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 SauvĂ©-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