care button seems like the only thing it's going to do for charities and donors is reduce donations. Will be interesting to track what it does for my lovely clients.

Ireland Needs More Pro-Fundraising Marketing
As someone suggested to me, Ireland needs a week long pro-fundraiser/pro-charity week. A mix between, #ProudFundraiser and Charity Defense Council's ads.

Good Seminars
Really enjoyed seminars from...
Matthew Sherrington: "E-mail subject lines should always have a verb".
Adrian Salmon: Must download his slides and have a closer look at the 'blank post-it' idea.
Mark Phillips: Always entertaining.

That's it for another year...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Are There Too Many Charities?

You might have already asked yourself Are there too many charities? You might have seen another one pop up and wonder What process did they go through?

I very often hear people spout off that "there are too many charities", but they're usually unable to suggest which ones should go.

Recently an interesting conversation developed on Twitter here and here. It got to the point where I decided to put all my thoughts in one here we go...

  • We don't know how many charities there are, so we can't say if there's too many.
  • There is certainly unnecessary duplication of 'office' space, HR, legal, Direct Debit processing - all the boring stuff.
  • There are some localities with duplication of services, and some areas with none. So rather than 'too many charities' are they simply in the wrong place?
  • To quote "In Norway there are 16 charities for every 1,000 people; in Scotland there are 4.3; in Wales there are 3; and in Ireland there are 1.8"
  • Charities are always formed out of something beautiful: an emotional drive to make the world better, probably because someone has been so profoundly affected by the problem. That's why I love what we do...but we need some head to go with that heart. There are many questions to ask before you decide to form a charity, but the biggest is "What action will have the greatest impact?"
  • I see a lot of 'charities' set up purely to fundraise for another well-established charity. This surely isn't the right move.
  • Before a charity's registration is approved should they have to present some sort of business/fundraising plan? A registered charity is essentially funded by all of us through tax breaks...I don't want to 'invest' in an organisation that doesn't know what it's doing.
  • As Sandra said on Twitter, there is a huge difference between your democratic right to set up charity and expectation that it be funded by anyone.
  • Would you set up a business without knowing where the money is coming from? Would you expect to take any money/profit out of a business for the first 2-3 years?
  • I think Mark Pollock said it: Sympathy carries your funding for the first 3 years. And then it dries up - so you need a decent fundraising strategy way before that happens.
  • Charities are partly to blame - if people had the confidence that you were amazing then they'd fund you instead of setting up their own thing.
  • If you're naming your new charity after a person then think again.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Looking After Your Event Fundraisers

Your charity probably had volunteers running or walking in the The Flora Women's Mini-Marathon over the weekend. They probably raised hundreds or thousands of Euro for you.

And now it's over. If you're responsible for your charity's income then you still have a lot of work to do. For fundraisers like you and me, an event like the Mini-Marathon isn't something that happens once a year...there is something to be done all year round - before, during and after.

Here's some tips to boost your fundraiser's fundraising, keep them coming back, and to make them feel as amazing as they truly are.

  1. Contact your lovely fundraisers before the event
    At least when they register, but more than that if you can. Preferably by phone. If you check in with and encouraging them then they'll raise more.
  2. Teach them how to fundraise
    I saw a lot of friends posting photos and updates on Facebook, without sharing the link to their donation page. Things like that might seem obvious to you but fundraising isn't their priority. Gently remind your fundraisers of the basics: sharing, asking, thanking, etc. Give them a 'how-to'.
  3. Encourage on-line, but cater for the fundraiser
    Using an on-line fundraising page is probably preferable for you: it guarantees you get the money and lets you keep an eye on what's happening. But your fundraiser might prefer a good old fashioned sponsorship card. That's not an age thing - my 25 year old friend refused to fundraise on-line. There's no point trying to force your fundraisers to do something they don't want, so make sure you're catering for everyone.
  4. Follow up immediately...thanking profusely
    It's amazing how many charities don't put the time in to properly thanking their fundraisers. And I don't mean just a generic mail merged letter. Let's face it - you probably haven't got that many fundraisers taking part...surely you have the time to add a handwritten note and an invitation to come in and meet your team? Surely you have the 5 minutes to phone them? with your them the impact and tell them the emotional stories. "You did this!"
    Look at it this way: the way you thank them could mean the difference between them raising €1000 for you next year or not. Isn't that worth making the time?
  5. Follow up next year
    Set a reminder to contact them again next year, earlier than they registered this time. You want them to fundraise for you're probably going to have to ask them before another friend or charity asks them. And remember, phone always beats post...but both is better.
  6. They're not donors...but they might be
    Yeh...your fundraisers possibly aren't donors, so you don't want to necessarily treat them the way you treat your donors. But they might be...if you ask them. Especially if they're too busy to fundraise for you again. When the dust settles...ASK.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What Makes A Charity Good? #GoodCharity

