Thursday, 31 December 2009

A short history of fundraising

Well, it's reflection time. A decade of trying to change the world and what have we achieved? Most of us are raising a shedload more money, but then we didn't have gift aid for all in 1999. Very few people had any serious internet access or facilities and few charity websites were more than on-line catalogues. Street canvassing had been invented but few charities took it seriously. Now I spend time in radio and TV studios defending the practice.

So has anything changed fundamentally? The need is still as great, if not greater. Are we as fundraisers constraining ourselves to think conventionally? Are unconventional and outlandish approaches needed to gain a paradigm shift? Not sure I've come to any conclusions yet except that individuals, people, still want to make a difference. What do you think lies ahead for the boldest of us?

In the meantime have a great New Year and new decade.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Fundraising Research takes centre stage

Well, take a bow Lindsay Boswell. Following his resignation from the CASS advisory group he's calling for a think tank to try and innovate, set an agenda, and stimulate some useful fundraising research. Don't like to say I told you so (actully I do), but I did. In 2003 I published research showing we dramatically underinvest in marketing research. Compared to the commercial sector who spend up to four times what charities do, we generally invest less than 0.5% of income on useful marketing research.

Anyone who's heard any of my lectures knows this is a pet hobby horse. If we want help we've got to start helping ourselves. I'm looking at major donors, regular givers, baby boomers, legacy developement and good practice. But, even I can't do it all. Going to the Institute's meeting in February so please, please me and tell me what you think we need to be looking at.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

They do know the price of fish!

Spoke at a very interesting round table session last night for Major Gift fundraisers. Slagged off Cass and the Centre for Philanthropic Giving for not producing useful fundraising research (See Third Sector 8th December) and proceeded to give them the results of some fascinating research into how UK charities look after (or don't) their major givers.

I challenged them to go back to basics and adopt a conceptual model to help understand their donors. All bar two thought this a sound bit of advice even though it was from a self obsessed baby boomer.

We also talked about generational differences and how the next wealthy generation - "Jonesers" might also be researched to find out if and how they think differently. But that of course needs some research funding. Back to the Office of the Third Sector and the lack of practical useful fundraising research. Eat your heart out CASS!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Do they know it's Christmas?

Looks like Children in Need are going to be down this year. Not by much but, according to the word on the street, a bit. CAF and Cathy Pharoh say individual giving's down 11%. We all know corporates are sitting on their hands, dispite the return of the bonus. So what are the portents for the annual round of Christmas Appeals?

I'll stick my neck out and say that I think they'll be down by more than 11%!*!*!*

Why, I hear you ask? Well I hope you're asking after my last optimistic missive. Of course there'll be some winners and losers - c'est la bloody vie - but overall, I reckon down, because...........

We live in uncertain times. Yes even more uncertain than last autumn when we knew everything was going south. Now floods are hitting places horribly after 14" of rain. That's more than you get in a tropical rain forest. As yet no certainty in the UK that growth will go positive next quarter. And anyway unemployment wll continue to rise for some time after that swing. Remember the Chinese curse, "may you live in interesting times". Well they are certainly that and as a result I think people will cut back in areas that so far we've hardly seen. For once being a grump could be seriously part of the zeitgeist and for that reason alone I'm battening down the hatches.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

New shoots or dead dog bounce?

There's some really interesting stuff around even for a grump like me.
Blackbaud reporting the fundraisings are forecasting increased income next year (but not as much as their French, Italian and Dutch counterparts). It is, of course, attitudinal but after all the gloomy prognostications over the last 15 months it is a breath of fresh air. Or is it?

In another vein trusts and foundations have been far less affected than we all thought. At a session for Institute of Fundraising consultants David Emerson of the ACF along with Linda Kelly of Lloyds TSB and Shirley Scott of Richard Reeves all reminded us that trusts tend to be rather conservative, careful and cautious. As a result many have very diversified investments with really quite stable incomes not relying either on low interest rates or crappy equities. In fact many have property portfolios and whilst there might be 20% off the balance sheet value the rent roll has actually gone up over the last 12 months! What was reported however is a decline in the standards of applications and, even worse, increasing numbers of ineligable requests - a cardinal sin showing poor or no research.

