Tag Archives: stories

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.

Failure – it’s the real thing

Last week I ran an innovation breakfast for fundraising leaders with the creative team from Sandbox. One of the key discussion points was that in order to innovate well, organisations and individuals would need to take a new approach to failure. In fact, failure must be actively encouraged in order to learn, and ultimately achieve greater success.

One of my favourite (?!) failure stories is from Coca-Cola.

In 1985 in response to its declining market share and the increasing popularity of its key rival Pepsi, Coca-Cola launched New Coke.

At the time Pepsi’s advertising campaigns were based around asking the public if they could taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke. They could – and they preferred the taste of Pepsi.

In response Coke developed a new sweeter tasting formula.  After conducting over 200.000 taste tests, which according to the taste testers not only tasted better than the old Coke, but also tasted better than Pepsi, New Coke was ready for launch.

However on 23 April 1985 when New Coke was launched and old Coke was taken out of circulation it was a disaster. Customers were horrified that their Coke had been changed. Some people likened the change in Coke to trampling the American flag. A black market for old Coke emerged, at a market value of $30 a case.  On July 11, Coca-Cola withdrew New Coke and reinstated old Coke.

So what happened?

“We did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola,” said company President Donald R. Keough.

The development of New Coke was all about taste and overlooked the importance of the relationship customers had with the brand. Until the launch of New Coke, Coca-Colas brand had been about its ‘original’ status. For example in 1942, magazine adverts in the United States declared: ‘The only thing like Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola itself. It’s the real thing.’

If you tell the world you have the ‘real thing’ you cannot then just come up with a ‘new real thing’. To make matters worse, since 1982, Coke’s strap line had been ‘Coke is it’. Now it was telling customers that actually coke wasn’t it, but New Coke was now it instead.

Coca-Cola were fighting a taste battle with Pepsi in response to Pepsi’s marketing campaign. What Coca-cola overlooked was that the battle was not about taste, and they underestimated the value of brand loyalty and the heritage of Coca-Cola.

Ironically, through the brand failure of New Coke, loyalty to ‘the real thing’ intensified and Coke recovered its market position with old Coke, repositioned as Coke Classic. Some conspiracy theorists say the whole campaign had been planned order to reaffirm public loyalty for Coca-Cola. But whether it was planned or not, the fail of New Coke affirmed the value of the brand and with that insight Coke went onto retake its leading market position.

Learning important insights from its failure was key to Coca-Colas reclaimed success over Pepsi. So what if organisations and individuals actively encouraged failure in order to gain insight and ultimately achieve greater success? What would it look like? What would our leaders, managers, fundraisers, volunteers and supporters need to do to really make failing part of ‘how we do things round here?’ How do we make failure an important part of the organisational culture and an important part of greater success?

Answers on a postcard please or to @lucyinnovation.

P.S. If you are interested in failure you might also like my blog on sofii.org

Better to aim too high and miss

For me customer service is really important. Often I’m criticised for having too high expectations of people. I don’t think I do. I just think most people have very low expectations because they are so used to getting crap service.

“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”  Michelangelo

Last week my brilliant friend Sue booked a meal for four of us through Groupon (and you know how I feel about Groupon) at a London restaurant called The English Pig.  Great concept, unless you are a vegetarian as it only serves pork. Delicious pork.

We got off to a great start, the manager was brilliant, friendly, chatty, told us about how business was tough but the Groupon deal was really working. He recommended several top dishes and we were all suitably impressed.

He took our order, the food arrived, which I have to say was delicious, but sadly, after that the service nose-dived. We had to practically do a Mexican wave to get anyone’s attention to order more drinks, we quite fancied dessert but by the time anyone noticed our frantic waving the moment had passed. So we tried to get the bill, but ended up going to the bar to ask for it as all the staff had disappeared.

Now is it just me, or is this a common occurrence? You arrive at a restaurant and staff are falling over themselves to take your order, often more than one person is prowling round the table interrupting your conversation in their eagerness to serve. As the meal progresses the staff become sparser until you are left stranded, desperately vying for someone’s attention to process the bill.

So we know that the world is a tough place for any business right now. We also know that it’s way harder to and more expensive to get new customers than to keep and develop your old ones.

So why invest in a Groupon deal to get people through the door and then do such a rubbish job that they won’t come back? Or worse still they tell their friends/the whole world about their below par experience?

Now let me make an analogy to fundraising; Groupon is the equivalent of a mass participation event. It’s about getting lots of people through the door. If you do not have a strategy to get those people more engaged, to make them want to come back then you are not making the most of your investment.

So ask yourself; Are you really looking after your donors, or are they going thirsty? Does their experience with your mass participation event leave them full and satisfied, eager to return, or are some leaving feeling short-changed?

How can you use the restaurant analogy to think of ways to engage supporters?

A well used creative thinking technique is to view a challenge from a different perspective, so for example you could use the restaurant analogy in a fundraising context as an example of how not to treat donors, and then do the opposite. You may come up with a fresh perspective on how to engage supporters.  Go on, have a go. I’ve given you some examples below to start you off.

  • Prowl around at the start and lose interest towards the end could translate into – celebrate at the end, make the end of the event really special, make the process of giving money a pleasure
  • Allow them to leave feeling uncared for, like you don’t value their custom could translate into – giving them a reason to come back; a post event party, an opportunity to volunteer/make more of a difference
  • Don’t make any attempt to build a relationship apart from the initial greeting could translate into building great rapport; have dedicated volunteers whose role is just to build rapport with participants

What other ways of developing supporter relationships can you come up with using the restaurant analogy?

A story of fish and focus

Imagine the scene, a small Mediterranean island, miles of beautiful beaches, warm sunshine, fragrant olive groves and a scattering of tavernas serving local, fresh food and wine.

A businessman on holiday strolls along the port and is fascinated by a fishermen hauling in his catch.

Noting the quality of the fish, the businessman asked the fisherman how long it had taken to catch them.
 “Not very long.” answered the fisherman.

“Then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the businessman.

The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
 The businessman asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
 “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, have a nap in the afternoon under a palm tree. In the evenings, I see my friends and family, have a few beers, play the drums, and sing a few songs….. I have a full and happy life.” replied the fisherman.

The businessman ventured, “I can help you…… If you fished longer every day, you could sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you could buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you could buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have a large fleet. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you could negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You could then leave this little island and move to a city, from where you could direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the fisherman.

“Oh, ten, maybe twenty years.” replied the businessman.

“And after that?” asked the fisherman.

“After that? “When your business gets really big,’ replied the businessman “you can start selling shares in your company and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?” pressed the fisherman.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, move out to a small island, sleep in late every day, spend time with your friends and family, go fishing, take afternoon naps under a palm tree……”

I love this story. Sometimes, on the treadmill of daily life its easy to lose sight of the important stuff. The stuff that doesn’t really matter like the latest Apple gadget, expensive fashions, a bigger house or a bigger boat.

Are you swept along by what you think others think and expect of you? Or are you doing what you are passionate about and enjoy? Take a deep breath and think about what is important. Now focus on achieving that.

If you like this you might also like

Fish! – Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, John Christensen, Ken Blanchard

The Fred Factor – Mark Sanborn

The Element – Sir Ken Robinson

The Four Hour Working Week – Tim Ferris