Thursday, 18 October 2012

IFC Ponderings #2

Following on from reminding myself I should look outside the UK more often, I also need to look outside the charity sector more. We can be quite mired in a ‘them and us’ mindset, so I’ve been going to sessions that bring in commercial sector examples. 

To be honest I’ve enjoyed the sessions, but have I learned a lot? What I’ve found interesting are the similarities. I think we know that, but do we think about it?  Just a couple of examples:

  • Successful advertising still uses the solution/problem model. E.g. Your clothes are dirty, you need them clean. Buy our product = Children are dying, give £3 a month
  • The testimonial model. E.g. I’m an Australian cricketer who has lost my hair. Buy this and it will grow back = I’m a celebrity who has seen it with my own eyes, give now and save lives.
I’m also sure that there is a lot more that we would like to do in the sector but can’t. Often we just can’t justify the spending involved. I saw an example from Cadbury’s on Wispa chocolate bars. Fascinating stuff. However, the heart of the matter is that: “This was done on a really low budget. Hundreds of thousands of pounds rather than millions.” 

Lovely I’m sure. But the day “hundreds of thousands of pounds” becomes something I can do where I work is probably going to be the best day of my fundraising life - so long as it's direct response :-). And that’s the same for a large proportion of charities.

Of course, there is always something that can be learned – even if it’s that I need to work harder and smarter so that I can deliver the above!

For your interest here are some case studies I saw, and some learning we could (if we're not already) apply to the charity sector:

  • Build on your roots, don’t throw away your heritage
  • How can you use pre-established ideas that your supporters have to your advantage?
  • If you have a long established brand, use it. Don't deny it.
  • If something new happens, use it. These coincided with the explosion in social media so they took this and built success by integrating
  • There’s an instant recognition of ongoing characters and the compelling stories that these have
  • How can we use this? (Although I would argue this is what child sponsorship is already replicating)
  • Turned the traditional model of telling people about the brand around, and allowed people to tell them what the Wispa brand was
  • Command and control may not be the most effective model in an increasingly digital age
  • Used crowd sourcing to remarkable effect and showed that supporters really can be the greatest asset
  • Watch the video on the making of the video  

My favourite thing from today
I do have one absolute favourite thing from today. It has nothing to do without looking outside the sector. The one thing that has given me the most pleasure is that I met a man who works for a charity that mails their donors 25 times a year.Yes, you read that correctly.

Then when they say they want less mailings he can reduce them to six or 12 and they’re really happy about that. I think that’s just brilliant!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Things I have learned #1

It’s day one and a bit of the IFC in Holland and already I’ve been struck by the things I have learned. So, I thought I’d share a few.

1. Team working can be a challenge, but also a pleasure
The Masterclass I attended was built around a real case study and the problems of an organisation. And we had to work hard – and in groups. Working in groups is always interesting but when you know hardly any of the people, all come from different countries, backgrounds, experience, types of fundraising and are communicating in a language which might not be a mother tongue, it can lead to a challenging experience.

So, I learned some patience. It really is a virtue. It’s something I do struggle with – I’ll admit to that. But the work really demonstrated the power of listening, talking and working together. I enjoyed it.

Note to self: I should do this more often.

2. Step outside of your comfort zone
The first workshop I went to was about corporate fundraising. This is not my discipline of fundraising, so I attended to broaden my horizons and hopefully learn some new skills. And, following on from my Masterclass experience, I wanted to step into my colleagues shoes and see what they experience on a daily basis.

It was great. I learned that NGO’s are from Venus and Corporates are from Mars. I learned that it’s bullshit (sic) that Corporates give because it feels good. In the words of our presenter, “Why should businesses care about that?” 

I learned that, “If you want to dance with the wolves, you have to behave like them.” For a corporate fundraiser, this is probably nothing they don’t already know. For a digital and direct marketing fundraiser it made perfect sense, but was great to hear.

Note to self: I should do this more often.

3. Look outside the UK
One thing I’ve always loved about attending the IFC is the opportunity to talk to, and learn from, amazing fundraisers from all over the world. I know what charities are doing in the UK – I’m an avid watcher of fundraising, reader of blogs and reviewer of competitors.

