Tag Archives: charity

You are awesome. We will be back.

Most days I am thoroughly underwhelmed by mediocre customer service experiences.

It amazes me that in a competitive marketplace how little emphasis seems to be placed on providing outstanding service, especially when we know that personal recommendations are key in helping people make purchasing decisions, whether buying a new product or choosing what charity to support.*

If you receive poor or mediocre service you might not say anything. You just might not return. If the service is diabolical you probably will tell the world in order to stop anyone else having he same bad experience, or sometimes to give the diabolical service provider the opportunity to put it right. (You can see some of the best diabolical service complaints letters that went viral here)

So when something exceptional happens it really stands out. Something exceptional happened this week and I want to tell you about it.

I went for lunch with a friend at the Oxo Tower Brasserie on London’s Southbank. It’s on the 8th floor and has stunning views over the city. It was her birthday.

TG51We had a delicious meal and while we were waiting for coffee something unexpected happened. Our waiter, Marco, arrived at our table with a plate with Happy Birthday written on it in chocolate sauce accompanied with a scoop of ice cream with a candle in it.

My friend thought I had arranged it. (For a fleeting moment I thought of taking the credit, but I had to confess I hadn’t been that thoughtful.)

TG50

I asked Marco how he knew. He said he had overheard us talking when we toasted with our wine earlier and he thought it would be a nice thing to do.

It was more than a nice thing to do. It was awesome.

So a scoop of ice cream with a candle on is no big deal. The big deal was that someone was paying attention to us, understood that it was a special occasion and took the time and effort to do something to make us feel special.

Exceptional service like that is so rare. Yet in a competitive marketplace if you don’t offer exceptional service how do you get your customers to return and recommend you to others? The same applies to your supporters and donors.

It takes a bit of extra effort – but the result was that Marco and the Oxo Tower Brasserie stands out in a crowded marketplace of average experiences.

So thank you Marco for being a brilliant waiter and making our day. You are awesome. We will be back.

*Recent research claims that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations (Source)while only 14% of people trust advertising.  Source: “Marketing to the Social Web,” Larry Weber, Wiley Publishing  2007

 

 

The Dragonfly Effect – its all wings and analogies

The Dragonfly Effect is a book by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith about ways to use social media to drive social change.

They use the analogy of the wings of a dragonfly as the four essential ingredients in any social media campaign.

It breaks down how to ‘do’ social media to drive change into four ‘wings’.

Wing one; is about focusing focus on a single concrete measurable goal or outcome and then breaking it down into small manageable actions or chunks.

Wing two; is how to grab attention and get noticed amongst all the other noise that we are all bombarded with.

Wing three; is about engaging your audience emotionally through telling stories and making a personal connection.

Wing four; is about how to make it easy for your audience to take action and enable others and the importance of providing fast feedback.

There are some interesting case studies, and they give tips for beginners on using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and building networks. However, I was disappointed with the overall content as it was repetitive and cluttered and I found the number of dragonfly and wing analogies a bit irritating. (The dragonfly analogy is apparently because the dragonfly is the only insect to move in any direction when its four wings are working in concert)

However they make some good basic points, which apply to any activity designed to drive change, that of

  • Focusing on the end goal
  • Grabbing audience attention
  • Engaging with the audience
  • A clear and simple call for action

So my advice is, if you are planning to use social media (or drive any sort of change) to take these principles and get on with testing out your campaigns and messages rather than spending time reading the book.

I’d love to hear about what you are doing and what is working and not working for you on social media right now….

Are you passionate about your job?

On Tuesday I went to listen to wildlife film producers Patrick Morris and Huw Cordey tell their stories about the making of the BBC series Life and Planet Earth at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

They told stories of rats and leeches, caves and deserts, rivers and jungles. We saw the Tibetan fox with a strangely square head, watched monkeys in a hot tub at Hells valley in Japan and were wowed by breathtaking aerial shots of sand dunes covered in snow.

We learnt about some of the challenging conditions that Patrick, Huw and their teams had encountered; filming emperor penguins at minus 70 degrees, cameras broken by giant prehistoric fish and living inside caves for days with no daylight. And let’s not forget learning the process involved to make a cling film ‘burrito’.  (I’ll let you use your imagination with that last one)

Patrick and Huw’s brief with Life and Planet Earth was to raise the bar on previous wildlife films. They were tasked with enthralling the audience with epic cinematography and capturing the beauty and wonder of the planet in which we live by weaving stories around central lead animal characters to make the audience care about the wildlife they were watching.

They highlighted the importance of failure, how you need to have money to take risks and fail in order to push boundaries. They shared some of their failure stories, featuring eccentric Frenchmen in hot air balloons and giant trees (you may also imagine how that played out).

