Friday, 16 December 2011

Why can’t we all just get along? Why politics doesn't have a part to play in fantastic fundraising.

Last week I helped deliver a workshop about Integrated Fundraising at the IOF London conference – with a fellow charity chick @lucyinnovation. This was a new topic for me - and I was charged with focusing on how best to work together across teams and departments. So over recent weeks I’ve thought a lot about how best to work with others and the reasons why relationships with other teams can sometimes get in the way of fantastic fundraising.

I also reflected that the best piece of advice I was given a number of years ago was to stop spending my time being frustrated with colleagues and other teams and to instead invest all my energy in being as good I could possibly be at my own job and in raising money. Mr Tait's frank speaking changed my outlook overnight and rarely since have I let anything get in the way of raising the most possible money for the causes I'm passionate about.

But let's be honest personalities and politics can sometimes interfere with our work, our projects and our ambitions for fundraising. Making sure that people and teams integrate and work together is often easier said than done but at every level we have the responsibility and ability to promote collaborative working.

With any project, with any problem, with any achievement – we can get people together and share - share our vision, our goals, our challenges. That's before we even start a project but then we need to continue to do so throughout. We can bring our colleagues into the fold but then we need to truly value what they bring to the party – their perspective, their input, their assistance and their constructive criticism. 

We need to make sure people not only feel a part of it – but that they are a part of it. And yes this does take precious time that we might not have - and it can mean that projects are more complex and take longer to implement – but also that they will be more powerful. 

We are more likely to innovate, integrate and deliver fundraising campaigns that achieve stand out if we can work together with our colleagues at a time when competition for the donor pound is greater than ever before.

As leaders we also have a responsibility to make sure  integration and collaboration is central to the culture of our teams. I believe that fundraising isn’t and can’t be an island within a charity - we can’t and indeed shouldn’t work in isolation - because everything we do needs to be aligned with the vision, strategy and needs of the charities that we work for. That's why fundraising and fundraisers exist after all.

So in summary, we should all do our best to collaborate, because one thing is for sure our beneficiaries don't care about politics - especially all the lost and abandoned dogs and cats at Battersea.

Liz Tait
Director of Fundraising at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Become a freakishly good fundraiser

Thoughts from the Institute of Fundraising London Conference by Lesley Pinder.

What makes you a freakishly good fundraiser? This was the question posed by Rob Woods at the opening plenary of last month’s Institute of Fundraising London Conference.Isn't that what we all want to know? What makes the freakishly good fundraiser different? 

One reason for their great results, suggests Rob, is that not only do they believe in what they are doing but they are convinced that what they are doing is absolutely right.This really chimed with me. If you’re not convinced in what you are saying, then the person you’re saying it to won’t be convinced either. 

Whether writing a letter to a donor, convincing your boss to approve your fundraising plan or getting colleagues behind a campaign campaign - your heart and your head need to be in it. Not only do you need to feel what you are saying you need to KNOW it.

Rob’s suggestion was to write down the things that you believe to be true and then underneath them, write four or five pieces of evidence that ‘prop up’ this belief so that it becomes a conviction.

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to rely on your own charity’s track record to back up your ideas - either you don’t have great data or you are starting a programme from scratch. And similarly for those fundraisers out there – like me- who are relatively new, you don’t always have years of experience to fall back on either.

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. It means that you don’t get stuck in what has ‘ay bin’ (‘always been done’ for the non-scots out there) and can have a fresh approach. But, sometimes you can pull back from something you think will be brilliant and innovative because you haven’t got the conviction. 

When planning new activities, writing materials or coming up with new fundraising messages, it’s essential to have the expert opinions, examples of great practice and also the internal evidence to back them up so that you can move forward with confidence!

Thankfully, we are not alone!

We work in an industry where people are generous with their time, their knowledge and their expertise.  The IoF London conference sessions that I attended definitely showed this. Fundraisers celebrate successes  - Damian O’Broin shared his award winning door drop campaign for Women’s Aid for example – and we can also admit where things are hard or didn’t work - Craig Linton’s presentation on both successes and failings of a campaign was refreshingly honest. 

