Monday, December 22, 2008

Street recruitment kicking goals in North America...

I have been chatting to James Julien from Public Outreach quite a lot recently to try and get a sense of what's happening on the street in terms of recruitment, specifically recruitment of monthly/regular donors.

This is what James kindly shared with me earlier today....

"In Canada, since September, our results on the street, at the door and in shopping malls have all remained strong, actually improving by about 5% over our summer results for this year. This seems to be true for all our clients; international development, health charities, etc. One possible explanation is that the younger demographics we deal with in face-to-face (average donor age is 30-35 for most of our clients) haven’t been as affected by the economic situation as older donors who may be getting some or all of their income from investment funds.

Results in our US operations have also continued to improve over the course of this fall for both monthly and single donations. More people are using “the economy” as a reason for saying no, but more people on balance are saying yes."

So on the back of our recent post about the research that the Bluefrog guys have done, James comments validate that this is a good time to consider investing in street recruitment.

Numbers are still strong in Canada and the US (and rising) - the health warning here is to ensure that if you invest in recruitment on the street - understand the type of donors you are recruiting and be prepared to treat them as a separate stream of donors, for they do fundamentally behave differently to your 'typical' monthly/regular donors (recruited through direct mail, TV, online, telephone etc)..


Sunday, December 21, 2008

From a charity fundraisers point of view part IV

The final part of the letter from Kimberley Mackenzie from Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation looks at her relationship with her major donors.

'Major Giving
In the next six weeks our board has agreed to conduct a “micro campaign" to get us to year end.

They have been assigned prospects and are tasked with setting up meetings to solicit major gifts.

Many of those meetings will happen in the next few weeks and if you like [of course!] I’ll report back the outcome. What I can tell you today is that people are booking appointments, donors and prospects are returning phone calls, making time and are willing to talk to us.

My calendar is quickly filling up. Perhaps what is most inspiring about this though is that my board wants to ask, they want to be optimistic, they want to keep momentum going and they are willing to work to do it.

It is true I am being a bit of a hard ass about it right now – but most of the board is mobilized and focused unlike ever before.

Sean, I think at times like this history has shown that true leadership emerges. I certainly don’t have all the answers, I am not published [well, you are now] nor am I a frequent presenter a conferences.

I’m just a fundraiser in a small shop and I hope the work we are doing will help meet targets and to do our bit to help our sick planet to heal.

My plan is a simple one. To stay honest, empathetic, positive, flexible, optimistic and work very hard to provide the tools and support to our fundraising volunteers to help them be as successful as they can be.

...I’ll let you know how it all goes – I know this note doesn’t have much data in it, but maybe it could help you in some small way write a book about it for us all! There’s an idea.

Sincerely, Kimberley'

Well that is the end of the letter, but hopefully a bit of inspiration for all you hard working fundraisers in large and small organisations.

Please, keep us informed and take care.

Sean Triner

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Research suggests that donors will consolidate their giving

The guys from bluefrog have done some further research into the attitude of donors during the economic crisis. After interviewing 2000 donors, they found while donors are committed to giving to the charities they already support almost 40% of the same group surveyed are less likely to give to new charities.

Does this mean that charities should not look at acquiring new donors? Not at all. Acquisition is an investment – and a good one. Charity income over the past ten years shows that those organisations that have invested in acquisition have been able to increase their impact. It’s been said time and time again that looking after your current donors is key and making sure that any acquisition strategy you embark on is supported by a strong Supporter relationship management programme.

It may not mean lessening the recruitment you are doing, but it certainly does mean being smarter about how and who you recruit. In his blog Mark suggests that recruiting younger donors, on the street, may make even more sense at this time.

This may in fact be true, but I would dig a little deeper into your database to get a sense of who specifically we should be targeting at this point time. Not based on our gut feeling or intuition but based on which donor groups have performed best for us in the past and how we recruited them.


  • Looking at your historical acquisition efforts. Not just the initial injection of new donors, average gift or cost per acquisition – but factor in subsequent giving and costs of donors by various sources. This will allow you to get a true sense of a donors worth over time, specifically their VTD (value to date). This will certainly help you make decisions about which channels might be suitable for your organization. This may not be easy to do but in the current climate will be incredibly powerful information for you to be armed with.

  • Some donor profile analysis looking at the behavioural analysis of your best donors – whether that’s monthly/regular donors or onetime cash donors – overlaid with some basic geo-demographic profiling (where they live, age etc) that enables you to look at who really is giving to you . Again this will enable you to look at channels that will allow you to target like for like donors based on who you already have on file that has historically performed well in terms of their overall value to date.

The team at bluefrog will continue with the survey each quarter over the next 12 months. You can check for updates via the
bluefrog website or by checking out this Marks blog.

For more details click here to see Mark’s blog

Monday, December 15, 2008

Knowledge and the flexibility to do something with it

Fiona Paterson, Head of Data Services at Pareto Fundraising and the benchmarking team have been keeping an eye on the giving behaviours of donors involved in the Australia/New Zealand and North American benchmarking cooperative.

There have been some interesting and sometimes counterintuitive findings which Fiona explains in her article 'Knowledge and the flexibility to do something with it'.

Key to the article is really having an understanding what your data can tell you and sometimes delving a little deeper to find out what is really going on.

Click here to read the full article.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Trusts and Foundations - the next to be hit?

Contribution by James Huitson

I have been chatting a lot recently to my friend and mentor Bill Bruty which is something I enjoy a lot, and occasionally in between comparing the relative tribulations of supporting Portsmouth and Leyton Orient football clubs we do talk about fundraising.

Now Bill is a real expert on trust and foundation fundraising and is unusual in this field in that he is as much of a data nerd as we are at Pareto. He likes nothing more than a pleasant afternoon at the Charity Commission in the UK wading through the information on the various charitable trusts who give in the UK and as seems to be ubiquitous these days, the chat turned to the recession. Once we had finished discussing bankers and whether they are now above or below lawyers in our lists of favourite people I asked the question – so Bill, I assume the trust market is shot at the moment then?

“Funny you should say that" he replied. "I’ve been looking into that. There are a lot of trust fundraisers who want to reduce their targets by a third because of something they have read about the Barings Foundation”.

For those of you who don’t know, the Barings Foundation was one attached to Barings Bank which was infamously brought down by Nick Leeson in the 90’s and they know a thing or two about financial crises. They have said that because they make decisions on their giving based on three year market forecasts, they are anticipating that in two years time they will reduce their giving by a third because they think that two out of the next three years are going to be bad.

That all sounds reasonable, but said Bill, “I’m not sure that that is going to be typical. Lets follow the money around”.

“Take the Garfield Weston Foundation. They give out around GBP39 million a year. Do you know how much of a percentage of their assets that is? Just over 1%, they have GBP3.6 billion in assets and they have a expendable capital fund which is worth almost three years of typical grant giving. They can continue their giving levels and ride out a pretty big storm. It’s similar for lots of the oldest and the biggest of the UK trusts and foundations – they have been around for a long time, they know how to smooth things out”.

It will probably be different for the corporate foundations. Lloyds TSB for example only get money from dividends from profits from the bank and well, there might not be any. But it is not all doom and gloom and setting targets lower is probably just a cop out.

Yes, you will probably have to run faster to stand still, and yes there is ever more pressure to put forward good pieces of work with demonstrable impact and outcomes, but when was that ever a bad idea?

The recession will impact on fundraising, but it might not be the disaster some people seem to think. One thing is certain, the way to guarantee you have problems will be assume you are going to have problems and give up and go home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From a charity fundraisers point of view part III

Following Part I and Part II of the letter from Kimberley Mackenzie, which looked at corporates, here we explore direct mail.

Here is what Kimberley, from Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation has to say.

'Direct Mail.

The mailing is being stuffed as I write this. [early November].