What struck me most was watching them effortlessly present, enthrall and capture the hearts of the audience, simply because they were talking about something they were passionate about. Their enthusiasm and passion was infectious. Can you say that about the work that you do? I hope so.

As if Patrick and Huw were not enough, he event was introduced by Sir David Attenborough.  And I got to meet him. Which was very exciting as he is one of my lifetime heroes. (Not that I had anything intelligent to say because I was too much in awe).

Thank you Patrick, Huw and David for your curiosity about our planet and the animals that inhabit it, and for inspiring the audience this week. Big thanks also your teams who fearlessly venture with you to some of the most remote places and tolerate extreme conditions in order to capture, share and inspire more of us to learn about the planet on which we live.

The event was organised by Epilepsy Action in memory of Octavia Morris who died age 27 as a result of her epilepsy.

The London Olympics flash mob at Wimbledon

In the Olympic ticket fiasco I somehow managed to get Centre Court tickets for the first day at Wimbledon.

Warned about airport style security and long queues we arrived early. A rare thing happened; the sun was shining so we decided to sit outside. We went up to Henman Hill or Murray Mount (whatever the hill at Wimbledon is called this year) to see if there was any other Olympic coverage happening on the big screen.

The people next to us said that they heard that there was going to be some ‘special surprise guests’ at 11am so we stayed, placing bets that it would be, (and really hoping that it wouldn’t be) Cliff Richard singing ‘Summer Holiday’.

Then someone got up and started dancing. It looked a bit weird. Then we realised she was one of the main dancers from the Opening Ceremony the night before. Then lots of other people started dancing. Then more. And more. Then we finally caught on that the ‘special surprise guests’ were this flash mob. They were awesome. You can see it here.

The dancers were excellent. It lasted about 5 minutes and then everyone went back to ‘normal’ as if nothing had happened. Apart from the cheers and whoops and laughter from the crowd.

I’ve never seen a real live flash mob before. It was really exciting and weirdly emotional. And although we were only watching in awe, we still felt part of something. All of us on the hill shared a unique moment. I felt part of something special. I was practically in tears with excitement about the day. And I was not alone. It was incredible.

So in fundraising we know that people take action based on an emotional response. So would it make sense to use the flash mob concept to engage groups of supporters in an emotional way when asking them to consider taking action for a cause?

I found these flash mob examples;

A way to get people to take their seats at a charity dinner and dance.

A way to get a campaigning message about recycling across.

Has anyone used the flash mob concept in their fundraising or campaigning? And if so what were the results? I would love to know.

There are people dying now, so give me the money

On 31 May, hundreds of fundraisers gathered in London to hear 22 fundraising professionals share which fundraising ideas they wished they had thought of. I was proud to be included in the line up of speakers.

I took some inspiration away from every single presentation. So that’s at least 22 ideas (if I include my own).  Not bad for an afternoons work.

Rebecca Mauger from Red Cross spoke about Live Aid. Now this struck a bit of a chord with me because I really remember Live Aid.

The Christmas before LiveAid, I remember going to WHSmith with my pocket money to buy the 7” single, ‘Do they know its Christmas’ to help victims of the Ethiopian famine. Yes that is physically going into a shop (with my mum), and buying a vinyl record and coming home and playing it non-stop on my parents hi-fi system. Back in 1984 this made me very cool. And I haven’t been very cool since.

At the time it was the UK’s best selling single and raised an estimated £8 million. The point is that it made giving to charity very cool for not just me, but for many people.

I also remember my dad coming home from work being super excited that he had seen Bob Geldof getting on a plane (my dad worked at Heathrow). He rushed off to Boots (yes the pharmacy) to get his film developed (no digital then) and we were delighted several days later (one hour service didn’t exist) to see 24 shots of a small man with big black hair (or possibly a hat) in a white t-shirt getting on a plane in the very far distance (no zoom lens). You might have an app that makes your photos look like this. My dad was, nevertheless proud of ‘meeting’ Bob Geldof, even though he was ‘a bit scruffy’.

Live Aid was a music concert held the following July simultaneously in London and Philadelphia. 58 bands played over 16 hours attended in total by over 170,000 people and the broadcast was watched by two billion people in 160 countries. Oh and they planned and delivered it in 12 weeks. Oh and this was before the internet or email was invented.

In 1985 Live Aid was an entirely new phenomenon for the fundraising world. Nothing like this had ever happened before.

I remember being glued to the telly that day. And I remember Bob Geldof getting all shouty and sweary. Now I know that he was getting frustrated that there wasn’t an urgent enough call to action when he famously said ‘f*** the address! –  there are people dying now, so give me the money.’ You can watch below.