This week saw the launch of

The initiative - currently just a website - asks What makes a charity good? It aims to not only answer some of the usual questions that come in the media and the public debate time and time again, but also to give the public guidance in what makes a charity worthy of their donation.

The idea came last year, believe it or not long before the Rehab and CRC scandals. But these things take time, and working with the amazing people at Fundraising Ireland, Dóchas, The Wheel and Whitebarn Consulting it took time to structure the language and content that was agreeable to everyone, while still staying readable.

And that was the key: it had to be readable and digestible. It was designed for the public, and so we (as members of the charity sector) had to always keep that in mind. For example, we were aware that many organisations object to being classified as a 'charity', but we knew that the public don't see it like that and if we tried to fight that we would immediately lose them.

The point of the site is to be a stepping stone: it is plain English and over-simplified, but the aim was to diffuse initial objections and generalisations and prompt the media and the public to look deeper.

That became very clear with the FAQ when we realised the answer to nearly every question about the charity sector is It depends.

That's because the 'charities' are actually thousands of completely unrelated organisations. As Hans Zomer put it, "Talking about the charity sector is like talking about the food sector." And that's part of the problem we face: It's trying to get across that you can't judge an organisation by the behaviour of others. We've heard plenty of people saying the Rehab/CRC scandals are the reason they'll never donate to charity. As someone pointed out to me, that's like saying I don't like that shop. I'm never going to shop in shops again. is the first step towards helping potential donors and volunteers ask the right questions.

I think it's also significant because it's one of the first times the sector itself has come out and said that "charity" does not equal "good". Yes, there are good charities and there are excellent charities. But one of the highlights in the project for me was when someone asked were we all comfortable saying that there were "bad charities". And yes. Yes, we were all happy with that.

I hope the website will help. It won't change everyone's opinions, and might not even change the way a journalist presents an article. But it might.

At the very least I hope it will give charities somewhere to point the media towards the next time they roll out the same old questions. I hope it will save them time so that they can concentrate on doing what they do best.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Known Unknowns (101 Fundraising)

[This article has been published previously on 101fundraising – Crowdblog on Fundraising]

Donald Rumsfeld said, "There are known knowns - These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns - That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know."

I don't make a habit of quoting Donald Rumsfeld but that was a phrase that keeps coming to mind over the last few months here in Ireland. You see, fundraisers (or at least some fundraisers) are taking a battering. Two big charity scandals resulted in Board resignations and disappearing CEOs and we're all feeling the effects in some shape or form.

Public surveys (and yes, I know the problem with public surveys) keep telling us that trust for the sector as a whole has fallen and people are now less inclined to donate. Some charities said their Christmas income was down a whopping 40% because of the scandals. Monthly donors cancelled across the board.

The charities that have fared the best are the ones with a strong base of regular donors and the ones that reacted quickly. Some charities were pro-active with a clear, strong message to distance themselves, while others were ready with excellent responses.

Some - completely uninvolved - just made a mess of it. The media and donors reached out to them for reassurance...and they didn't give it. And I was left wondering, why were they so unprepared?