I already mentioned that yes, we are mentioning the economy. Now more than ever their donation is important and I didn’t pull back from letting donors know that we understand how important their decisions about donations will be this year and when they think about what to do they should think of us.

Yes it is bold – we are fighting for market share. I’ll let you know how it does.'

Unfortunately, I don't think Kimberley had the numbers to do a controlled test - but if anyone is doing that out there, please let us know any results.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Interesting Article by Penny Stephens

A few weeks ago I was one of four speakers who kicked off a jam-packed forum organized by three special interest groups of the Institute of Fundraising in the UK. It was an excellent cross-discipline coming together of fundraisers all keen to discuss what actions they could be taking in light of the financial climate. After some perspectives from the speakers, attendees split into groups to share information on and discuss four key themes. Penny Stephens attended and wrote the article below following the event which I thought other ‘recessionwatchers’ might want to read over.

Jan Chisholm
International Development Director

How will the recession affect fundraising now and into the future?

Fundraising departments could shrink by up to a third by 2010 to see charities through the recession, according to Andrew Thomas of Charity Consultants.

Thomas was speaking at a round table event organised by the Insight, Trusts & Statutory and Major Gifts Special Interest Groups of the Institute of Fundraising this week.

Looking at historical data, Thomas said that charities generally go into recession later than other sectors. He said he was expecting severe cuts in fundraising departments during this recession because there were not sufficient cuts in the last economic downturn. “Trustees will be looking for more cost-effective fundraising,” he told delegates.

Stephen Dodds of DMS felt there is a strong likelihood that donors will change their behaviour and that we should be paying close attention to the demographics of our donors. “There is a sense of unease about the financial situation,” he said. “In research donors have said they will hold back generally to see what happens, or they will not extend their giving for the same reason.”

However, he said that the recession was likely to just emphasise existing trends and that we should expect to see response rates on direct mail continue to fall, and experience more difficulty getting donors to commit to a second or regular gift. “Donors increasingly see through our efforts, are more marketing savvy and cynical,” he said. Fundraisers should stay close to donors to understand how different groups will be affected and they should be able to engage with donors to prove that they understand motivations.

But maybe there isn’t so much of a problem. Jan Chisholm of Pareto Fundraising deals in data, not opinions. “We see opinion surveys saying people will cut back, charity CEOs saying they will see income drop. It’s scary that decisions are being made on the basis of these opinions,” she said. “It will be self-fulfilling prophesy: if you cut back, you won’t recruit as many donors.”

She advocated investing in top data analysis to give fundraisers the best chance of understanding their donors.

Conversely Stuart Sheriff had sought the opinions of trusts who generally feel that they will have less to give but anticipate the number of applications increasing significantly. They advise that charities will have to show they are planning for the recession and not just carrying on as normal and will really have to demonstrate exactly why they need the trusts’ support.

Have targets been increased to an impossible level? Several delegates agreed that their targets had been increased dramatically for the next year and had in some cases become quite unrealistic. Sightsavers is expanding and therefore looking at new markets to maintain trust income. Delegates have experienced trusts reviewing giving strategy with the feeling that most will do the same. They are likely to give to those they know best, first. Advice is to maintain good relationships with trust and to use stewardship to get buy-in across your organisation. Sense advocates getting support from other departments, and particularly relevant information from CEO.

Charities need to be very transparent to get money and may also need to consolidate and start working together more. Trusts are going to want to see economies of scale and cost-effective fundraising being done. This could lead to more mergers in the sector.

Delegates argued that the organisation cannot be led by a donor or trust, but it was agreed that organisations should see this as an opportunity to save resources and work more efficiently.

Do donors consider how the recession impacts on charities, and should you talk to them about it? No consensus because people had very different views on this. Majority felt it was reasonable to point out that costs had risen, exchange rates worsened and that programmes might have to be cut or replanned without additional resources.

Major donors are asking deeper, more insightful questions and charities need to be ready with answers for these. Donors want to be better informed about where their money is going and what it’s being spent on.

Some charities have noticed a big drop in individual giving, but not in trusts – others vice versa. More have seen a downturn in corporate giving. Anecdotal evidence that there are fewer regular donors but they’re giving more.


Internal comms

Transparency should be mirrored internally and externally.

Need to know what our contingency plan is if our income falls off.

Need a visionary CEO out there talking to people and not letting accountants take over.

Communications initially differs hugely between large and small organisations.


Expectation that targets will rise each year, but have a need to be flexible and should have a yearly plan to be reviewed at regular intervals.

Targets should be set in a consensual manner, not just picked out by CEOs.


Need to keep a close eye on figures and to use 10-year-on files.

Look at trends of data over time – response rates could be falling for another reason.

If the organisations still has data silos then now is the time to integrate it all so you have all your data in one place.

Focus on major donors and look after them.

Benchmarking – share data to see if trends you’re seeing are being shared in different sectors.

Donor communications

Need honesty and transparency with donors but need to reassure them.

Fundraising efficiency feels to be increasingly relevant.

Donors still think money is wasted on fundraising. OK to have conversation with donors about effects of recession and use facts to talk to them but need to be able to point to evidence.

Safe to assume if you don’t understand your donor base then your fundraising won’t be as effective as it should.

Are you making the most of thanking your donors and making them feel as great as possible about giving to you.

Speakers suggestions:

Stephen Dodds – use the internet more. It has a role in drastically reducing the costs of communicating with donors. As a sector we don’t know how to use the internet and this should force us to find out.

Jan Chisholm – We should use this opportunity to get to know our data. Really get in and find out what’s going on in our programmes so we can see what changes. Gives us the chance to look and interrogate data.

Jeremy Payne – Look at gaming and gambling. People gamble more in a recession.

Andrew Thomas – Imagine a scenario where a third of the fundraising team is cut and how you could reallocate staff into more profitable areas, include your CEO and finance director in the discussion.

Stuart Sheriff – Make sure you have projects that are attractive enough for trusts to want to fund them.

John Sauvé-Rodd – Donor level profitability. Identify the most profitable and most loyal donors, allocate someone to look after them because we really don’t want to lose them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

From a charity fundraisers point of view part II

Following Part I of the letter from Kimberley Mackenzie, here is the much anticipated Part II.

The last blog finished with a story about a corporate who stopped supporting Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation - this time we start on a postive note.

'Corporate Fundraising – Getting the Money
A key sponsor of our annual event this year hasn’t fully paid their sponsorship. We had a lunch meeting this week.

My intent was to secure payment before the end of the year. This was a tough job because I knew that their $100 million project is in a bit of a holding pattern and many of their banks are outside of Canada.

Do you mention the recession?

Well, these guys are international businessmen – they know we are in the worst economic crisis since the depression. In fact conversations with their banks everyday remind them. How could we not?

The first twenty minutes of lunch was full of empathy for their situation. If we ask and listen we can learn a LOT about a corporation’s financial structure – particularly right now. The next five minutes included us very candidly sharing with them our reality and our expectation of them for 2008.

By the end of the lunch, through candid, honest and very pleasant conversation (yes okay there was a little wine too!) we secured the 2008 commitment AND a further commitment for 2009.

(As well as serious intent to take on a leadership role in a $500,000 project next year.) The total cash value of the lunch after talking about their current financial challenges, acknowledging the importance of the relationship and being flexible about terms of payment is $50,000 over the next 14 months.

This is significant money for organizations with budgets under $1 million. The CEO of the corporation told me – and gave me permission to share with you – his advice for negotiating with the corporate world:

...spend time with prospects whose interests are aligned with your organizations mission. Staying involved from his perspective is just common sense and good for his business. Pretty simple really isn’t it? '

Posted by Sean Triner, but really written by Kimberley

Monday, December 1, 2008

IoF Conference: Fundraising in an Economic Downturn - Surviving and Thriving

The IoF have just announced they will be holding a conference 26th February 2009 focusing on fundraising in an economic downturn.