Attending always reminds me how much I forget to look outside of the UK for ideas and inspiration. There are brilliant fundraisers all over the world. And we should look to them more. Amongst many examples today, these two stood out for me:

Note to self: I should do this more often.

4. Go with the flow
I realise I have to admit to always cringing inwardly about the thought of sitting in a room full of fundraisers at a plenary session, listening to people tell me how wonderful we are and how we’re changing the world. I might be tempted to roll my eyes at the whoops of enthusiasm and I wonder where did this cynicism come from? 

Because, you see, I LOVE what I do. I know why I do it (I do want to make a difference), and I am passionate about fundraising in every form. So why do I react like this?  Why does the thought of people whooping because they’re motivated and inspired embarrass me?

I’m not going to start analysing myself intently. The answer is clear. I just need to get over it. Go with the flow. Feel the love. And join in. Even an old cynic like me can be inspired and motivated by a plenary session full of passion and joy.

Note to self: I should do this more often.

5. And lastly, don’t drink too much on your first night
Getting up with a hangover and not enough sleep is something I really should have learned by now....Sometimes it really isn’t possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

Note to self: This is not something I’ll probably ever learn and will, in fact, do this more often.

Thanks for reading. I'm off for a glass of wine.

Do follow me on Twitter @roxymartinique


Monday, 8 October 2012

Seven questions every fundraiser should ask

Imogen Ward, Director of Marketing and Communications at Merlin, blogs on the seven questions every fundraiser should ask a potential donor.

Silence is golden...
Anyone who has ever attended one of the great Karen Osborne workshops will know the power of silence. That indeed the most important skill any fundraiser should have when faced with a potential donor is probably the one that most of us struggle with.

And this is the ability to, well, shut up. To keep still, quiet and schtum. 

Because, ladies and gentleman, listening to our donors is the only way that we will make any sense when we do actually open our mouths. In an ideal scenario any questions we ask will be prompted by the nuggets of insight gleaned from the donor's monologue. Thus the eloquent donor will allow us to effortlessly and elegantly prompt more insight, more engagement and ultimately dosh...

But what happens if our donors need - let’s say - some encouraging? Let’s face it, they often do! So I’ve asked colleagues from the world of fundraising in the UK and the US for their thoughts and here are a few recurring themes. 

Two assumptions! We’re talking about a six figure gift potential here and it’s early on in the relationship. It is not conclusive of course…there are heaps more options…but we feel this is a good starting place. 

1. Tell me a bit about why you support x? Now obviously you’ve done your research so you’ll be able to speak about any past giving that you are aware of…and allow the donor to speak about this relationship. You’ll find out heaps. You’ll also find out about support which perhaps isn’t in the public domain….and probably a lot about personal life and motivation.

2. What’s been the most motivating part of this relationship? Again hopefully this will give you insight on what pushes buttons, what rings bells and, if you’re lucky, a few clues to anything that was a big turn off.

3. What part of my charity’s work do you find the most interesting/inspiring? Hopefully the above has allowed you to move effortlessly onto your cause.

4. There are lots of ways I can get you more information and insight on this project/country/programme…what’s best for you? Now depending on how early into the relationship this is, this could be where you introduce that visit to your office to meet the Programme Director or the CEO or even the Chair. It is also when you can ask...

5. How would you feel about visiting one of our programmes/projects? I went to x recently and it was fascinating….? For my charity, Merlin, this would entail a trip to difficult and dangerous places. For others this would be more straightforward….but whatever the ‘seeing is believing,’ options are, a mention here opens more dialogue.

6. I don’t want to bombard you with information but what background reading do you require right now? And how would you like to receive this? We’re assuming at this stage that a full bells and whistles funding proposal isn’t on the table but you need to get a feel for what and how.

7. And number 7…? Well, I return to the wonderful Ms Osborne. However you end the conversation make sure that you leave it with your potential donor saying ‘YES!’ Of course ideally (but not at this stage) it would be ‘YES! I will give you trillions!’ but in reality it will be more like. ‘YES! You can email me next week to firm up that meeting.’ ‘YES! I will come to your event on xxxx’. ‘YES! I will tell my friend and contact Mr Richman about your work.’ 