So are fundraising directors being schizophrenic? That is being bullish about the potential for growth but then using shot gun approaches to their general fundraising asks in the vain hope that something will stick? This is not strategic, is poor fundraising and needs to stop.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


An awful lot of hot air is being produced about how to raise funds successfully using the internet, mobile communications and digital media. Howard Lake is already running a Twitter masterclass, Sue Fidler does an excellent job explaining it to those who think they know what it's all about and those who know they don't. Loads of others are pontificating without much real content (and isn't content still king?)

Recent reports indicate that commercial organisations spend a lot of their budgets on Search Engine optimisation (getting up the Google rankings)and that with a limited budget that has to be your priority. But, and there's always a but, whilst charities are doing a good job with site recognition (see the November dotmailer report) far fewer are making it work for fundraising income. Maybe that other grumpy old fundraiser, John Sauve Rodd might disagree but I digress.

Aren't we forgetting something again? The I doesn't just stand for internet. It stands for I, me, myself, numero uno, the main man(or woman). If we come at it from the perspective of the individual we may have a chance. THAT's where the social networking sites have got it right and charities (to my grumpy eyes) have got a long way to go.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Reasons to be cheerful, one, two three (with apologies to Ian Dury)

So things are going to get much worse (Third Sector 3rd November)! Joe Saxton rightly points to probable deep cuts in government funding in three years time. Stephen Bubb thinks it'll be sooner (After the election feels like a safe bet).

So that's the doom, gloom and Cassandra predictions and they are probably right in as far as they go. But it's not the whole picture is it? And fundraisers, more than most, are able to buck trends, be creative and tap new sources of income.

Hurrah! The Boomers are coming. From 2012 (post the Olympics just a 1000 days)the baby boomers are going to start dying in big numbers. In fact people are going to be dying who have never died before. As a boomer I'm entitled to be bloody grumpy. As a fundraising I have to keep telling charities to invest in legacy development (sorry thats "a gift in your will" The whole bit - and some of these are Joe's own numbers, about the boomers holding 85% of the UKs wealth is mind boggling. Events, investments, social enterprise, tribute funds, the list actually is endless.

So stop winging and start doing some strategic planning - a four year window looks good.

Friday, 30 October 2009

We are the champions

Despite Richard Bacon's best efforts I think that face to face canvassers came out on top last night on Radio 5 Live. Actually Mansfield's third most well know personality admitted that he has indeed signed up with four charities through street canvassers.

The main criticism seemed to be around the "guilt" that canvassers engender - both in people who don't stop (and feel guilty) and those who do and then get sucked into what they describe as a sob story. I pointed out that people give for a variety of reasons but mostly because they are asked.

Couldn't resist the dig that if people feel guilty about saying "no thank you" with a smile, they really do need to review their existing charitable giving, or, go and see my wife. SWMBO is, some of you may know, a psychotherapist and rather good and helping people with guilt complexes.

Go to: and listen between 1.39 and 2.00 for the full story. Be really interested to hear what you think.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Radio 5 Live

Been asked to comment on the great debate: Street Canvassers - chuggers or champions?

It's a midnight session so grumpy old men and women may not be able to stay up for it but I am very interested in what people currently think about canvassing. On a personal basis is it an intrusive assault or an informed conversation. From a fundraising view is it a vital part of the fundraising mix - targeted at the hard to reach generation Y, or is it an increasingly expensive, hard to manage, frustrating technique that will go the way of other short lived phenomena? Incidentally the PFRA seems curiously silent on the debate and unresponsive to requests for information yet aren't they are the ones out there canvassing for support?

I'd really like to know so please let me have your comments and come back tomorrow to hear how it went.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

"There may be trouble ahead........."