Most importantly, we also hold each other to account - Damian O’Broin’s and Mark Philip’s Mystery Shopping was a depressing account of how charity’s get supporter communications so very wrong.

This makes us SO lucky. And we should make the most of it.

I know sometimes conferences aren’t all that easy to get to – either financially or geographically – but there are a whole host of amazing resources out there that we can use to help build our convictions. 

Blogs like this one, or the Fundraising Detective fundraising blog round up, are great places to start and the Sofii website is invaluable. Most of the best fundraisers I know compulsively collect examples of great (and not so great) fundraising and marketing from other orgs and companies and I lost count of how many times speakers at IOF London talked about  brilliant books that have informed their fundraising.

And don’t even get me started about how twitter can make you a better fundraiser. I think that might have to wait for another blog!

Following Rob’s plenary, I have vowed to spend at least a couple of hours each week doing something that will build my knowledge and strengthen my experiences so that I can turn my beliefs in to convictions. Maybe one day I’ll become a freakishly good fundraiser too?

Thanks IOF London. You may have created a monster.

Lesley Pinder is Supporter Engagement Manager for Missing People.

On twitter: @Skipinder

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Can I sign up please?

Here at Charity Chicks, we receive a lot of emails from various organisations. It might be because we support them, or we might be signing up to check out what they’re doing (and to steal their ideas!).

Whatever reason we sign up, there is a huge difference in the quality, the length, the interest, the salutation, the personalisation – the list is endless. And there lies a different blog post to this one.

But we wanted to take a step back. How easy is it to sign up to receive news via email for certain charities? Are big brand charities making it easy for us? Is it an indication of how they view digital communications? 

So we undertook a very ad hoc piece of research (scientifically titled,  ‘Think of charity, ask people around us for some more, and look at their homepage’), to see how many charities would let us sign up easily. We researched 50 charities.

And the results surprised us. In fact, some shocked us. If you go to the NSPCC homepage you can follow them on Twitter, sign up on Facebook. But you can’t sign up to receive news by email. Same for UNICEF, the British Heart Foundation, Breast Cancer Care, Scope and Shelter. Suprised?  We were. 

And then there were the charities where we couldn’t even sign up with social media, let alone e-news.

At Charity Chicks, we’re fundraisers. We know the importance of the donation. It’s what we push for constantly. But we also recognise the importance of engagement. You see, sometimes it really is about donor choice. Some people quite simply want to read about you and learn more before they donate.

And email is a great way to do this. So, please – make it easy. Make it obvious. Because if I can’t sign up instantly, I’m likely to go elsewhere.  Average time on a web page is now 56 seconds. Are we really going to spend that valuable time searching for an elusive sign-up box? Somehow, I doubt it.

Here are the results of the research:

It makes for interesting reading. To steal the words of a blog we very much admire: all those in the middle column, give yourselves a raise! 


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Why I love Feminist Ryan Gosling by Zoe Amar

One of my favourite blogs of the moment is Feminist Ryan Gosling (Hat tip to Regina Yau of amazing charity The Pixel Project for making me aware of it.)

If you haven’t seen it already, Feminist Ryan Gosling has become something of an internet phenomenon. It combines pictures of Ryan Gosling (obviously) and feminist theory. Each caption begins with Gosling’s famous ‘Hey girl’ meme.

It began as a joke between writer Danielle Henderson and her fellow postgraduate students on a Gender and Women’s studies course, but has already received coverage in the Huffington Post, Stylist and Marie-Claire.

As a communicator, I love this blog because of its witty take on feminism. It’s sharp, fresh and funny. And I like to think that somewhere out there teenage girls who have seen it will be curious to find out more about feminism.

My point is that I would like to see more humour used in communications - where appropriate, of course. I know that charities often deal with very serious issues, but there is no reason why we can’t be funny too, as this piece from The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network shows.

A dash of wit can engage your audience, make them think about your cause in a different way and help your charity cut through the communications clutter. Look at the success of Greenpeace’s Volkswagen Darkside campaign.  