When: Thursday 26th February, 2009
Where: Ibis, Earls Court, London UK

To view details of the conference you can do so at

The blurb:

Don't say the 'R' word
UK charities are facing up to operating and surviving in the weakest economy for many years. Professional fundraisers are at the forefront of maintaining financial stability and even rising to the challenge of raising more money to cope with increased demand for their organisations’ services. The Institute of Fundraising is currently focussed on supporting fundraisers through these challenging times.

Survival and revival
This conference offers you the opportunity to learn from experts and other organisations in the sector about fundraising strategies that deliver survival and stability. Keep up to date with the latest thinking and trends, be inspired and get fresh ideas to stay positive and sharpen your approach to fundraising in these unchartered waters.

Click here to sign up

Friday, November 28, 2008

But what is happening in Belgium!?

As the only country other than Somalia to spend much of 2008 without a Government we are all desperate to know what happens to fundraising in Belgium in a financial crisis.

Well, luckily Ilja De Coster from EthiCom has come through for us.

'I did a small survey in Belgium and several journalist asked me about the impact of the financial crisis on fundraising. Your session at the IFC and your blog was really helpful for some international comparison.

...for you interest to main observations:

- 2 big campaigns annually happening in Belgium did made their best result ever right in the middle of the financial crisis.

- From my survey ofBelgian NGO’s: most of them fear the crisis, but most of them do not in any way adapt (neither reduce, increase, adapt, refocus) their fundraising efforts. And to worry even more: most of them do not have real objective figures or data on possible impact of the crisis… '

Thanks for that information, and please send anything else from Belgium and any other countries too. Please email my colleague, Justine, because I am off on holiday.

Sean Triner

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Recession and passion

I spent the last 3 days at the AFP Congress in Toronto which was a great few days, with economic uncertainty on most fundraisers lips.

I covered this in some detail in the session I facilitated and made mention of the following email that Fraser Green from Canadian fundraising agency the FLA Group sent to delegates that morning.

A timely reminder for what's important right now. Thanks to Fraser for sending this and allowing us to put it up on this blog.

Jonathon Grapsas

Recession and passion...

The sentence?

During this recession, it’s more important than ever to fuel the passion of your most loyal donors.

Let’s face it. Times are tough – and they’ll get tougher. Just as with your own life, when the crunch hits – it’s family you can count on. Pretty simple idea, no?

Here are three simple ways you can do that:

1. Be candid. Acknowledge that your donors are feeling the pinch – as is your organization. Fess up to the fact that funding your work is a tough challenge right now (without sounding whiny and needy).

2. It’s all about the cause. Don’t talk about yourself so much as you talk about the cause. Donors give to the hungry, abandoned pussycats – more than they do to the Save the Pussycats Foundation. (Our favourite fundraising maxim is that the institution has no needs!)

3. State your immediate funding needs in a simple, dramatic way. (Between now and Christmas, we need to get 32,000 pussycats into our shelters where they’ll be warm, well-fed and safe.) Don’t get caught up in jargon – and don’t get too far into describing your process for saving pussycats. Your loyal donors trust you to get the job done if you have the money.

Use this strategy everywhere you can – and make sure everyone in your organization is on the same ‘message page’. This approach won’t make the recession go away – but it will maximize your revenue in the short term. We’re convinced of that.

Good luck.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More opinion from UK

UK agency bluefrog have been out and about scouring for, and doing more, quantitative research.

On his Queer Ideas blog, founder Mark Philips told us that the bluefrog research with the RNLI indicated that 21% of people would be slightly less likely to give and 11% would be much less likely to give.

Mark's latest blog now reports on recent MORI research on behalf of St. Mungo’s which "presents a rather depressed attitude amongst consumers with over half of all those surveyed being very or fairly concerned about their financial situation and 17% seeing their money worries impacting negatively on their relationships with families and friends."

But not too much worry for us- seems we are more important than even household food and heating are more likely to be in the firing line than charities!

They looked at what areas of expenditure have been cut or are likely to be cut next year, and giving to charities fared well. Only 6% said they had cut giving, and another 5% reckoned they may cut giving next year.

An 11% cut in giving is not to be sniffed at though, so work hard to keep those donors giving.

Sean Triner

Monday, November 24, 2008

Australian recession busting forum...the questions raised

At the recent fundraisers Forum in Sydney, we had quite a few questions for the panel; the panel consisted of Sue-Anne Wallace (FIA), Chris Washington-Sare (Greenpeace) and Sean Triner (Pareto Fundraising).

Q. Is establishing a 'new' charity the right thing to do now?
Clive Hughes of Microloans Foundation

A. Why not? Depends on your target market. If you're targeting institutional or corporate maybe not. Now is as good a time as any, so do it now. (Chris)
This environment is creating greater interestin in organisations that act ethicaly and morally. There is a need to show that you are ethical and transparent in hoe you use donors funds. (Sue-Anne)

Q. Nicola of the Fred Hollows Foundation, agrees with focus on net income, and focus on that, however there also points out that there is an opportunity for charities to lift their game. We need to share more and work together. She is worried that the recession is a good excuse to delay further opportunities for collaboration.

A. (Sue-Anne) Charities aren't in competition, they can work together. FIA provides training and networking opportunities for 6000 people each year. The next FIA conference is in Sydney and 800 people will attend.
(Chris) Build networks: it is importnat to build your own internal networks with your competitors.
(Kelly from Redkite added) We work with other childrens cancer charities. Take the initiative, opportunity and do it.

Q. Libby, Breast Cancer asked - Do you think like-for-like charities will merge similiarily as has happened in the UK?

A. (Sue-Anne) Maybe. Some initiatives may be on hold in uncertain times.
(Martin) Triggers for mergers tended to be financial mergers. Consolidation can be beneficial.

Q. Laura, Cancer Council NSW asked should we be going out with urgent messages. How do we tweak our messages?

A. (Sean) Be honest. Don't give people excuses not to give. What is really important is how you phrase the need. No-one likes to step in to fill a hole left by Government or incompetence. It all comes down to how you write it, the key is integrity and honesty. One charity tested this in the UK and said that mentioning the recession has seen a decline in income.
(Chris) Greenpeace won't be mentioning the recession in donor letters, it is not relevant.

Q. Gabriel from Anglicare asked, Is there a pyschological barrier now for new donors to commit to regular giving?

(Chris) When you are aquiring new donors to regular giving you will find that more people will say no compared to a one-off gift. Manage your expectations.
(Sean) If you haven't got regular givers, you need to get them. And yes, it might be harder to get them but you need them, so do it. Now is the opportunity to cut back on the things that aren't effective i.e. expensive events or ineffective communications.
(Sue-Anne) If expenditure is put on hold, make sure you are still investing in training.

Q. Ian from Special Olympics asked, is there a register of corporates that you could partnership with?

A. (Sue-Anne) No. Research as much as you can.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Australian recession busting charity forum

Over 60 people from 35 Australian charities met in Sydney this week, to discuss the economic downturn and how we should respond.

I presented information based on my Whitepaper (available here) but Chris from Greenpeace Australia and Sue-Anne Wallace from the Fundraising Insititute Australia also presented.

We were especially chuffed to hear that Greenpeace in Australia used the 'ten tips for fundraising in a recession' as a reference point to check against their strategy. Chris then sent the document to all the Greenpeace offices around the world. Please let me know how - or if - you have used any information on this blog by emailing me.

Here is the presentation, and I will blog the discussion points shortly...

Sean Triner
(c) Pareto Fundraising 2008 all rights reserved

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

DMAW Webinar

The DMAW have a US$99 webinar which will be worth checking out - unless you are this side of the world, where it will be middle of the night. I reckon non Americans may find it useful too.

Please send any useful data!

Wed 3 December, Webinar, 12pm-1pm, I guess Eastern time.

Click to sign up.