A very suitable line for all the bankers who've survived the recession because they were bailed out by the Government. What's more they seem to be echoing the refrain and,as the Irving Berlin song goes on to say, "Lets face the music and dance", they seem to be doing exactly that. In the face of massive criticism some of the banks are awarding huge utterly inappropriate bonuses forgetting entirely that the reason they've returned to profit has little to do with performance and everything to do with the shareholder funds that have been put at risk.

Profit always was about generating a return on investment - for - wait for it, the investors! Performance related pay has always been a very iffy incentive. ANYBODY who has read Herzberg knows that money is not a motivator at all! (read it, lack of money is a demotivator). Sales staff work best of all when facing realistic targets and with incentives that encourage the long term view. Sometimes up to 10 or 15% of income may be tied to performance when it can be directly attributable. Any more is in fact counter productive.

The same goes for fundraising investment. It's a no to performance related pay but a big yes to appropriate incentives to reward genuine effort, creativity, effectiveness and carefully assessed risk taking.

You heard it here first. The world is, I'm convinced, about to rediscover Frederick Herzberg ( for a quick and dirty explanation).

Friday, 16 October 2009

Have I finally lost the plot?

That's it I thought. Haven't seen Third Sector for three weeks, it must be casualty of the recession and Stephen Cook's looking for work. But it seems not. On phoning the Institute of Fundraising I find they have thoughtfully, helpfully checked my "opt out" box. Why would I do that I say? Answer was there none and we agreed that a database error had occured. I'm promised back copies by next week - Royal Mail permitting.

However it underlines the conversion I had with the inimitable Messrs Rodd and Florey - the doyens of the database world and champions of proper CRM for the not for profit sector. They and I agree that we need to produce a course for fundraisers explaining the intricasies of getting it right and the cost of getting it wrong. So watch the LSBU site for news of a potentially hugely important course development. JR and PF tell me that after 20 years of helping people put right bad decisions about fundraising databases that they find themselves doing the same thing over again for the same organisations! That's deeply scarey and rather depressing that organisations are not good at corporate memory. So, I suppose, at least I'm not totally alone out there.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The 30 Second MBA

In trying to get my head around the potential of social networking for fundraisers (see Howard Lake's excellent 50 ways to fundraise by Twittering at UK fundraising) I came across this collection of seminars, anecdotes and bonne mots. One of them at: talks about "the business case for giving" starting with the assertion that there isn't one! How wrong can you be.

However the commentator, Mike Rowe does make a rather interesting point. He says you can adopt the Mercenary position if you want to pursue the business case, or the Missionary position if you want to give. He points out the it's the Missionary position that will keep you on top! So perhaps he hasn't completely misunderstood.

Friday, 9 October 2009

In defence of fundraisers

At an EAPG (European Association for Philanthropy and Giving) roundtable the other night I presented my current research into major gift fundraising. One of my observations is around the surprising lack of engagement with volunteers who could provide leadership and do some of the asking. The resulting conclusion that I drew is that charities would benefit from more effort with volunteers, to increase engagement and participation. The big gift model usually provides for extensive volunteer leadership.

However Martin Kaufman leapt to the defence of fundraisers who make the ask. His view is that volunteer leadership is an outdated model, that still works in the US but not in the UK!

Well, that's news to me. I have to agree that, increasingly, fundraisers are often well placed to espouse a complex case for support and that often senior staff are able to make a very effective ask. However I maintain, very strongly, that a combination of well trained staff and well motivated volunteers provide the best possible team to make the most effective asks.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Green Shoots or what?

How interesting that our erstwhile Institute Chairman is going to be the one to replace the legendary Giles Pegram at the NSPCC. Actually I think it's a very shrewd move! Although Paul hasn't been at RNIB all that long he is one of a few younger directors of fundraising who have the insight and understanding of this sector to go on investing when fainter ( and ofter older) hearts who ought to know better, are cutting budgets as a knee jerk reaction.