Hands up if you’d like to see your campaign go viral, like theirs did? The right use of humour could give you more exposure than extra zeroes on your budget. 

Zoe Amar is Head of Marketing and Business Development at Lasa, a charity which provides services to Shelter, Age UK and thousands of other charities across the UK. She is also on the Bright One board and is a regular personal commentator and speaker on charity marketing, contributing to The Guardian and Charity Comms. Zoe is a Chartered Marketer and tweets from @zoeamar

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hug a chugger

My housemate came home last night and in a gleeful tone announced he had ‘shouted at a chugger.’ He is doing the Slimfast diet and apparently the bad mood caused by his hunger was eased by having a go at a street fundraiser. 

I didn’t give him the satisfaction of asking who the poor soul was fundraising for or what had provoked the shouting. But it made me think – how did we get to the point where this is acceptable? Twenty years ago would we have thought it fun to shout at an old woman collecting for Christian Aid Week? Or school kids doing Red Cross Week? 

I can’t really blame my housemate though – face to face fundraising (both in the street and on the door) has had a hard time of it. Slated in the press, there has been a lot of one-sided coverage. 

Charities have been anxious about daring to come out and support this effective and brilliant form of fundraising. Sadly some members of the charity sector are less anxious about coming out and slagging face to face off. And I have a big issue with this! 

Two things have got me mad about this recently: 

What makes me mad #1

Firstly my friend *WHO IS A FUNDRAISER AND THEREFORE SHOULD KNOW BETTER* proclaiming about ‘chuggers’ in the pub. Then perpetuating some of the favourite myths about street fundraising – the big one clearly being that the individual fundraiser is ‘paid hundreds for each donor they recruit’.

No love, they aren’t.  

When I pointed this out, I was told they had been discussing this in her organisation and all agreed how bad it was. (Now, without naming and shaming, her organisation is an umbrella organisation and totally unsuitable to the technique – in fact they don’t really do any Individual Giving).  

But what really made me mad is this: what right do other fundraisers have to say one form of fundraising is better than the other without any results to look at? And what right do fundraisers hiding behind a desk all day have to criticise people out there actually fundraising - asking people to their face for money.

What makes me mad  #2

This man in Third Sector. Where do I start? What he seems to be saying is that,as a trustee, the most important thing for your organisation is to pick the kind of fundraising you like and allow your organisation to do only those techniques. 

Never mind your organisation’s funding needs. Never mind the flexibility and freedom regular gifts bring. Never mind the good for your cause that could be achieved with increased regular givers. 

The point they both missed is this: it is very easy to judge face to face fundraising – you judge it on the results. 

Run a small test, see how it goes, see if it works for your organisation, review, tweak, roll out. Like all fundraising, sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. Some of your fundraisers will be brilliant, sometimes they will be totally unsuited to it. But just because you don’t like it don’t slate it. 

Regular gifts from Mr and Mrs Donor are the back bone of the charity sector. Whilst Trusts fund exciting radical projects with restricted funds and major donors give generously after being wined and dined, it is regular givers that keep the organisation going. 

And just because they were recruited by a fundraiser in a bib outside and not from someone wearing a suit in an office doesn’t make their donations any less worthwhile. 

And as for the fundraisers on the street and the doorstep – let’s show them some support. They aren’t an annoyance and ‘over-zealous representatives’. They are our colleagues. And for a lot of charity workers they are also paying our salary!

PS Just to prove my point: a fellow fundraiser in my office has just come over and asked us to stop ‘this awful telemarketing we are doing’. Deep breaths...

Kathryn Brooke

Friday, 18 November 2011

Getting the basics right - #1

And what’s wrong with that?

I give to a number of organisations. Both from personal choice and to monitor what my competitors are up to. And I am constantly amazed by how many different creative packs I receive. Every year, every time.  I’m also horrified by how many get my name or address wrong.  Or my latest from The Princes Trust – that couldn’t even be bothered to use my name – simply sent to ‘Dear Prince’s Trust Supporter.’ (I have a monthly direct debit with them). 