The original fundraising target for LiveAid was £1 million and the final figure raised was about £150 million. Outstanding.

So thank you Rebecca for indulging me on a trip back to when I was cool. But more importantly for reminding us all that with an urgent need, passion, determination, bloody mindedness, a strong ask and sometimes a bit of swearing we can achieve outstanding things.

‘If the best thing we can say about our organisation is how much it costs to raise a pound then that’s a bit sad’

Today I was reading Kevin Baughen’s Penguin Blog, ‘Which charity brand will be the first to jump on admin costs? And it reminded me of couple of sessions that I saw at the FIA Conference earlier this year.

Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable and founder of Pallotta Teamworks spoke about how charities overheads are perceived by the public, media, government and their own staff.

Dan challenged the popular belief that the more of a donation that goes directly to services and the less that is ‘wasted’ on overheads including salaries, staff development and administration, the more effective the charity. He spoke about expectations that charity staff should be paid far lower than their equivalents in corporate organisations, and receive less investment in personal development and training, because they are compensated by the ‘feel good factor’ of working for a ‘worthy’ cause.

Dan used an example of soup kitchen A and soup kitchen B to illustrate his point. Soup kitchen A reports that 90% of every donation goes to the cause; soup kitchen B reports 70%.

But what you don’t know from this topline statistic, a statistic from which many people base their decision on which organisation to support, is that soup kitchen A serves rancid soup in a run down building with unfriendly staff, while soup kitchen B is open all the time, employs friendly staff, serves hearty nutritious soup in state of the art facility and also does case management.  In this scenario when making a decision on which organisation to support, the percentage that goes to the cause is not a good question. A better question would be; which charity makes the most difference?

Many charities are apologetic about the costs involved to raise funds. Almost half of charities claim that there are no costs associated with their fundraising. The lack of transparency regarding expenditure required to deliver sustainable fundraising only exacerbates public, media and government perceptions that somehow charities should fundraise for free, and that donors should expect 100% of their donation to go directly to services.

Adrian Sargeant in his Masterclass on ‘What every board should know about fundraising’ raised a similar point. He commented that “If the best thing we can say about our organisation is how much it costs to raise a pound then that’s a bit sad.”  The most important measure is the difference that a donor has made.

Adrian went on to highlight that in the UK we lose 50% of new donors in the first year. Then 30% year on year. In 2007, 38% of donors stopped giving. Over half of those stopped because they no longer felt personally connected. So, if we don’t continue to engage and build relationships with donors the initial cost of recruiting those donors is wasted.

Developing long-term relationships requires investment. It simply can’t happen for free. Charitable organisations must continue to invest carefully in their fundraising and at the same time be bolder and more transparent about the real costs involved in running an effective sustainable fundraising programme.

This paradigm shift has to be led from within the sector. It is the responsibility of charities to change the perceptions of the public, media and government and help them understand that fundraising efficiently does indeed cost money.

Kay Sprinkel Grace described fundraisers as brokers of dreams, giving supporters the opportunity to make a difference to the world. Yet our big dreams and ambitions, and those of our supporters are often reduced to apologetic conversations about how much it costs to raise a pound.

How can you be bolder about the real cost to raise a pound? And more importantly how can you show your donors that their donation to your charity will make the biggest difference?

It was much easier before the internet came along and wrecked everything

I’ve gone a bit techy this week. On Tuesday I went to the launch of ‘More than shaking an online tin – How can we take technology-enabled giving to a new level?’  – a new report by nfpSynergy for Spring.

Yesterday I went to the Institute of Fundraising technology group’s conference.

In particular I enjoyed the opening plenary by James Kliffen, Head of Fundraising at Medecins sans Frontieres  on fundraisers making the digital transformation. My key take outs were;

  • The importance of recruiting and keeping monthly givers.
  • Volunteer doctors and nurses working in difficult and dangerous places tell their stories to engage donors. Brilliant.
  • Thank you letters are written by the doctors and nurses working on the front line – very special and powerful.
  • When their emergency tsunami appeal raised all that they could responsibly spend on aid for tsunami after 5 days they stopped their appeal. Brave and transparent.
  • Their newsletters are sent only when there is news and they never make an ask for money. Interesting given the recent and ongoing ‘how often should we ask’ debate.
  • The pinball effect when people ‘bounce’ off different messages but only remember the last message they saw, so when you ask them how they found you the answer is often ‘I Googled it’ so its hard to measure what activity is more effective at driving traffic to your site.
  • The biggest challenge is data integration and there was no single answer on how to do it.