Even the recent CAF/NCVO survery of UK giving is hesitant to say more than there have been fewer large donations in the last 12 months; whilst Cathy Pharoah in the new Charity Monitor talks about very small growth and "real terms" declines. My own research amongst 30 charties involved in major gift programmes shows a very patchy picture which accords with what NfPSynergy predicted about the recession 12 months ago.

In the face of some grants and contracts being cut and some declines in individual giving fundraisers need to cross their legs and hold their nerves. Overall budgets may need to be trimmed in the short term but cutting investment makes no sense at all. What's more those fundraisers bowing to such cuts are doing the profession a lot of harm.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

September Professional Fundraising

Isn't it interesting how you say one thing and people hear something else?

The new pf has a decent report about the research I summarised at the end of July about how UK charities generally don't practice what they preach in terms of looking after and developing relationships with major givers.

They've picked up on my comments about the lack of conceptual frameworks, models and examples to help understand those who support a particular charity - and that is certainly an important observation.

However, I thought, my piece de resistance was that fact that whilst everybody acknowledges the fact that peer to peer asking is the most effective, powerful way to ask for gifts, very few charities are actually doing it!!!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Something in the air (As Thunderclap Newman would say).

Back off holiday and had to turn the central heating on last night so it must be autumn.

The association for the containment of Christmas is complaining about card catalogues going out before 1st November - they should be so lucky - I had my first offering, from the British Red Cross on 4th August followed by several others in the next couple of weeks. Is being first really the best way to gain market share? Frankly I doubt it. Charities seem unwilling or unable to innovate in established areas and are in real danger of missing a sea change (yet alone a seasonal change).

Frank C Dickenson seems to have got his PhD on the thesis that for fundraisers, "The Way We Write is All Wrong" (without mentioning his overuse of capitals) I agree.

He's analysed 1.5 million words of fundraising text from 880 (admittedly American) charities and concludes that, basically, it's crap! We've stopped writing personal stories and its all left brain information, mainly in the third party. Good Grief! The saintly Ken Burnett and Stephen Pigeon have been preaching for years to write stories to our favourite aunts (actually that was George Smith). So are we in the UK any better than our American cousins? I'd really like to hear your views.

Monday, 3 August 2009

No grumps today (much)

Had a very successful evening last week presenting the first phase of my "donor motivation" research at LSBU where it was, it seems, very well received by an audience of around 70 third sector fundraisers, trustees and academics. In fact I've been asked to do a reprise, twice! Really interesting thing though, which is a sort of grump, is the lack of major donor/volunteer involvement there is in most major gift programmes. The ask is generally done by a fundraiser and whilst volunteer boards are aspired to; few charities do anything about it!

Considering that, and the gift pyramid, is at the heart of all successful capital appeals, why aren't we practicing what we preach?

Thursday, 23 July 2009

So called relationship fundraising

And another thing that dear Ken Burnett and the most of the fundraising pundits bang on about is about building relationships with our donors. But most of them don't want a relationship with us! Take my wife, no, do please.

She is seriously pissed off with charities trying to "build a relationship" with spurious mailings, telephone calls and the rest. What she wants is genuine NEWS about how her hundred quid is making a difference, but she gets a barage of thinly disguised appeals. They don't even do the "Botton Village" thing and ask her how often she'd like to hear from them. And they are household name large charities with apparently "sophisticated" communications strategies.

She's not a major donor, but does give a few hundred a year to things that really interest her. What's more she's not alone. Cash donors are going to get a lot pickier over the next couple of years, mark my words!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Donor or Compassion Fatigue

When are fundraisers going to wake up to the fact that there's no such thing!

It's trotted out as a lame excuse and by the medja when they want to have another go at fundraising but it simply doesn't exist. How can anyone be tired of helping to change the world; helping, in a small way, to make it a better place?

What people are heartily sick and tired of is sloppy, inappropriate fundraising. Direct mail that just tries to piggy back on the fact that someone has given to other charities or has expressed a philanthropy interest. Inappropriate fundraising that asks for money from people who have no interest in that charity, that cause or (even if expressed effectively) that case for support.

