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.