This is their blurb:

Economic blues got you down?

Is the pressure of making your FY09 budget keeping you up at night?

Has your organization or client had to make cuts to staff or programs in order to stay afloat?

Do you want real answers on how your organization or client can survive this economic crisis?

If you answered YES, to any or all of these questions…we've got the cure, with a can’t-miss Webinar just for you!

Please join KIM CUBINE, Principal and Senior Vice President of Adams Hussey & Associates, and TIM KERSTEN, owner of Tim Kersten Consulting, for some relief--and answers--about what your organization can do to survive this economic crisis.

Join Kim, Tim and the DMAW on December 3, 2008 at noon, for a thought provoking Webinar that answers the questions we know you have been asking yourself for months:

How have charitable groups and nonprofit organizations weathered the economic cycles of the past 40 years? And how have these groups been impacted in 2008?

How should you address this with the President of your organization and your Board of Directors?

How do we raise money and talk about issues in an economy that's gone from bad to worse...with no end in sight?

What are some ideas for maintaining current members?

How do we manage risk in an unknown economic environment?

Click to sign up.

Monday, November 17, 2008

From a charity fundraisers point of view part I

Most of the papers and advice around recession giving is from consultants (though I still think the best was from a charity bod, Amanda Seller from WSPA in the video previously blogged).

Agencies and consultants dominating published materials is no surprising, since our job is to help charities raise more money and it is important that we make ourselves feel important, oops, I mean important that we display leadership and bring clarity to the situation, arm fundraisers for board and CEO battles and help give charities what they need to avoid recession suicide.

But last week I got a letter from a fundraiser. A proper letted, on headed paper with a signature and everything - (though it was emailed)... anyway some useful tips and feedback from Kimberley MacKenzie who is Executive Director at Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation, and also responsible for 90% of the comments on this blog!

She starts by saying she likes the blog, which I guess lots of people do considering the numbers of people that visit it. But she is worried -

"Many fundraisers seem to be at a bit of a loss right now, perhaps because we can’t find the answers in any of the books in our libraries. No one has put this situation in a geometrical shape for us yet. No pyramids, ladders, concentric circles, stools, pillars or infinity loops to guide us. Eeeek! Trusting our intuition and taking some risks at a time like this will be very important and for some a little scary. "

Despite conflicting advice, she has been debating whether she should mention the recession when talking to donors. I have put my two penneth up about whether to mention it but the question has to be more about how you talk about it.

Kimberley decided to mention it. '...and I have everyday this week. Donors are smart, meeting with them and not talking about it is like not acknowledging the giant elephant in the room and trying to talk around it. Better I think, to admit there is an elephant, roll up your sleeves together and figure out what to do about it.'

Since she started doing that, she has gathered some stories. Here is the first:

Corporate Fundraising – Not Getting Money

We have a major corporation we have been cultivating for years. They are HUGE.

They have been helping and supporting us in small ways for two years. They have hosted events for us, had meetings, sponsored our annual dinner even hosted our board in their corporate board room.

A lot of time and effort has been spent engaging them. We planned the last quarter of this year as the right time to firm up their leadership commitment.

In the meeting today we were told that due to the financial crisis that has hit them very hard ($215 million dollars worth of corporate pain!) “All discretionary expenditures have been stopped”.

We have no choice but to continue to keep them engaged and stand by them through the storm – hoping that one day when the “discretionary spending” comes back they think of us and the relationship will realize its full potential. MORE patience.


Thinking about her positive approach - keep them engaged. This makes sense in theory, but with our limited resources I worry about the impact of the opportunity cost. ie whilst keeping them engaged, is she missing out on other areas of fundraising to fill the gap?

I will post her other stories on future blogs.

Sean Triner

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CEO Breakfast: "Good fundraisers raise more money in a recession. Bad fundraisers use it as an excuse."

We met with a bunch of CEO's and Finance Director's over eggs and coffee here in Sydney this morning with some fundraisers there, too. We talked about fundraising in a recession and the measures that they and their boards are currently taking with regard to the recession. There were about two dozen of us including people from big charities, small charities, international and local.

It was an interesting session and some good positive feedback came out of it. It looks as though from the charities that attended most are looking at ways to diversify their fundraising portfolios and will be investing in fundraising activities.

Great to hear and regardless of a recession it's these charities that will come out the other side with more money and be able to create bigger impact.

At the end of the presentation we threw it out to the floor and asked 'How will you respond'

Some of the bullet points from the group:

- Breeding Major Donors - ask major donors who are in a holding pattern because they can't afford to donate, to fundraise from friends

- Board strategy session – to map out what the strategy will be

- Spend more money on marketing going forward

- One charity reported acquisition average donation like for like on last year was down $10 (20%) but response the same

- Improve monitoring systems. Make sure information comes through on a monthly/quarterly basis. Greenpeace are generating weekly reports on some metrics.

- Increase expenditure in fundraising to keep the same net

- Need to do similar things (as what they currently do now) but get smarter in terms of data analysis

- Concentrating on the segments that give the most return

- Framing a case for support – people need our help more than ever

We also discussed as to whether for some charities a recession is an opportunity to clear out dead wood. Re-evaluate those marginal campaigns, even marginal services, under-performing staff can be moved on (ouch).

Two other fantastic things that came out of the breakfast and networking with peers, is that;

  1. Dave (from Amnesty International) thought he may be able to share with the group the recession relevant headline results of the intra-benchmarking (comparing results from different countries) that Amnesty International are doing with Pareto Fundraising

  2. Corporates are pulling advertising at the moment so for those organisations out there with adverts ready to go there is possibly more media opportunities than before - things could be cheaper!

But my favourite comment was from Claire Mallinson of Amnesty International (for those who know her yes, that is correct - no typo, she left Greenpeace a couple of months ago).

"Good fundraisers raise more money in a recession. Bad fundraisers use it as an excuse."

Thank you to those that attended and spoke so candidly about their experiences so far.

Sean Triner

Most donors will give the same or more

In another blog from Mark Philips of bluefrog, he draws our attention to a Mori poll telling us that most UK donors intend giving at similar or better rates.

Donors were asked to choose the statement that best described them. "In the current climate I would be..."

1 in 7 said they were more likely to donate, over half said they were neither more or less likely to donate to charity.

On the downside, 1 in 5 said they were slightly less likely to give, and 11% said they were much less likely to donate money.

The poll was of GB adults though, not donors - I would love to hear of similar polls of actual donors please!

Sean Triner

Research © Ipsos MORI 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mid value donors - anecdotal research in UK

Mark Philips, owner of London charity agency bluefrog, tells us about mid value donors in his blog.

Last year his company interviewed 100 mid value donors 'those who give cash gifts of between £100 and £1,000' (equivalent to donors giving about US$200 to US$2,000).

You can get the full 2007 report here.

Mark tells us "This was a qualitative study and, as such, is about motives, attitudes and feelings behind their giving behaviour."

Recently though, bluefrog followed the same donors up to see 'how the credit crunch has influenced their attitudes to giving.'

Initially they found that:

'1. Unless someone has been directly hit by the crunch, they are in denial and have no plans to make a significant cut back in their general expenditure. If they are questioning spending, giving less to the charities they currently support is not on their agenda.

Some people are looking at having less expensive holidays and one person is taking left-overs into the office for lunch. But are they going to really cut back? No, not at the moment.

2. If things did get bad, they claim they would still want to support their favourite charities at their current level but would give slightly less to the remaining ones. Cutting back on giving to a favourite charity would make them feel very guilty and, for the same reason, they would favour smaller organisations over the larger, well-known charities.

3. Giving to new charities was far less attractive to them. They would continue to give if someone asked them to sponsor them or if they passed a street collector, but setting up a new regular gift, much like any new expenditure decision in this economic climate, would provoke thoughts of should I really be doing this?