That's what people are fatigued about. Asks that are never going to be considered because they are inappropriate, wrongly timed, poorly executed and attrociously constructed. I'm still getting pen packs! For goodness sake fundraisers, stop moaning and start fundraising with passion, good technique, thoughtfulness and, most importantly, humility.

If anyone wants an understanding of that, look at Leonard Cohen's latest concerts. He's 74 performing fantastic music but has nothing but respect for his audience and surprise at his continued success. We could learn a lot from such graciousness.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Institute of Fundraising Convention

So, another year has come and gone. Some really interesting sessions on the changing face of legacy marketing and the possibility of change in how we talk to major donors but where was the research???

Yes Adrian Sargeant did his thing but nothing from Cass, the Institute itself, LSBU, Kent, Sheffield Hallam, or I think, anywhere else. Bloody pathetic.

Come on convention board. Your job is to sniff out the new stuff, the genuine research and trends analysis. That's what the convention could really lead the world on if it had the bottle.

More later!!!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

It's still too hot

Back in the UK, it's 32° Andy Murray keeps winning and something is terribly wrong!?

The work in progress paper on the Spectrum of Philanthropy was well received by all the academics but what about the practitioners? Well as I hinted the good old I of F in its wisdom choose not to run a paper on brand new research into charity behaviour to donors soooooooo if you want to understand what it's all about you'll have to come to LSBU on 29th July for the dissemination seminar. Sorry 1200 members but the committee knows best (not)!

If you would like an invitation email me at LSBU that's

Stay cool

Friday, 19 June 2009

29C in Valencia

Yes it´s too damn hot. Forced to stay in Valencia to present an update paper on "The Spectrum of Philanthropy" at the International Congress of Not for Profit Marketing in downtown Valencia. Poor old me but someone has to do it. More on this next week as it does involve the Institute of Fundraising losing out again. But there we are!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

I'm not alone

Sorry for the delay between blogs. Been in the Highlands where it rained for three days on the West coast and was sunny for three days on the East coast. No wonder the Scots moan about the English, we did little but complain about the weather. Apart, that is, from some heroic eating and drinking.

Well, as soon as a grumpy old fundraiser moans so the Institute reacts! Third Sector are publicising the Institute of Fundraising's new campaign to blow the whistle on the crap, unethical and downright dangerous DM campaigns that some charities continue to inflict upon an, increasingly, cynical public. No grumps today, just an A+ to Lindsay Boswell and Louise Richards. Watch this space however because I am shortly to have a major grump about the Institute's lack of focus regarding the convention.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Fundraising in a recession

Everyone seems to be whining about how hard it is out there, instead of finding things that will work.

Ollie, an old pal and sometime reluctant fundraiser has just sold his Golf Shop business. Worked well for years as he's a bandit and could do a lot of business on the course but with the recession has sold up and moved on.

He's now importing "Borsalina" merchandise*, to sell to up market bag and luggage shops. "He must be bonkers or on class A drugs" I hear you say, moving into luxery goods in a recession???

Well actually top branded goods are still selling. Not perhaps in the volumes of two years ago, but there are still loads of WAGS out there needing their new £500 accessorised bags, boots or whatever. It's the £50 bags that have stopped selling.

Fundraisers have some really interesting opportunities to position their products and activities very carefully. Retailers and consumer product companies knowm that when volumes are down you go for higher margin items. Why would that be any different for charities? Let's get innovating and doing some deals with the companies still making money.

* Rather neat little gismos that keep your expensive bag or laptop off the floor (and away from beer spillages or thieves) and hooked under the table where you're sitting. They, of course, match your branded bag!

Friday, 15 May 2009

Am I alone?

Am I alone in thinking that the Institute is missing a trick (again). It's one thing to ask for poor examples of direct marketing materials (and I see a few). But surely as the arbiteurs of excellence in fundraising they could be naming and shaming poor practice all round?