A scandal in the sector is a known unknown. You don't know when it will hit or who will be involved, but as long as humans remain human you know it will happen. So shouldn't you have a reasonable idea of what you'll do to protect your fundraising? It depends on the specifics, but are you prepared to update your website, write a FAQ for your staff and volunteers, or pick up the phone to every single person on your database?

In the same way an emergency appeal will prompt you to reach out to your supporters, any sector emergency can give you an opportunity to reach out to your supporters and strengthen that relationship.

There are other known unknowns.

Every January we see a spike in cancellations from regular monthly donors. The whole sector does. Money is tight after Christmas and a percentage of donors decide to make a change.

Usually that's because donors see monthly giving as a switch: it's either on or it's off. They usually don't consider the other options, like taking a break for a month or reducing their gift amount. They don't consider these because we don't offer them.

Shouldn't you be pre-empting these January spikes by engaging with your donors? By treating them like can find an option that leaves them happier and keeps them giving. I've seen organisations reach out to donors and offer them a break in January and it's resulted in higher income.

Much has been written on the reasons your donors leave you: your content's not engaging enough, not enough updates, not personal enough, not emotional enough, etc. But you also need to look at the 'macro' reasons - I think there are 3 types:

1. Organisational
These are unique to your charity - your own mission will suffer. As a fundraiser, pretty much all of your time is spent ensuring these won't happen. Just this month we saw the UK's Trussell Trust handle an attack from the Daily Mail beautifully, with some help from the public.

2. Sectoral
All charities suffer - people lose trust in the sector as a whole or cancel their donation as a knee-jerk reaction. You're usually talking about a scandal. You're not involved, but your fundraising is probably going to suffer - or at least change.

3. Universal
Every organisation and business gets hit - we see it every January and we see it when there's a particularly bad budget announced. When the whole country feels the pinch then we all look at where our money is going and decide who is going to get the chop.

So are you ready for a storm? You don't need to live your fundraising life in fear, but you should be prepared. Have what you can in place.

Things will always take us by surprise, but the known can do something about them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Charities & Fundraising: The Nice Little Touches Collection

I've been showing a few examples of (mainly) Irish charity websites and communication in my seminars (especially when it comes to transparency). I wanted to put them all in one place that I can keep here we go:


World Vision's Financial Info


SpunOut's Governance & Transparency Page
They have a nice page dedicated to governance.


Merchants Quay's 'Why We Send Mail'


To Russia With Love Costs
Newsletter. Written like a human.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Everything I Know About Fundraising In One Slide

Speaking at The Wheel conference today, I managed to get everything I know about Fundraising in to one PowerPoint slide.

Here we go:

1.People Donate Emotionally.
2. Keep It Simple.
3. It’s Not About You.
4. Make A Personal Connection.
5. Ask.
6. Transparency. Obviously.

*Obviously there's more to it than that. And the seminar itself was scattered with loads more insights, anecdotes, examples and stuff. It was just brilliant. You should have been there.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Scope Neglect In Fundraising

I read this last week:
"You can ask people how much they’d be willing to pay in order to rescue 2,000 birds from an oil spill, or 200,000 birds from an oil spill. And they say the same amount (about $80) in both cases."
It's a phenomenon called 'Scope neglect', where the human brain can't emotionally grasp large quantities.

If you've done any reading on fundraising or attended any decent seminars you've certainly heard it preached: talk about the one rather than the many.

Fundraisers like to quote Stalin: "When one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it's statistics." (Did he actually say that?)

The truth is any ask that involves more than a handful of people is confusing and diluted. Tens of thousands - hundreds of thousands - it's meaningless. If you talk about hundreds or thousands of people the brain will try to picture one of them in an attempt to grasp what you're talking about.

You can save time and effort by talking about the one. And your potential donors will respond.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On-line Upgrades - The Easiest Way To Boost Your Donations?

When we set up we added a little tick box to "Cover The Charity's Fees". When donors tick the box it increases their donation to cover all credit card, admin fees, etc. so that the charity walks away with the full original amount the donor was trying to give.

