Friday, 21 June 2013

Once Upon I Wish I'd Thought of That

A couple of weeks ago the second of SOFII’s ‘I Wish I’d Thought of That’ events was held. And a number of Charity Chicks were there. So we thought we’d pull together a little blog and share it with you. 

And like reading a book, or seeing a film, there was no overall consensus of opinion - we had a multitude of different thoughts, comments and ideas.

One thing we all agreed on is that we LOVE the idea of IWITOT. It’s emotional, fun, irreverent and feels very modern. And it’s high on inspiration. And we, as fundraisers, love a bit of inspiring.

What’s really great is it has a younger and very vibrant feel about it. There’s lots of social media talk and banter before the show, and afterwards – which adds to that. To be honest, so much in our sector can sadly feel a little grey and predictable and IWITOT is a great antidote to that.

It can also be very frustrating when, conference after conference, you see the same ideas and case studies presented. What’s brilliant about IWITOT is that is has life and showcases new speakers.

And undoubtedly it reminds us of why fundraising is the best profession in the world.

This year in 2013 we saw 20 speakers give us the idea they wished they’d thought of. ‘Telling the story behind an innovative idea they felt changed the face of the  industry‘ (SOFII website).

We heard some really powerful cases for support. There were some very poignant, personal stories. Lauren Semple gave us both a great fundraising idea and her story is still with us now (and, rightly she got the most votes on the day). However a question some Chicks' asked is: was it just us or did some of the other stories feel that they had been built around a personal link rather than a great fundraising idea?

Which led us on to the next point we discussed. What happened to the fundraising in some of them? As we’ve said there was some amazingly strong storytelling given to us, but where was the ‘innovative idea they felt changed the face of the industry’? Out of 20 ideas we counted 13 that were fundraising ideas. (And don’t even mention the webcams….)

One thing we were really pleased to see was a great mix of fundraising disciplines from these 13 ideas. Last year we felt that it was too direct marketing focused. This year we had major giving circles, corporate partnerships, social media appeals, membership, online fundraising and community/challenge event fundraising. A smorgasbord of fundraising. Yum.

And while 2012 brought us the saga of the doofer, 2013 brought us the live stream. One of the most powerful elements of the afternoon is the dynamic energy and the magic of sharing some fabulous fundraising ideas in a powerful, performance based way.

And while not everyone has to be an “am-dram” dandy or a natural stand up, the inability to move from the lectern because of the live stream meant that in some cases the slots felt a little like lectures rather than inspirational stories for their innovative idea. Not only that, people that watched the live stream said it didn’t work very well. Was it worth stifling people’s presentation for a live stream that jumped and froze? 

A big chapeau to Adrian Salmon for ignoring this, and delivering a cracker of a presentation about a great fundraising idea. In the words of Sir Bruce Forsyth, you’re our favourite!

We’re delighted that IWITOT returned for a second year – and we hope to see it become firmly entrenched in the fundraising calendar. Being in a room with 300 other fundraisers is always a treat. It’s always an inspiration. And it’s always fun. (Such an aptly named profession…).

Which is why we’d love to see the timings tightened up so everyone can partake in the social drinks reception afterwards. Networking is such a vital part of what we do – learning from each other is invaluable. 

And SOFII offers a vital opportunity to do this, at a really reasonable price. So we’d all like to be able to make the most of our ‘late passes’ and have the time to do this.

Our last comment is that everyone, and we mean EVERYONE, should visit the SOFII website. Regularly. It’s an amazing resource. Jam-packed with fundraising. 

Some other blogs/stories written about this year’s IWITOT:


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Audiences. Why do we get it wrong? We should know better!

You know the setting. You’re studying literature at school. You have set texts. You groan and moan. And then you read one that blows your mind. This, for me, was ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.

As a young teenager in a small, southern seaside town, getting an insight into another world – a world so different, yet so similar – to mine was eye-opening. As I read - horrified, yet engrossed - I could imagine very clearly the same things happening where I lived, cocooned in my white, middle class safety. (And, on a lighter note, Atticus Finch was my first true literary crush).

It’s a book I return to regularly. When I can’t decide what to read, I open it up. When I need inspiring I open it up. The other day when I did this, the following quote jumped out at me, as it so often does:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 

And my mind turned to fundraising, as it often does. We talk a lot about our audiences and how we are, most of the time, not them. So, we bring them to life with data profiling, pen portraits and fancy names. We might have many of them. At Merlin we have three groups (for your interest: Graham and Carol, Ben and Sophie, and Fiona Donor), reflecting our different fundraising methods and using various insights to bring them to life.

We talk about this at work, at conferences, on social media, in the pub. We all say that we seem to understand this basic principle. Yet, we still continue to produce fundraising that isn’t relevant for our audience. Or we try to shoe-horn multiple audiences into one communication.

So, why? Why do we do this? I have a few theories.

1. The scourge of the next big thing: When I get asked the question “What do you think is the next big thing in fundraising?” - my response is ‘going back to basics.’ The best performing fundraising is simple, emotive – and relevant to the audience. Search for the method/channel that will raise money – but always, always, always have the target audience at the heart of what you’re doing. 

2. Ticking the boxes: We talk about keeping it simple, so why don’t we? If we’re asking for money, let’s ask for money! Don’t dilute it with lots of asks that keep other people happy. Why promote ‘Tough Mudder’ in a newsletter that goes to ‘Dorothy Donor’? I’m sure 80-year old Dorothy would love to do that rather than get a pack with some Humanity Rose cards in that she can actually use – because, guess what!, she still writes real letters. 