And so fellow fundraisers. Do what Karen and all successful fundraisers tell you. 

Make sure that your donor does the talking and whatever you ask leads to a big, wonderful YES.   

An avid tweeter, you can follow Imogen @imogenward.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Five lessons we can learn from the Olympic and Paralympic Games

It had to be done – it almost certainly has been done on a million blogs on a million other topics too. 

What can fundraising learn from London 2012? Here, in no particular order, are the top 5 things I, Kathryn Brooke, think we can learn. 

One - Being British is no bad thing. 
We’re cool again. If you are a British charity that is nothing to shy away from. Yes we need to be sensitive to our beneficiaries – I am in particular thinking international charities here. 

We don’t want to go back to selling some colonial idea of the white man in the safari suit saving the day. But for us UK fundraisers our donors are (mostly) British - so let them know they are supporting a British charity. They are playing their part in the good our country can do.
Two - Merchandise is also cool.
Whilst I was never an Olympic cynic (I spent 7 years in pre excitement build up,) I never in a million years thought I would buy myself a ‘Team GB’ T-shirt or an official GB running top (for when I bumble along at the pace of a snail), or even a Wenlock (yes the weird looking toy thing!), but I did. 

Now whilst I am not suggesting you go out and spend your entire fundraising budget on toys and t-shirts, I think there is something about getting people to feel so proud of their charity that they want to wear our tops or buy our mascots. 

Making people want to feel proud to support your charity can only have a good effect. And that effect could be they wear your t-shirt, But if you don’t have merchandise it could just be that they tell their friends about you or just keep that regular gift coming. 

We must make sure our communication is making people feel proud of what they have done and not just telling them all the things we have done. 

A great example of this is the lottery posters thanking everyone for their support – you haven’t just bought a lottery ticket – you’ve got Jessica Ennis a gold medal! 

Three - Volunteers are amazing. 
Weren’t the games makers great? I found myself high-fiving them again and again – me, a grown woman, doing that. And as morale started to drop a little when I was held in a queue to Stratford station, who was there to pick everyone up and make sure we went home with the excitement that we arrived with? All volunteers, just doing their bit. 
     Now how many of us having sighed deeply when an email comes round saying ‘we have a volunteer in for the next 3 weeks so please think of how they can help you’? I know I have been guilty of this; having thoughts like ‘in the time it takes me to explain I could have done it myself’ and ‘I just need to get my head down today, I don’t have time to answer a load of questions’.

But actually we need to remember volunteers are amazing. They come and work for free. FOR FREE. That is a massive gift to give. And with a bit of (yes I know) time and support they can do so much for your organisation, not just in terms of work but in the good word they spread to everyone.
Four - Competition can be good. 
Yes it is the taking part that counts, but look at David ‘4 Golds’ Weir; it is about the winning too. 

So how can we use this to improve our fundraising? Obviously it has to be done carefully and is not just about who gives the most money. It has to be relevant to your cause and to your fundraising. And throwing out prizes left right and centre is possibly not going to make it look like you are spending money wisely.

However, when done well, it can really add benefits. The most obvious place for it to work is probably community fundraising and I really like this idea from Save the Children (Target 150)

But it can also be used for telephone and street fundraisers. The incentive doesn’t have to cost money or take time. A card to say thank you each week to the best performer or a spare cup, t-shirt or pen can really motivate and encourage the team. 

Five - It’s all about the emotion
Anyone else feel like the Games became the new romcoms? I felt like I should have been watching them with a box of chocolates, glass of wine and massive packet of tissues. Yes it’s about the sport and excitement on the day. But it is also about the sheer determination and dedication it has taken everyone to get there. 

We can sit and talk rationally about the games – about the costs, about the benefits to future generations, the development of the east end, but really it is the personal stories that make the lips wobble and the tears flow. 

So the next time someone says ‘why do you need a case study, you should be explaining the context, not just talking about one child’ - ask them what made them cry at the Olympics? The positive impact infrastructure redevelopment will have on the East End or Mo Farah hugging his daughter?   

I mean, come on? I am on my way to donate to the Mo Farah Foundation as I type. 

Kathryn Brooke