The new report is still in progress, but hopefully Mark or someone from bluefrog will comment or email me when it is available.

Sean Triner

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Improve your Christmas Appeal

If you are just putting the final touches to a Christmas appeal, or equivalent - some useful tips for increasing the chance of a good one.

1. Send (test) a pre cursor to donors to let them know about your upcoming Christmas appeal

Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. And then tell them what you told them.

A great piece of advice I was once given during a training course. Think about how you could apply that to your program. A week or so before your Christmas appeal, tell your donors about the appeal they are about to receive.

This can be done by email, a postcard or even a phone call. But test this to see whether it has a positive impact on your overall campaign.

Oh, and don’t forget to tell them what you want to tell them in the main appeal and then tell them what you told them if you do a reminder mailing.

2. Keep it clear and give donors a compelling reason to give
Not that you need the holiday season to remind you of this point, but keep you message clear and ensure you ask donors to do one thing only.

Conflicting messages suppress response to any campaign.

3. Make it hard for donors to stop reading your appeal

I once read some great copy feedback from Ken Burnett which pointed out that what you want to do is get the reader mentally nodding in agreement as they read the letter. We might think we have developed brilliant and compelling copy but is it going to keep the donors attention for two, three or four pages?

Make it hard for them to put it down. Not by focusing on Christmas, but by establishing a need and helping the donor help you find a solution.

4. Donor recognition – make it more prominent than ever

Thank, thank and thank again.

A simple mantra to live and breathe. But go a step further. Recognize the donor’s type of support (monthly donor, confirmed bequestor etc) and refer to past support at this time of year.

Make sure it is apparent that you know who your donors are and how they have supported you in the past. Everyone likes to know they are remembered and valued.

5. Christmas ends in January

The perfect donor communications cycle asks people to support, thanks them for their generosity and cares for them along the way.

This last ingredient is often forgotten or not done well. Your Christmas appeal doesn’t end in December, it ends when you tell your donors (including those that didn’t donate at Christmas) where their money has gone and the impact it will have, or has had, on your beneficiaries.

OK, all those points above are good practice anyway, and not unique in this recession era, you probably know you should do them anyway. But now it is more important than ever.

Jonathon Grapsas
Pareto Fundraising North America
Based in Toronto

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ask strategy in a recession

Another question: Should we adjust our ask strategy in a recession?

Good one. And again, hard to know the answer without testing. By ask strategy, I mean the amount that ask donors for. It is a bit more complex than this, but basically we tend to ask people for about 1.25 - 1.5 x their lst gift in appeals. In other words a donor who gave $100 last appeal may be asked for $125 in our next mailing.

The amount would be personalised in the copy eg 'Please will you make a special donation of $125 this Christmas...' with the response coupon matching the amount. So should we ask the donor for $100 instead?

Well I think that if a recession hurts averages or response rates then tinkering with ask strategy is more likely to exasperate the harm than mitigate.

However, Pareto hasn’t been working since the last big recession, so my evidence is based on my experience (when I worked at Mind in the UK we took more bullish approaches during financial problems which certainly did no harm).

So, my advice is NOT change to ask strategy, but if you have the volumes - please test it! And if you do, please let me know the result.

Sean Triner

Monday, November 3, 2008

Asking for money - should I mention the recession?

A few people have asked:
Should I mention the recession in my appeal copy?

eg 'times are difficult, but we’re reliant on your funds and don’t want to put our programmes in jeopardy' or 'we need your gift more than ever'.

Tough one, because I believe in honesty and integrity in all donor communications and it is silly to pretend a recession isn't happening. My instinct is to mention it. But their is the worry of whether we are introducing a barrier - ie a reason not to give.

So instinct aside, Kimberly Mackenzie of Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation in Canada said she heard 'Lots of people are saying it is dangerous'. I am not worried about contradicing 'lots of people' but am worried about giving the wrong advice.

So let's look into this further...

The most successful early mail appeal Pareto Fundraising sent out back in 2003, mentioned 'economic uncertainty following the war, SARS, bush fires and ...' it raised very close to the entire annual appeal income for the charity in one mailing so mentioning economic woes there didn't seem to harm things.

However, I got feedback about another test from another charity (which I blogged) reckoning not to mention it.

The bottom line is you should be honest. If it is relevant to you, you should tell the truth!

So, I think you should consider mentioning it if:

  • It has an impact on your services (ie we need more money because more people need our help)
  • You have lost funding, ie corporates dropped out, event cancelled and you would have to stop a service because of it - but don't be specific, people would not feel motivated by replacing money that some nasty bank promised, then withdrew
But I am not convinced of it’s usefulness in telling people you are ‘worried’.

I reckon it is all to do with how it is written, and needs very skilled copywriter but on balance, the safe tip is probably not to mention it.

Finally, I think there would be no harm in mentioning it in thank you letters: 'we know times are difficult, so we’re extra appreciative of your gift ...'

We will hopefully test and I will look for more test feedback...Please people - anyone who tests, please share feedback and preferably details of the test.

Sean Triner

Sunday, November 2, 2008

IFC / Blackbaud NFP Synergy Presentation

I had trouble getting this up two weeks ago, but here is the presentation from Blackbaud. Phew.

Sent in from Martin Jervis, Blackbaud.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

CRUK clarify reports of budget slashes

Tania Mason of Professional Fundraising reports that CRUK, one of the top UK fundraising charities, is expecting a decline due to the economic climate.

Harpal Kumar says "The fall in the property market is having a direct impact on our legacy income stream and people may also need to consider their level of personal giving. " He says they are planning on a decline of perhaps 4 or 5 per cent this year. With such huge amounts of money that comes into CRUK from legacies this seems perfectly reasonable.

There is no comment there as to what they will be doing to fundraising expenditure.

See Tania's article here.

The Word on the Street

I am back in Australia now, but when still in UK I took a train to meet an old pal. The train was delayed so I went up to strangers and asked them if they gave to charity, and if they did if it would change now that the recession was here.

Totally non-scientific and completely weird I know, but once convinced that I wasn't a nutter (the fools!) they all told me they wouldn't give any less.

How useful is this? Not really. What people do and what they say they will do are very different - lots of focus groups telling you that donors prefer short appeal letters when donors are likely to respond to longer ones - is testament to that. But heh, it was fun and I am always learning. I want to know what they say they will do. Any proper polling, please bring to my attention and I will blog it.

So much for my hearsay - I am just telling you what they said. Pure vox-popping without the video.

But what if someone was organised enough to have a video and some editing gear? A quick chat with my pals at London based agency Open and we get a cool video on their blog.

Not that scientific, but a nice opener for any presentation to the board posing the question: 'But what will really happen?' (before concluding 'I don't actually know, and nor does any expert but here are some scenarios, Ms Chair, and here is my strategy...')

Just make sure that you credit the chaps at Open for their effort!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A few 'data' anecdotes

Fundraising in Ireland
Damian O'Broin from Ask Direct tells me like for like acquisition for one of his clients has been in decline:

2006: 1.11%
2007: 1.22%
2008: 0.65% - 0.80%

But he also adds that "Admittedly the reasons for the drop may not simply be the economic downturn. Ireland has a relatively small amount of commercially available cold lists, so list fatigue is a possible contributory factor. And as we're dealing with just one charity here, the strength of the pack used for each mailing could also have had an impact." Hmmn, not sure if it actually tells us much about the Irish market, and no clues about cause and effect yet.

Fundraising in New Zealand
Our colleagues in New Zealand are not debating about official definitions of recession, they are all agreed they are in one. But one of our charity friends there are still doing well, "...we have made target in a country officially in recession with an RG conversion." (they actually got 50% more than they expected).

Fundraising in Australia
A major charity direct marketing event in Australia has just let me know that their mass partipatory event raised $250,714 - it had been in decline, grew in 2007 (it raised $249,008) and seems to have stabilised.