3. We try to be cool: Your digital team are launching an app that means your smart phone will walk itself downstairs in the morning and make a cup of tea; your communications team are launching a hard hitting campaign that some Guardian journalist tweeted about; and you want to break boundaries, bring in new technology and shock the world. 

Stop and think though – does Dorothy want to be shocked? Does she want to download an app? Does she want to see the appeal she supported being chatted about by the Guardian? Does she even read the Guardian? If your target audience does, then go for it! But don’t be cool for the sake of being cool. Make sure the boundary you’re breaking is your fundraising income. 

4. You refuse to believe your idea won’t work: We have all done this. Come up with the best idea ever for an appeal. And it flops – totally and utterly flops. Let it go. Don’t convince yourself with a little tweak here or a slight change of tone there, or different images on the outer it would all be different. 

If it properly flops your audience does not like it. And audience is the most important variable. Creative is near the bottom. Sometimes we need to spend money to try new things and test. I am all for this (if it’s planned, targeted, and has the audience as the reason for doing it). But spending money on something you have tried and failed miserably at is irresponsible. 

5.You want to like your work*: I love my job and I love being a fundraiser. And I am proud of the fundraising we produce. But do I as Danielle (Atticus Finch loving, wine drinking, Diagnosis Murder watching person), love our appeals? Not always. Do I Danielle (Head of Digital & Individual  Giving at Merlin) love our appeals? Yes - because our donors will love them. And if they don’t love them then I check if anything we have done falls into one of these five groups.

*This one is a particularly easy trap to fall into when picking your Christmas warned! 

Danielle Atkinson

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Charity Chicks Poll: Who is your Unsung Hero?

Its polling time of year in the fundraising calendar at the moment. 

The influential ‘Most Influential Person in Fundraising’ is being counted as we speak. 

So here at Charity Chicks, we thought we would run our own little poll.

We thought we would ask you who is your ‘Unsung Hero’ of fundraising?

The 'Most Influential' poll is always interesting and well done to everyone that gets on it (even if you do pretend to protest...) 

However there are some definite, recognisable 'personalities' on the poll. Including those who like to pronounce loudly.

(This is not a criticism of those on the list - we say this as a blog that was created to pronounce loudly about fundraising! And who like to show off our personality...) 

It is, though, very London-centric, with a lot of people from either national, international charities or London based agencies on it. And it always seems heavily biased towards the direct marketers. 

So we, at Charity Chick Towers, thought we would run our own little poll of the unsung hero. 

Those that are just quietly getting on with their job. 

Maybe it is someone who works for a local charity, maybe your top telephone fundraiser, maybe a street fundraiser who had some lovely feedback, maybe the account handler at your printers who spends hours working out how to get the cheapest envelopes for you. 

Send them all our way. 

We won’t rank as I imagine (but could be wrong) that the unsung element will mean we get lots of people with one vote each. 

What would be nice is if you could share the reason or story behind your vote and we will share a selection. 

Email with the name of the person, their organisation and why you think they are so fab! 

Or fill this in online: Unsung Hero Poll  

Happy voting! 

Monday, 10 June 2013

“The most truthful part of a newspaper is the advertisements.” Thomas Jefferson

And in this case it’s certainly not the headlines.

“Complaints about doorstep fundraising 'nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012'”

This is the headline in Third Sector today after the launch of the 2013 FRSB Complaints report

If you were reading this, what would you think? Complaints are rising. The public is more unhappy. All those people saying that Door to Door fundraising should be outlawed are right.

How many of you will download the report, read it for yourself, and find out whether this really is the case? After all, you’ve seen the headlines. It must be true.

Actually, the report paints a different picture. So, please do read it.

And I’ll caveat any comments now: I’m not saying that any complaint should be brushed aside and ignored. I’d never think that. But I would like some objectivity when reporting facts.

Yes, door to door fundraising complaints have doubled in two years. So, has the volume of activity.  Search as hard as you like. You won’t find that fact reported in the Third Sector article.

The average complaint rate is 0.0006 for door to door fundraising. According to the report that’s a lower average rate than telephone fundraising and street face to face fundraising.

But it’s also lower than the average complaint rate for outdoor events, corporate fundraising, volunteer led fundraising, cash collections, and the same as major donor fundraising. Who’d have thought it?

However, if I report the facts then you’d see that, in reality, one corporate fundraising event led to 73% of the total complaints. I think I’ll leave that out though. It doesn’t support the message I’m trying to deliver….

Meanwhile, buried halfway down the article is the fact that direct mail received the most complaints. Over twice the amount received by door to door fundraising. Where’s the outrage? 

Oh, silly me. That seems to be reserved for direct dialogue fundraising.

But look! It’s not all bad! Street fundraising complaints fell by 28%. But that’s ok – the volume of solicitations fell as well. Why is the decrease in volume reported here but not the growth in door to door?

I have a theory. Maybe it doesn’t suit the journalistic purpose. After all, is it really “aggressive fundraising if complaints are falling?

I also have a suggestion. Let’s celebrate the fact that whilst fundraising volume grew by 38%, complaints only increased by 9%.

And that 68% of the 1,490 charities signed up to the FRSB reported no complaints at all.

And that only three complaints went all the way to stage 3 adjudications.

I am well aware that this report only reflects people that can be bothered to complain, and there are many more who don’t take this step. However there are also millions of people who support charities every day. Who start supporting because of any of the methods in the report. And who write letters that say things like this:

“As I write this letter I only wish it could be more…It comes from my heart but I know that you will put the money to good use. I look at the money box every day and say a little prayer… Please could you send me a new box as this one is a bit battered so I can give you a bit more? Thank you.”

Let’s celebrate fundraising, report the full facts and not bend them to suit our reporting agenda. And please, read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Thank you.
Danielle Atkinson