Essentially it's an upgrade - on it increases a donation by about 4%. (Sales pitch: doesn't charge any monthly, annual or registration fees. No risk)

We shamelessly stole it from a small Irish competitor, and I'm delighted to see more and more of the big fundraising sites rolling this out now.

On between 10% - 20% of people tick the box. It's not huge but it's an easy boost of income to charities for the sake of a tiny tick box. It should be on every charity's website.

A different on-line giving platform came out with their results this week and have managed to get about 95% of donors ticking the box...amazing! How did they do it? By having the box ticked as a default. The donation is rounded up unless the donor specifically unticks the box.

Personally I think that's a bit cheeky...but brilliant. And having seen the 95% figure I'm seriously considering rolling this out on

The next logical question is: How far can we take this?

Through testing different wording and different layouts I've no doubt we can boost the number of donors that want to cover the donation fees. But more than that, what if the tick box wasn't just about covering the fees?

What about a tick box to increase donations by 10%, 50% or 100%? "If you tick this box we'll double your donation and double the impact you have."

Or what about adding a small fixed fee. "If you tick this box we'll add €5 to your donation to save one more child's life."

Let's test it...

Monday, April 14, 2014

"The Casement Quotient" vs. Working In Centra

Just back from the Fundraising Ireland conference and I'm trying to get everything clear in my head - you're probably the same.

One of the ideas that stood out was one I'd heard Denisa Casement mention before: her very own Casement Quotient. She asks what is the value of your fundraising team's time?

The Casement Quotient
Income ÷ Individual Hours = Team Value/hr

In her case, 4.5 fundraisers are bringing in €2.4m per year, which breaks down to about €1,100 per hour for the team. Each individual's time is worth about €240 an hour.

Now that's not a target, it's a value she puts on her team which allows her to be brutally careful about how they spend their time each day. She argues that it makes it easier to say No to low value ideas and really question whether the short- and long-term results are going to justify the time spent on them. And it helps answer the question outsource or not?

I like it because it's no longer looking at your fundraisers as a cost, but as income (which all good fundraisers already knew). If someone is worth €240 an hour rather than costing €15 an hour then does it change how you approach their happiness...and their training.

There's crossover with an idea I've been peddling lately when charities are looking at fundraising ideas, in particular events and social media: Would you raise more if you got a job in Centra?

In other words, would you raise more money for your charity by spending a day a week updating, engaging and cruising Facebook...or by working one day a week in Centra and donating your pay to the charity?

At your next event, look round at all of your volunteers and staff and ask yourself If these people were all stacking shelves for minimum wage right now (or working in a eye-wateringly high-paying job), and donating their pay, would I be raising more money?

But it would be a brave person that responds to a potential volunteer by asking them to go and get a job.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The 20-Day Fundraising Challenge

We're running the first 20-Day Fundraising Challenge. It's for fundraisers or anyone responsible for the fundraising in their charity or non-profit.

I was inspired by a 10-day meditation challenge and a 30-day yoga challenge. Each of these give you a little bite size chunk of information and help each day and then send you on your merry way.

The 20-Day Fundraising Challenge will be similar: everyday we'll talk a little bit about a different form of fundraising, give you a few tips and tricks, and then give you a little task to go and do for your charity.

These challenges won't answer all your problems. But they'll help build fundraising knowledge and perhaps give you a chance to try something you've never tried before.

I'm excited-ish.

Are you?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Is Donor Retention THAT Bad?

I read another article about how bad donor retention is: this one. Not only is rentention's also a crisis.

"Donor retention is at 40% or less". You've seen similar stats - I presented Irish stats myself that saw 40-50% of monthly donors say goodbye in the first year. I'd be the first to say we're not doing enough to keep donors happy.

It's true, there are huge amounts you could be doing to improve your own donor retention right now...but let's stop for a second and ask, "Is donor retention that bad?"

Well, how is everyone else faring?

  • About 45% of gym members quit in the first 6 months.
  • 25% of people give up on New Year's resolutions in the first week. 88% of people eventually give up.
  • Ninety-one percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years.
  • The average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years.
  • Remember The Cranberries? When they released the album 'No Need To Argue' they sold about 1 million copies in the UK alone. 5 years later about 7% of that number were still buying their new stuff.