I heard a case study from Deniz Hassan from Merlin about their experience of fundraising from Facebook. He talked through the mechanics of how Merlin used Facebook to engage and grow their donor base. Three key take outs were;

  • Any campaign must be integrated into other fundraising and campaigning activities.
  • You have to test and refine and test and refine and test and refine…..
  • Do not forget the fundamentals of fundraising, engaging hearts and minds and telling stories.

Howard Lake did a great session, ‘Creation, curation, donation’ with lots of practical tools that you can use to find, edit, sort and present strategic messages and make the most of the good and relevant information that already exists on the web. My three favourites are;

  • Scoop it – for publishing your own magazine style content.
  • Storify – to build stories from a range of media on the web.
  • Wordle – for generating word clouds.

The conclusions from both the report and the conference are broadly the same.

  • Mobile is big, use of smartphones is increasing and there are real opportunities for charities to develop in this marketplace.
  • Integrating and measuring the impact of different digital tools is difficult, which also makes it difficult to choose which tools to use in the first place.
  • It’s important to remember the fundraising basics, engaging donors through storytelling and showing them how their support makes a difference.
  • Do not underestimate the resource needed to ensure you get the most from your use of technology.
  • Charities must take risks and test new technology to remain competitive.
  • It was much easier before the internet came along and wrecked everything.

You can download the Spring ‘More than shaking an online tin’ report here or see a brief overview of the report on the UK Fundraising blog.

You can also download the presentations from the Institute of Fundraising Technology conference here. 

Same challenges different time zone

Last week fundraisers from across Queensland gathered on the Australian Gold Coast for the Fundraising Institute Australia Dare to be Different conference.

Many people asked me what I thought the differences were between fundraising in the UK and Australia. I struggled to come up with many apart from the difference in population size (Australia approx 22 million and UK approx 61 million). My observations are that there are more similarities than differences….

  • People give to people. Fundraising is about building relationships and connecting donors to the cause and showing them the difference they can make in the world. As Kay Sprinkel Grace observed in the opening plenary, fundraisers across the world are brokers of dreams.
  • A tough economic environment poses challenges for fundraisers the world over. Fundraisers must find a balance between focusing on activities that will bring in the highest rewards as well as identifying future trends and developing creative solutions as Tony Elischer demonstrated in his sessions.
  • Recruiting new donors is hard and recruiting the right donors is harder.  Adrian Sargeant stressed that ‘it’s better to spend more bringing in people who are right then have better response rates from people who will never give again’, and helped us understand how to identify and attract the right donors.
  • Keeping new donors is even harder. In the UK 50% of new donors are lost in the first year. Then 30% are lost year on year. In the USA 75% never come back. Organisations must build trust and loyalty and develop long-term donor relationships.
  • As a sector we are very open to sharing and learning from each other. Christiana Stergiou and I took the audience through as many fundraising examples from www.sofii.org as we could in an hour and encouraged fundraisers to use this excellent free resource as well as  helping others by submitting their own exhibits.
  • At Dare to be Different it was refreshing to learn from what had not gone so well with an open and impressive session from Marcus Blease from Cerebral Palsy Alliance,  Trudi Mitchell from Cancer Council NSW and Paul Tavatgis from Cornucopia Fundraising. As a sector we could learn so very much more if we were more open about what did not go so well.
  • Storytelling is the new buzzword. Human beings are hardwired to learn through storytelling . Anthropologists contend that 70% of our learning is through narrative. So it’s no surprise that it’s a skill that fundraisers want to perfect.
  • We love jargon. The usual suspects kept cropping up and the top three terms were supporter journey, touchpoints and integrated campaigns as well as some new acronyms that I have never heard before.
  • The general public has a perception of how charities should operate. Many make decision to donate to a cause based on the % of their donation that will go to services and do not like to think that their donation is ‘wasted’ on administration or staff costs. Dan Pallotta made a case for transparency and the importance of investing in order to effectively fundraise and the importance of communicating the real cost of raising funds to donors, supporters and the public.
  • Fundraising is not always perceived well outside of the sector. Asking for bequests was picked up by the tabloid press, quick to paint a negative picture of the sensitive topic of how fundraisers ask people to consider leaving a gift in their will, which could make a lasting difference to the world.
  • The world is small. I met several of ex-colleagues from the UK and from the NSPCC as well as Twitter friends. I liked how the world got smaller.

So that’s the top line. But for me the most important thing I came away with was inspiration from meeting a collective of passionate people doing great work for a range of causes with a restless energy to do more. I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with you. And not forgetting, that in addition to your great work, you all know how to party.