Australian 'tax appeal' results I am looking at still show no big effect. The variances are all 'normal'. However, impact of recession has not hit Australia as much as North America and Europe. Please email European and North American data.

Fundraising in Hong Kong
Brilliant results too date, new strategies are hammering last years, so it is hard to tell what effect if any, the recession is having. The new strategies started one year ago 2007 lifted net charity income by 250% on previous year - so the new approach is doing well, but this years are hard to compare because there is not enough history.

Sean Triner

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's all about data. But what data? Part II - analytical data

In Part II, I am exploring data closer to home.

Internal data, also referred to as your analytical data, needs to be monitored carefully too.

How are your donors behaving? What is actually happening to your campaigns?

Of course – this data can tell you if donations are up or down compared to last year, but it is impossible to do a controlled test. (Unless you can find a way of mailing donors that don't know anything is happening to the economy!)

So, if income is down, it could be because your campaign is not as good just as much as it could be the recession.

Historical data provides useful guides, and whilst what happened last time is a useful reference point it is no guarantee about what will happen this time. There could be multiple variables at play, things could be very different to last time, so plan accordingly.

Your early decisions should all be about ensuring that you are doing everything you should be doing. E.g. You know you should be calling your top donors to thank them, but haven’t been because you were too busy, or you know you should be hyper-personalising your copy in your appeals but the return on investment (ROI) was lower. In times of crisis aversion it is even more important to concentrate on net – not ROI).

But keep on top of the data. You should measure these key indicators:

Cash appeal response rates: year on year comparisons for equivalent appeals (the same one last year) and equivalent segments not just overall response rate.

Cash appeal average gift: year on year comparison for equivalent appeals (the same one last year) and equivalent segments as above.

Look at those donors who respond to this year and last year equivalent appeals and see if there is any difference/movement in their average gift.

Also have a look at response compared to what you asked (are you asking for a fixed amount, the same each year? did you make an upgrade ask each time etc?).

It would be easy to declare 'My average donation is down!' but look at what most people were asked for. For example, last year, you may have asked for 1.5x previous gift, but this year - in fear of recession - you asked for just 1.0x previous gift.

Number/value of large gifts to appeals: although this is hard to compare if you are only getting a handful, say up to 20 $1000+ gifts per appeal.

Keep in mind high value givers tend to give less frequently than lower value givers so ensure that you are not directly comparing the performance of your top givers with your mid – low value multi givers as their behaviour is different anyway.

Regular/Monthly giver attrition: Ensure you are looking at Face-to-Face (Direct Dialogue) recruits separate to those recruited via other methods Mail, Phone, Online etc (which you can group together).

Look at the attrition by month since recruitment.

Cash donor lapsing rate (% change in comparison to last year): This is a useful top line measure but keep in mind its not going to be until well into next year when we are going to be able to see if there is an impact.

The majority of cash charity donors give either once or twice per year – higher for those organisations that make more than 6 appeal asks per year.

The response rates of Regular/Monthly givers who have never made a cash gift and Regular/Monthly givers who have made previous cash gifts to cash appeals (yes you should be asking all recruited via methods other than Face-to-Face for donations in some of your appeals). Compare to previous years.

We know they are still supporting but they may stop the “extra support”.

Recruitment response rate: should be monitored though variables such as audience (compare proven or unproven lists), creative (new or proven pack) and timings are all determining factors – you need to compare like with like.

If you are running ongoing and/or large scale acquisition via mail, phone or online try for evidence across several campaigns as opposed to looking at a campaign only level.

For Face-to-Face, attrition and recruitment volumes are your best measures.

If you can’t get in a benchmarking type program, chat to those who are in them and find out what is going on with them, and also chat with agencies, experts and most importantly other charities – but always ask ‘What is the data saying?’

Make sure you understand the difference between opinion - eg “Charity Commission says 1 in 4 fundraising directors say that their income has been harmed by the economy slowdown” and fact “23 Australian charities compiled their data which shows no decline in individual (cash and regular) giving for 2008 compared to 2007”. Both convey valid information, you just need to know the evidence behind what you are reading before making a decision.

Fiona Paterson

Head of Global Data Services

Pareto Fundraising

Monday, October 27, 2008

News round up: CRUK, Obama

Articles and news from over the last few days
Leaked report
According to this article, originally from the Daily Mail, leading UK charity Cancer Research UK says that fundraising has been hit.

"A leading cancer charity is preparing to slash its budget by up to £643m over the next five years as the credit crunch hits fundraising. Cancer Research UK needs to make the drastic cuts following 'the dramatic decline in the economy' over the past year, according to an internal report.

"The economic slowdown has hit fundraising in two ways - a reduction in regular donations as householders tighten their belts, and a fall in legacy donations as falling property prices slash the value of bequeathed estates. Cancer Research UK said the final budget figures were still being considered, but it acknowledged that the economic gloom presents real challenges for the future."

Oh dear. Not good. Except it is not true either.

"Reports in today's newspapers claiming the charity will make budget cuts totalling £643m are both incorrect and grossly misleading." says Harpal Kumar, CRUK's Chief Executive on their website.

"Almost all Cancer Research UK's funding comes from the efforts and generosity of the public and we are extremely grateful to them for their continuing support of our work to beat cancer. At this time, more than ever, we need people to support our work."

It is easy to believe the papers, but just a little bit of extra research got me closer to the truth. I am trying to find out more from CRUK.

Lots of pieces about US election fundraising over the weekend. This Independent article is a good summary.

Presidential election fundraising hit by recession! Nah. Not at all. Funny how Obama raises more than Bush and Kerry did added together in these 'difficult fundraising times'. Obama's team proves for me that strategy and marketing tactics outweigh the effects of a recession.

Sure, maybe he would have raised $200m in September instead of $150m if there was no recession, but the very fact that he just got got on and fundraised resulted in $150m more than if he hadn't. In these tough times, cutting back on fundraising is the best way to reduce your income...

Sean Triner

Amanda Seller of WSPA says "Pull Your Finger Out"

Watch and listen to Amanda Seller from WSPA reporting back from her meeting with lots of other International INGOs at the IFC Conference in Holland.

No messing, practical stuff with a great big kick in the arse for us all. My highlight is her pleasant telling off of us all:

“...Just need to do the stuff you’ve known you should be doing" she urges. "We all know we should be doing good stewardship, good donor care, providing a sense of belonging and building relationships with people.

"We all know we should be tracking our data, staying on top of our data and analysing what is going on – we didn’t need a recession to remind us of that.

"But I do think the one impact this recession is going to have ... is that it is going to make us pull our finger out. You don’t have any choice, you have got to sort out your supporter care, got to stay on top of your data.”

Good on ya Amanda!

(Thanks Howard Lake of for the video).

Sean Triner

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Public market research from YouGov!

Here is YouGov's July research into UK public attitudes to giving. Bottom line, 21% of UK adults reckon charities are on their list for cutting expenditure. Weird bit is that the methods for giving to charity are all stuff like using charity credit card, sponsoring an event - nothing about regular giving and donations.

Sean Triner

It is all about data. But what data? Part I - environmental

Really, when it comes to fundraising there are only two types of data of great interest for the empirical approach to information. Environmental and internal (analytical) data. There are other data sets out there. For example market research, which is usually about opinion or intentions and personal data which is not really relevant for this discussion.

So what empirical data is crucial to your planning? Let’s concentrate on the financial data available within the environmental and internal data available.

Environmental data is the big picture stuff. What is happening beyond your charity. This can be broken into two, historical and contemporary. Both of those can be broken into three bits:

1) The economy. Beyond charities – how much do people have?

2) The fundraising business. How much are people giving? (And how much did they give last time something like this happened).

3) Product or activity data. Breaking down types of fundraising; eg how is corporate fundraising doing? What about regular (monthly) giving? (And again, what about last time?)

