Friday, January 30, 2009

Good fundraising practice beats the economy blues

In my paper 'Ten Point plan to recession-proofing your fundraising' I argue that good fundraising practice is needed now more than ever, regardless of how the economy is doing.

I had a great boost to this theory with the results of our first ever direct mail appeal in Canada. Amongst all the doom and gloom there, and the seemingly accepted fact that charities are suffering, this mailing made over 50% more than last year.

The mailing is up from about $1m income last year, to $1.5m this year. And the charity's staff are still processing donations. This is after mailing the same set of donors as last year. Although the costs were higher (the pack was bigger, longer and was personalised) the increase in costs were not significant compared to the extra half million in the bank.

At the same time I hear of appeals for many other Canadian charities being down for the same period.

Of course, I am pleased with the efforts of the charity staff and the Pareto Fundraising people in Canada, Singapore and Australia who worked on the job but I am not trumpeting this as a free advert.

All we did was follow good fundraising practice. We did nothing that isn't in the fundraising or direct marketing books or on courses; the charity was willing to invest more on a respectful, highly personalised and targeted approach.

With this appeal alone, the charity effectively 'ticked off' half of the points in the ten point plan and it worked. (See 1,2, 6, 7 and 8)

You don't need to hire us (or other agencies) to make this work - just make sure you are implementing good fundraising practice, please. Don't try and do things on the cheap.

(A note for North Americans readers: this is not an ad, but of course our regional director would love to help you, email Jonathon Grapsas).


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fundraising when money is tight - new book

I just finished Mal Warwick’s new manuscript “Fundraising When Money is Tight”. I got to tell you, it is bloody good. I am sure the title will help sales right now, but it could well have been called “How to fundraise”; there is nothing in there that I wouldn’t recommend when times are not tight. Not that I can remember a time when fundraising wasn’t tough.

Just 137 pages long, I whizzed through the book in a few hours, it is a journey flying high in big picture strategy but dipping down into sensible tactics and practicalities – including a short lesson on the basics of segmentation and a full case study of an (Australian!) donor survey.

Suitable for the fundraising strategist, the CEO and the board, the book gives clear tips, steps and processes – almost like a ‘how to’ checklist book.

If you can’t get your board to read a fundraising book, get them to read at least the first 44 pages that make up Part One. Mal doesn’t pretend to tell us what may or may not happen in the future (let’s face it, no-one knows) but what he does show us is how scenario planning can give a clear overview for how NGOs can respond to whatever happens.

Part two outlines incredibly sensible and immediate steps that can be taken to protect your beneficiaries now and into the future whilst illustrating with examples, a case study and a short practical lesson or two.

No moaning about the economy is allowed. If you raise money from the public get on and do the right thing – buy this book and do what it tells you to do. Mal is internationally respected for a reason – he knows his stuff.

This is not an advert, but I reckon the book is the best thing (except this blog, which you already read) around to help you manage your situation - and your board. Pre-order through Amazon in USA here and UK here.


Attention Canadian based readers: Surviving and thriving in challenging times...

For those Canadian based readers, here is a quick plug to the upcoming event I am proud to be involved in with my good friends at Canadian Fundraiser.

The event Surviving and Thriving in Challenging times, sponsored by Pareto Fundraising to be held in Toronto on the 17th of February will bring together people from all parts of the sector to discuss what is happening out there in the trenches, and how we can best manage these turbulent times.

This is a Canadian first, with nothing else of this magnitude been run here to date. It's aimed at Executive Directors, trustees and senior fundraising professionals.

It's an interesting bunch of talented people presenting on the panel and presenting. Oh, and I managed to score a gig as well.

We've got representatives from large and small charities, we've got researchers, consultants, leading Canadian philanthropists and social entrepreneurs.

The day promises to be full of meaty and useful information, lots of interesting discussion, some data to show what's really happening as well as some practical advice on what to do moving forward from some of the best in the industry.

Check it out.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't mention the economy...

You may recall some debate as to whether you should mention the economy in your appeal letters... I asked if anyone tests it to tell me the results.

Mark from bluefrog did - the idea was that maybe average donation would increase if they talked about the economic woes.

Mentioning the economy in a carefully controlled test they found that it harmed average gift considerably. I don't know the response rate but presum no significant difference or he would have said.

See the whole article here.

So, be careful about mentioning it!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Financial Times reckons corporate giving may be up

At 4,000 words you need to put the kettle on before diving into this brilliant article but it is worth it.

A thorough report, starting with the Quakers in the 19th century it takes on a journey of corporate giving right up to now.

Please take time out to read this one, and keep it handy for when the boss is asking why you are not getting tons of money from big business.

If you haven't time to read it here is the bottom line:

Corporates (in the UK, and the USA) give so little cash to charity that the economic woes won't make much difference. What about the £1.1bn companies are meant to give in the UK per annum? A quarter of that is in-kind donations of drugs from one company, and much of the rest is 'in kind' too.