Vinny the Pug Champion Rock Climber

Last year I met a lot of exciting and wonderful folk making a difference in the worlds of both fundraising and innovation. However, one character in particular grabbed my attention. Perhaps because he is rather unusual….

Recently I was lucky enough to catch up with Vinny the Pug and learn a bit more about what he has been up to.

Vinny climbs rocks and fundraises for a range of causes. He lives in New Orleans, with his human Allen Kimble, Jr.  His business is headquartered in the Sonoran desert in Phoenix, Arizona.

When he first moved to Phoenix from lush and leafy Florida, Vinny was enchanted by the arid desert landscape and in particular – the boulders. One day he just started climbing. It wasn’t long before word got out and the editor of “CLIMBING” magazine contacted Vinny. From that day he was referred to as “Vinny the Pug Champion Rock Climber”.

With his new Champion Rock Climber status Vinny looked for every opportunity to hone his climbing skills and practiced daily on his training rock. In time he became so proficient that while still atop the boulder, he could turn 360 degrees without one paw ever making contact with the ground. Yes – it’s true.

Back in 2004, to showcase his climbing prowess Vinny embarked on a 1,000 pictures in 100 days boulder challenge. Vinny’s human came up with the idea and also took the photographs. At the end of three months of climbing and photographing in the Sonoran, there were well over one thousand photographs of Vinny posing on different boulders. It was a sad day when The Guinness World of Records rejected this as a world record attempt. But Vinny didn’t give up.

Vinny has used his Champion Rock Climber status to develop his own Vinny the Pug brand. Vinny trains fundraisers to use the new business sales models he has developed and provides them with Vinny the Pug branded merchandise to sell. Vinny says he has raised over $50,000 in both money and in-kind donations so far.  He raises money through online sales and through the sales via his Fundraiser Club network. His range includes Vinny the Pug t-shirts, posters, CDs, jewelry, purses, iPad covers and his own-labeled wines. The “Vinny the Pug Fundraiser Club” raises money for a number of human causes, although pet rescue is closest to Vinny’s heart.

Vinny sees his work as an opportunity to help causes to maximize their income and be more self-sufficient in their fundraising.

Vinny’s pet rescue fundraising target for 2012 is $1,000,000.  It will be divided among participating pet rescue organisations in North America.  He will soon embark on his fundraising tour of 100 U.S. and Canadian cities to recruit and train a thousand rescues to become Vinny the Pug Fundraiser Club members.

Vinnys’ top fundraising and rock climbing tips are;

  • Do what you love, and do it differently than everyone else so that there is no comparison
  • Don’t give up, every apparent failure is simply practice for better times that are just around the corner
  • Practice, there is no other road that will lead one to greatness than practice
  • Patience, there is no other vehicle that will transport one to success and ensure you’ll arrive at exactly the precise time you should
  • Climb every mountain, you’ll find success on the other side, and the view is breathtaking

Good luck Vinny – let us know how you get on.

Vinny the Pug can be contacted at:  desertpugproductions@yahoo.com.

I love infographics

I love infographics. I love infographics so much that I’ve written a blog about them.

An infographic is short for ‘information graphic’ and is a visual representation of information data or knowledge. They are the perfect tool for presenting complex information quickly and clearly.

How much information do you receive on your average day? For most of us it’s more that our brains can process. As we become increasingly connected through use of mobile and online technology our attention spans are becoming shorter as we try to process increasing amounts of information. As we flit from task pretending ‘multi-task’, the ability to filter information is becoming more and more important.

So the task for anyone getting their message to stand out amongst all the background noise is becoming harder than ever. I think infographics are a good way to grab attention and they tend to be shared widely via digital media. This blog by Mick Dee provides some good examples of how infographics work and some tips for developing your own.

So given what a great tool an infographic is for expressing complex issues in a compelling way and demonstrating impact, I am surprised that more charities are not using them. Infographics can showcase a charities expertise, demonstrate their view in a wider political and social environment or could be a way to thank donors or keep them up to date on progress. They provide visual clues on the cause and can bring a sense of fun where appropriate.

Howard Lake has been collating examples of fundraising infographics here. My favourites include;

Leeds University’s Alumni & Development Team have presented the results of their matched giving campaign in infographic form as a thank you to the donors who gave. It will appear on the back cover of the next donor newsletter. Brilliant.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have some interesting infographics, including an interactive one on it’s campaign to end malaria.

Charity water and eNonprofit Benchmarks Survey are both making good use of infographics to communicate their messages. Click on the links on the images to see in more detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So next time you have a message to get across to donors, supporters, volunteers, staff or the general public, bin the lengthy word document or email, and think if using an infographic will work harder in cutting through the background noise to enable you to get the results that you want.