The key measures you should keep an eye on are below. How much attention you need to spend on them will depend on your fundraising mix.

Unemployment - influences corporate giving and individual giving
Surely increased unemployment will effect giving? People without jobs will have to re-prioritise.

Property prices - influences legacies
Look at your legacies (bequests) in detail and you will see that much of the value is realised from sale of property. So, if property values decrease so will your legacy values.

Share indexes - influences high net worth individuals (major donors), trusts, foundations, and legacies
Understanding where your big donors' wealth comes from will be handy when talking to them, but for many their money will be invested in stocks and shares. Most trusts and foundations' portfolios will also be hit. And of course, the second biggest contributor to deceased estates is usually stocks and shares.

Actual giving trends (not giving intentions but actual giving) – the best source is from compiling your data in a charity benchmarking program like Pareto Fundraising Benchmarking* or Blackbaud’s Donor Analytics. These programs provide direct comparisions, standardising data sets giving us like for like comparisions.

Looking at historical data here is useful, but not definitive. For example, a paper claims that during the 90s recession, giving declined - but how much of that decline was caused by 'recession suicide'? Looking at individual charities (such as real world case study, NSPCC) we see that

In Part II, to be published on this blog on the 28th November, I will be looking at internal - or analytical data.

Fiona Paterson

Head of Global Data Services, Pareto Fundraising

* For more information on Pareto Benchmarking in any country/region please email our insights team.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tony Elischer reckons a good time to revisit strategy

In his excellent article "RECESSION: Watching Is Not An Option" Tony Elischer of ThinkCS seems to agree with most of what the other experts are saying, and his ideas about how different areas of fundraising will be effected coincides quite nicely with my white paper and what Mal Warwick has to say, in particular Mal's belief that " a recession drags on, donor acquisition efforts may become even more challenging than they already are."

A couple of differences or greater elaboration and emphasis on different areas makes his paper an essential read. Just some of those are highlighted below...

Tony reckons "Any switched on marketer or fundraiser knows that the current climate WILL impact on their fundraising and their portfolio of techniques." I believe he is right, and it already is (for example, with corporates), but as you read his paper (and most of the other opinion pieces out there) the measures he and others recommend will be good for your charity even if it turns out things aren't effected as bad as we expect.

Within his paper, Tony also brings attention to the fact that fundraisers "...must take account of the pressures on [our] own unique portfolio of funders..." very relevant, for example in the difference responses needed from those with diverse portfolios against those relying on one or two corporates and events.

Although there are tons of papers out there about what happened last time - most saying 'not a lot happened, but things were a bit worse', and one actually saying we will be fine, one thing I can assure you is that no one actually knows what will happen.

It is different; life is full of new things and unique circumstances. Tony says "...No charity can simply look at its numbers today or trust the previous macro trends and say that it is holding up against the recession." Great point - there are far too many unknown unknowns out there.

Don't be afraid to tell your boss or board you don't know what will happen (you wouldn't want to tell a lie) but make sure you tell them what you are doing in preparation for the known unknowns. Most of these preparations will, of course, be good practice.

Tony reckons "Customers learn to spend differently and, as a result, their values change with higher expectations of experience, service and value." So good customer care will help! Yaay! you know you should be doing that anyway.

Some other knowns include "Corporate fundraising: possibly the first area to show signs of moving to a static position and then decline. Already we have seen deals falling through
that have taken many months of planning and negotiations." (Dear reader, please send me any examples like this, I believe Tony, but some anecdotes would be good).

Our research of actual income data on 23 Australia charities shows that the Australian market is indeed experiencing this already, and although you can't prove it is because of the feels as though it must be a factor. (OK, I work in a data obsessed agency, but I still have feelings).

On individual donors, Tony claims "Already visible in markets such as the USA, UK, Netherlands, Ireland is the effect on the key area of recruitment of new donors." (Tony - or anyone else - please send me some references / evidence, anonymised if need be). he continues "This has been getting harder year on year over the last three years or more and the recession will really put further pressure on this area."

This contradicts Steve Thomas' view from Canada - he agrees acquisition and appeals income has been in decline for years, but tells me his data shows the decline has not got any worse this year.

But regardless of whether it is getting worse, Steve wouldn't disagree with tony that "Charities cannot give up on recruitment but we are going to have to work much harder and be much smarter in this area..."

Although Tony thinks " money would be on the next significant surge in digital recruitment for the charities that continue to invest in this area and effectively to integrate it with the rest of their marketing" I reckon people should be careful about switching budgets from tried and tested fundraising methods like face-to-face, which - according to the F2F agencies I spoke with - is not in decline. Yet.

Of course, another advantage with products like F2F (and to some extent phoning) is that you would quickly notice a decline and can afford to watch and see there. As Amanda Seller from WSPA says "We all know we should be tracking our data, staying on top of our data and analysing what is going on..."

Still on individuals, Tony points out that "UK charities are already seeing reductions of up to thirty percent in the value of estates, so reforecasting may be necessary." Along with other legacy experts telling us estates will take longer to be realised I think this essential advice - don't bank on your legacy income holding up. Better to plan for decline, and be pleasantly surprised if it does hold up than the other way around.

Tony finishes with some sound management advice "And finally here’s the practical advice some organisations will really struggle to face up to – recession is the perfect time to ensure that your staff, your board, and your organisational structure is right to meet your future needs and bring success.

"Whilst you may have to fight cuts in the donor recruitment budget and other vital fundraising areas, you can use the recession to tackle any unproductive staff and structures, ideas and programmes that didn’t work. Your donors won’t tolerate anything else, so think of it as starting a healthy diet to give your organisation the energy and resources to face the future."

Let's face it, whatever happens you should be doing that anyway.

Sean Triner

As well as this article, ThinkCS publish tons of useful stuff on their website.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Calling all agencies / suppliers and charities

The hundreds of people who visit this blog every day need your help.

Please send me any data you have, or if an agency, from across your clients - anonymised or if you can get permission, better still. Good anecdotes too, and any other research / papers you see or produce please tell me about them and I will blog them.

Agencies, I will put links up to your site, because you exist to help charities make more money and some may be interested in finding out about you. Not quite free advertising, because I want something useful to share - but pretty good value.

Please note, I will queue stuff on the blog, first come basis, so that everything doesn't get published at the same time and therefore unread.

Don't worry, it is good for us

John Sauvé-Rodd of Datapreneurs sent me a summary of a useful article from AFP, (mentioned in a previous blog) reckoning bad times are good for philanthropy...

"...In particular, there are some surprising findings:
  • Changes in total philanthropy are not directly correlated to changes in the stock market. Total philanthropy appears to weather storms in the stock market with great resiliency and less dramatic fluctuation.

  • There has been only one year in the past 27 in which philanthropy has dropped from one year to the next (1987), and it was only a modest drop. Otherwise, philanthropy has increased from one year to the next, even during years in which the market has dropped (see Table 2).

  • Even during the worst decline in the stock market (in 2002, when the Dow Jones Average decreased 17 percent and the S&P 500 Index dropped 23 percent), philanthropy increased by 1 percent

What does this all mean? Philanthropy remains strong and resilient during declining economic periods. While it is clear that a strong stock market provides donors with a greater ease and sense of confidence in making gifts to nonprofit organizations, the opposite is not true. Down markets do not always foretell decreased philanthropy.

We owe a big thank you to those wise heads who asked for this work to begin after the 9-11 catastrophe."

John Sauvé-Rodd


Also, I got an email from a fundraising director who wants to remain anonymous about what he is experiencing in Australia:

  • Monthly regular giving income has increased by over 10% in five months

  • Upgrade by telephone uptake currently over 50% (up from 40-43%)

  • 3rd Quarter 2008 one of our best ever for face to face.

I want to add a disclaimer: Australia is not hit as bad as North America and Europe (yet?) but it is all on the news there as well, and our Government is doing a $10bn bailout too; people are worried!