We are flaky...we are fickle. The banjo, surfboard, pond pump and juggling equipment I have in storage are proof of that. And those are physical objects: I got something in return for my money. The majority of charities aren't showing donors what their money is doing, and yet we're still beating so many industries.

My first ever monthly donation - to UNHCR about 10 years ago - only ended because I maxed out my credit card trying to get to Adelaide to meet a ginger-haired Danish girl who claimed to be a witch in her previous life.

Yes, let's keep scolding each other for our poor retention. Let's work together to improve it through care, love and technical wizardry. Let's not get complacent - We have so much to do.

But let's allow ourselves one blog post a year to say, hey, donor retention isn't that bad.

Friday, March 28, 2014

GUEST BLOG: Why Everyone Loses Over the World Vision Controversy

This week World Vision USA changed its guidelines to allow the employment of people in same-sex marriages. Sadly, a few days later they reversed that decision. From a fundraising perspective it is interesting to consider how the flip-flopping in policy could and would lose them supporters on both sides of the fence. But the story is bigger than that, and I asked my good friend Tom Read to write a guest post.

Tom was my best friend in school in Hong Kong and I've known him for nearly 25 years. He is a singer and a songwriter - topping HK iTune charts (beating Adele). He blogs, he tweets, he is one of my favourite people in the world. And he is a Christian.

This week’s controversy surrounding World Vision’s decision, then subsequent reversal of that decision, to allow gay married couples to work at World Vision represents one of the saddest turn of events I’ve witnesses as a Christian in recent years.

For those who haven’t followed the story, World Vision's initial decision was met with a swift backlash from many Christians, particularly those in the American Evangelical community, with many organisations renouncing their support and cutting their funding to World Vision. As more Christians began to cancel their sponsorships in protest, World Vision panicked and quickly released a statement reversing their decision.

Throughout this whole sad affair there really are no winners, only losers. Here’s a look at who loses out the most:

1. The Children
The biggest losers are undoubtedly the thousands of children that World Vision support. If reports circulating on the internet are true, as many as 5000 sponsorships were cancelled this past week. Each one of those sponsorships represents a genuine child in need, and the effects of this will be devastating. The idea that these children have effectively been held as ransom over ideological differences is sickening.

2. World Vision
You can’t help feeling sorry for World Vision, but there can be no denying that this has been a disaster for them, and their credibility as an organisation will have been damaged.

One must assume that their original decision was not something decided over night, but rather something that has been a long time in the making. A decision like this for a Christian organisation would have been talked and prayed through over and over and certainly not something they would have taken lightly. Which makes their reversal of the decision all the more tragic, because it’s makes them appear to be pandering to their donor base rather than standing firm on their convictions.

It’s unlikely that they will recover the majority of the supporters that they have lost over this, and in the process they have ended up disappointing both sides of the divide.

3. The Church
Some Christians will see this as a victory, but it isn’t. There is a time and a place to “make a stand” for what you believe in, and this wasn’t one of them.

The simple truth is that it doesn’t matter one single bit to the children being supported by World Vision whether those working there are gay, straight, single, married, divorced, black, white, or green. What this has done is further expose what I consider to be the "dark side of Christianity”, a side that has nothing to do with Jesus, and everything to do with religion, politics, and ideology.

It doesn’t matter how you term it, it’s rotten, and it’s something that Christians should be ashamed of. There is not a single instance in the bible where Jesus refuses to help someone because he disagrees with their lifestyle. He loved people unconditionally. The moment we put conditions on our love and support, we lose the heart of Jesus.

As I followed the events unfolding online, my first response was to try and counter the cancelled sponsorships by sponsoring a child. I proudly updated my social networks with a status declaring that I was a new supporter of World Vision. I now realise that this puts me in exactly the same boat as those people who cancelled their sponsorships over the decision. At the end of the day, my charity must be motivated by compassion and not agenda.

When charity becomes more about promoting an ideology than helping people, everyone loses.