(There’ll be a separate post on Christmas mailings)

I read emails asking; “Why are our direct mail results going down?” Every time I resist the temptation to reply and simply say: it’s probably because you’re not doing it properly. 

Get the basics right: learn to love that data!

Ask: Where are your results and reviews? How are you segmenting your data? And if you don’t know the answer, or haven’t done these things, you blooming well should. How can you know what’s worked and who’s given if you don’t do these things? Why are you wasting your money developing new mailings, when you don’t know what works?

Remember, remember the cornerstone of direct marketing:

If you think that creative development is the most important element in direct marketing then you’re in the wrong business. Even a brilliant mailing will fall if sent to the wrong people. Even a dull one can do well to the right ones. Good data is an asset. Poor data is a liability.

Choosing the right audience is so much more important than what we can do creatively. Even with the best creative in the world, if the data is inaccurate, incomplete or out of date, the appeal is going to suffer. I once cancelled a direct debit with UNICEF because they kept calling me Mrs. 

I’m certainly not going to give to The Prince’s Trust Christmas appeal. If they can’t be bothered to call me by my name, I can’t be bothered to send them my money. They can’t want it that bad.

The database is full of people – not just data. What counts is how we use it. Direct marketing is a way of talking directly to our donors – the database is the tool that makes this happen. We go to the expense of recruiting new donors – we shouldn’t lose them just because we get it wrong.

Danielle Atkinson

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Charity Chicks!

I am delighted to be the first ‘charity chick’ on this blog, that hopes to bring you all that is exciting,  effective & downright dangerous from the world of the charity sector. 

So why do I think this new blog is important? Well, I love the sector. I also love Fundraising.  And Marketing.  And Communications. And PR.  I also think I am a pretty good leader.  Anyone out there who knows me will say that I like to talk about my work,  that I get passionate about many, many issues and that I am committed to making this a much better world.   I’ve been around a bit. And done a fair bit. But you probably haven’t heard of me.  

Y’see for such a female dominated industry there aren’t that many high profile voices. Female agent provocateurs?  Nah. Gobby gals demanding attention?  I wish! The giants of thinking and leadership and implementation? Really? 

But I know they are there. And anyone who has sat in the bar during any of the big conferences knows who they are. You see them in your team meetings. You meet them at your agencies. You may be managed by one. Heck, you may even be married to one.   

But shush!!  Can you hear them online? Did you catch many during the recent speaking circuit? Did you get bored reading about them in the 50 Most Influential list? (I doubt it seeing only a paltry 14 women made the list this year & it’s been static since 2009.) 

And perhaps most significantly do you see them getting the REALLY big jobs?

It’s changing. Oh yes it’s changing. But not fast enough. Nowhere near. And please don’t tell me it’s because we go off and have babies. I’ve had a couple of those pretty recently. Whilst it may sway you initially it doesn’t slow you down. Not if you love what you do and have people around you who love you. Honest. 

So ladies – I throw down a challenge. I know that you can be as gobby as Mark Astarita , as curmudgeonly as Bernard Ross, as left field as Mark Phillips, as digitally inspired as AJ Leon and as pissed off as Jeff Brooks.

We wanna hear from you!!  So please email us or @imogenward if you want to be part of this. Of course we want to change stuff. But we’ll settle for fun & Howard Lake tweeting us.  Oh and if you’d prefer it (and want to swear a lot) you can be anonymous. 

And whilst the idea behind Charity Chicks is to showcase thinking from some of the many, many woman at the cutting edge of leadership, fundraising, marketing & communications– we ain’t precious and are looking forward to having some great pieces and input from our ‘Charity Chaps.’We’d also love this to be a global forum and are welcoming input from all around the world. Not just the UK. 

For now, I just wanted to share the ladies I love. The ladies I look up to. The ladies that make your life better.  You may have heard of them. If you haven’t you should have done. They are awesome. Here’s a starter for ten: Margaret Bennett, Amanda Stone and Lyndall Stein