Charities - please send stuff like this to me, and agencies - send me your data too, hundreds of people are visiting this blog every day and I will make sure you get a link and credit! Anonymous data is welcome, just get it to me. (Please note I queue up blogs so they don't all come out at the same time!)

Sean Triner

IFC Fundraisers Poll

Bernard Ross of the Management Centre pulled together this quick survey of fundraisers whilst he was at the IFC.

Bottom line:
  • Almost 40% of respondents believe that the best response is to fight for
    market share now- expansion to secure market share is the only option.
  • Almost as many favoured another strong proactive action though the specific
    responses varied- from downsizing to using reserves to weather the storm
  • European and North American fundraisers are more optimistic than their
    African or Asian counterparts
  • Globally respondents believe that the three areas most likely to lose out are
    arts and culture, international development and animal welfare.
  • Respondents also agreed that children’s’ causes, emergency relief, medical
    and faith-based causes would be least affected.
  • North America disagrees most strongly on the effect of the funding crisis on
    Disability, Education, the Environment, and Faith based causes.
  • Europeans are more concerned than others about the impact on Disability,
    Human Rights, and Elders.

For the full report, download from here, link will work until November 15.

Sean Triner

IFC - Blackbaud / NFP Synergy presentation

Sorry, I am having problems embedding this presentation from Blackbaud UK director, Martin Jervis so please click here to download it instead. The file will be available until 14 November.

Sean Triner

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fun poll closes

39 people voted on the little poll on this blog.
Of them, 28 people reckon now is the time to spend more money on fundraising, 7 say business as usual, none said to cut back. Oh, and six said they wished they had invested in regular (monthly) giving before now...

Innovate? How about stealing ideas?

SOFII is a charity that exists just to help fundraisers world-wide, for free. Ken Burnett sent me this email...

Sean Triner

"Hi Sean

Congratulations on your recession-watch blog. Very timely, useful and much needed.

Tough times, of course, can also produce the best ideas. Many currently established methods of donor acquisition can be seen to have arisen as innovations when the need was greatest. See ActionAid’s insert story on SOFII, and Greenpeace’s development of face-to-face.

Plus an array of legacy marketing and other initiatives that arose directly out of fundraising uncertainty.

The whole idea of SOFII itself becomes even more appropriate in tough times. Why trouble to think of your own great idea if you can borrow someone else’s? Why take a risk testing the unknown when you can see how well or otherwise similar initiatives fared, when used by others?

To quote (very reluctantly) Donald Rumsfeld, fundraisers suffer from too many ‘unknown unknowns’, particularly in hard times.

So I hope you’ll direct your followers to SOFII, where as many of the ‘known knowns’ as we can uncover are being gathered and displayed to help fundraisers to shed light on the best ways of doing things, however hard times get. And all for free, too.

Keep thinking

Ken Burnett, SOFII– The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration,"


Someone doing the work for you part I

After reading tons of articles, news-stories and more, I reckon I am in a good position to summarise what I am reading, and what is missing:

What they are saying
  • So much opinion, but generally feeling is that donations will be hit, especially corporates, trusts & foundations later on and probably legacies
  • Charities who invested in regular giving (monthly donations) and legacies are the safest
  • Don't cut fundraising expenditure
  • General feeling donor acquisition will be more expensive
  • Be calm, don't panic
What they are doing
  • I have two examples of charities who are cutting their fundraising expenditure budgets Please send me more examples. If you want to remain anonymous, just tell me.
  • All the agencies and consultancies are rushing to do surveys about what people think. Please send me the summaries / links.
  • Key thought leaders are pulling together 'emergency' sessions, like the one organised by Pareto Fundraising in Australia (details to come) and John Sauvee-Rodd on 4 November in London (sorry, it is full). Please send me details of any other such sessions.

And what is lacking

  • Charity thought leadership - apart from Amanda Sellar and the INGOs at IFC I struggle to find stuff from non-agencies. Fair enough, it is our job as agencies, it is in the interests of our businesses, and we usually have access to the thoughts of multiple charities - but Please, charity people send me details / results / data. Again, I am happy to anonymise.
  • Data, data, data. Tons of anecdotes. Steve says Canadian donations not down, Paula says USA donations down, UK Charity Commission says fundraising directors say income down - but no data. Please send data!

Sean Triner

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thank you

Wow, within 2 working days of launch, this blog had over 700 fundraisers (presumably) visit. Thank you for those who are putting the word out, especially the top 5 website links:

Third Sector Magazine, Valerio (Italian blog, who has driven tons of Italians - I am guessing Valerio's blog must be good to get so much traffic, so if you read Italian, add it to your feeds), Conor's Fundraising blog, Fundraising Research, and Ask Direct. Thanks guys.

Please, everyone else - tell people to visit, and please send me data.

Sean Triner

Fundraising Associations put in their two penneth

The Resource Alliance have the one article from Kevin Kibble of Our Lasting Tribute, which is another opinion piece, and agreeing with all the others. In addition, Resource Alliance hosted the IFC meeting that led to the re-alignment of this blog and they sent out an email to attendees to get information from this blog.

AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) have pulled together a good 'toolkit', basically links to opinion and advice from consultants.

My favorite is when Paul Lagasse reminds Americans that 83.4% of fundraised income is given by individuals and he shares more environmental data, in his 'How the Economy Effects Giving' article.

The UK's Institute of Fundraising has a few pieces up, not least a promise of some great research planned with PwC, but you will need to be a member :(

"Although the survey will be available online for a wide variety of contributors, the results of the analysis - carried out by PwC – and a copy of the final report, will only be available to Institute members and members of the CFDG." Meanies. Any members, please ask IOF to send a summary for our international viewers and we will encourage people to join.

Australia and New Zealand's Fundraising Institutes (FIA and FINZ) have got nothing up on their websites, though they may well be sending out newsletters or something. Amy (FINZ) and Sue-Anne (FIA) please send me updates.

They are the organisations I am familiar with, and can read. Members of organisations in other countries please send me links and - if not in English - a 2-3 line summary which I can post. It would be great to get stuff from non-Anglophone countries please.

Sean Triner

Question from Russia

Katya Pal from WWF in Russia wants to know if we should change our message in light of the economy.

"My question is whether there are concrete examples of how we can reformulate our message and take provocative and effective actions in order to achieve better results in acquisition during the crisis times on such inmature market like Russian. I will be especially interested in ideas in the area of environment - as it is not in the top priorities of existing donors in Russia at all (children and health issues are).

"My thinking at the moment is that we have to change our statement underlining that there are values that will never undergo inflation - which is GIVING - CHARITY - SOCIAL PURPOSE..."

Anyone with any examples of using changed message, please leave a comment.

Sean Triner

Links to information

There is so much information and so many links, I am taking them off the right hand side and blogging them instead.

Use the search function to find links and summaries.



In his 'Recession-proof your fundraising' article Marc A. Pitman says don't make the three fatal mistakes:

  1. spend less on fundraising

  2. become pessimistic

  3. apologize when you’re asking



NFP Synergy compare sector growth with GDP and show they are related.



Mal Warwick and Dan Doyle

'Even if nonprofits generally are feeling the pinch of a gloomy economic outlook, your organization might not be similarly impacted. The effects you’ll feel will depend on how you raise your money, what services you provide, and, ultimately, what you do in response to deteriorating economic conditions.'

This article includes a bit of data, some great advice and is a pretty good source to nick stuff from to present to your board.



This report from 2into3 is well referenced and looks at the history of how the sector has changed alongside big external events including Second World War and 1929 Crash. Bottom line - don't panic, look after your donors... sound familiar?



Great pocast, starting off with FDR speech: "This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...." Worth 15 minutes of your time listening to this on your iPod. Download Program 13, 'Fundraising in a bad economy'.


Sean Triner