The article explains the history of corporate giving (in the UK) and also explains why they give so little.

Check it out here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Christmas / Holiday Appeal Results

Here in Australia, Christmas time is a big charity time and this was an unusual Christmas with people worrying about what may happen with the economic downturn and giving.

In February, I am going to have a look at as many Christmas house mailing* results as I can and give some feedback on this blog. I will be looking for:
  1. Any information that shows whether Christmas 2008 bucked the trends

  2. Any tactics / ideas people implemented - that worked or didn't

  3. Clues to what may happen next.

Why? Not just for academic interest. The information can hopefully join your other inputs and research to help with your budget planning and also there may be some specific tactics you can implement next time.

Please help. Email me your results, or if you are an agency then any results you can get hold of- but only if you can give me a context. I will credit those who want it but won't be using the information in a way that can identify which charity / agency it came from - unless you explicitly invite me to use yours as a named case study.

*By house mailing, I mean mailings to people who had donated to you previously. I don't mind how long ago provided similar selections were made in previous years.

Let me know, for Christmas mailings of 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008

1) How many (warm) people were mailed

2) How many sent a donation

3) The total income - just immediate donations, if you asked for regular or monthly gifts, please add that in comments

4) Comments (eg '2006 was really high because we had a capital appeal...', or ' 2008 we tried an entire new approach by...' 'also 55 new monthly gifts @ av $32.22 per month'.)

Please, please send it in Excel format, with the five years (2004,2005,2006,2007,2008) down the side and the four fields (mailed, responded, income, across the top. This will make it easier for me to copy and paste and do my comparisons. You can have a look at a sample below or here.

Thanks a lot,


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 - a great new year for charities!?

Happy new year. And I mean it, no doom and gloom here.

I am excited and looking forward to it. A decent break over Christmas and New Year was not tempered by my return to work and reading lots of bad news - I think it is going to force change that is needed and can only be good for the communities we serve.

Surely 2009 is going to be a revolutionary year for the charity sector? The whole economic disaster will force better practice, smart strategy and clear, measurable tactics.

There is simply not enough room for complacency or whim. Charities will need to be tough, hold their staff accountable - even 'rich' and 'safe' organisations with big endowments are having to take a good look at themselves.

And the sector must prevail - tough economic times mean we are needed more than ever, so let us make this a turning point for the sector.

I will keep this blog going since even whilst I was away there were a few posts up and hundreds of visits. Thanks for reading, and please send me information and details about how you are changing your charity (unless you were perfect of course!).



All the best for 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Data suggests that corporations continue giving in the US

Some interesting data that recently came out of the US.

According to a recent report produced by
LGB Research, over 70 major US corporations and corporate foundations that participated in their email survey expect to see no change in their charitable giving in 2009.

It also reports that 80 percent of corporations will be more strategic in their giving; with many of those surveyed indicating their corporation will support organisations that can show greater impact and who are more aligned with their corporate goals.

The research also suggests that the anticipated 12.1 percent drop in charitable donations predicted in the Giving US 2002 report will most likely to be as little as 3 to 5 percent.

To read a summary of the research click here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Is it too late to start really looking after your donors?

Matt Parkes from bluefrog just posted an interesting piece about relationship marketing/fundraising in light of the current economic climate and the credit crunch.

In his posting, Matt indicates that he feels that it's probably a little late for serious investment in this area, given that what we are really doing is reacting to the turbulent times we are currently faced with.

I'm not so sure. Let's face it, most of the ingredients that bake the 'relationship fundraising' cake are fairly straightforward and easy to put in place. Being really nice to people, feeding back where their money has gone, keeping them updated, showing real impact and so on..

In theory easy things to do. In practice, maybe not so easy, as our mystery shopping studies over the past few years have illustrated.

But the point is: investing in CRM, supporter relationship management, relationship fundraising - call it what you will, doesn't necessarily mean enormous investments in sophisticated technology. It's actually about getting back to basics.

Matt says that "differentiation by customer service is increasingly important". I couldn't agree more.

I say this with a facetious tone in my voice: differentiating yourself from someone else could be as simple as thanking and thanking appropriately within two days, rather than four weeks...

He also goes on to suggest that "fundraisers must start to engage with donors, for example by regularly spending time with Supporter Services, opening post and seeing what they're saying about their appeals." Simple, but so true.

As I recently posted, let's not allow tradition to become destructive and inhibit growth. I often see silly things happening purely and simply because that's the way they have been done for the last 1, 2, 10 years...

Doing the things that we know are right, that enhance the relationship we have with our donors and ultimately translates to more value, don't have to be extortionately expensive in both time and dollars. Even if doing the 'right things' require a shift from the way you have 'traditionally' done something - if it makes sense then just do it.

Remember, let's get back to basics.