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.