I'm not talking about stuff that might lead to complaints we've already got the FSRB - hurrah!

No I'm talking about the cringe making telephone campaigns, crap ads and even worse brochures that have no case for support and even less reason to give. What about a site for a wall of shame? MPs need not be alone.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Fat Cat (or perhaps Pig) Bankers

Just had a supposedly targeted flyer through from MBNA offering me (with a half decent credit rating) 19.9% APR on a supposed new deal!!!!!

Hello, is anyone in? The bank rate is 0.5% which means any bank with a half decent credit rating (OK I agree there aren't so many of them now) can borrow Bank of England money rather cheaply. How much mark up do they need? That sort of increase is nothing short of a loan shark.

Charity affinity cards have, it seems, been out of favour for some time, though some are still making useful money through existing users. So what about "A new deal?"
A nice ethical bank like the Co-op getting together with a syndicate of nice helpful empowering charities working in the community and launching a new card which promises an ethical approach. That is, if you can afford the repayments and are not deep in debt, you get a single digit interest rate on loan or outstanding balances. Still a hell of a profit for the bank and the charity(s).

New opportunities to trade and help the economy.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Managing Expectations

Talking with some of the fundraising students on the part time MSc course at London South Bank University yesterday about fundraising management. We agreed that sometimes it's the expectations that are the hardest thing of all to manage. From trustees who ask "How long will it take to raise your salary" to the supporters who ask, "What, you get paid?"

Great expectatations can be a heavy burden (think of Linus in Charlie Brown who says "There's no heavier burden than great potential). And so, one of the most important lessons fundraisers can learn (and give their teams license to say)is the ability to say NO! It can of course be moderated.....No, not unless we invest more, or stop doing something else - but essentially managing unrealistic expectations.

It doesn't come easy to those used to being optimists and whose glass is always half full. Never the less it's a powerful tool used sparingly.

Friday, 1 May 2009

I don't believe it!

Talking with Sue Hind Woodwood yesterday who admits to being a GOF and we couldn't help but bemoan the fact that all the evidence suggests those organisations who survive recessions and prosper most afterwards are those that do not cut investment in people. That is whilst you might, because of reduced cashflow be forced to make savings, you don't through away the loyalty you've built up amongst staff, volunteers and supporters, by ignoring the need to continue developing staff, relationships and reputation. And anyway what are reserves for if not a rainy day? I've news for those refusing to dip into reserves. It's pissing with rain outside!

Even Victor Meldrew would get that one.

Got a pal Peter Bishton cycling back from Greece to Worcester (he cycled out in 2007). Check out Nothing earth shattering about the technology but last time he raised £2000 for his chosen charity and this time, I suspect, will be more. Just another volunteer eventer? Well I bet his chosen charity (ActionAid) hadn't cut back on their communications to him!

Thursday, 30 April 2009

What a shamble

Has anyone seen Matthew Little's article in Third Sector on research? He's done a good job at unravelling it, but the whole thing is tortuous in the extreme.

If the Office of the Third Sector had set out to design an inpenitrable process to obfuscate potential areas of really interesting research they couldn't have come close.

Is it really too much to expect that a clear research brief be prepared, with regard to NEEDS and then placed with a single provide to maximise the impact and cost effectiveness? Sadly it seems so.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Shock Horror - fundraising let down.

Oh mia culpa. I prepared two rants and, thought that I'd uploaded them over Easter but neither appeared. Firstly about arrogance and secondly about incompetance - quite appropriate really!

Lindsay Boswell is asking for responses to the Institute's consultation paper on payment by commission and/or results. Come on. Does nobody remember Hertzberg. Money is not, and never was a motivator. Lack of it is one hell of a demotivator and so peer pressure kicks in and if one person gets a bonus everyone wants one. The private sector are just relearning this painful lesson. Please, everyone lets bombard the institute with an unequivolcal no to commission linked pay.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

More about Prophets and Gurus

Still smarting about the rejection notices but I'll console myself with the fact that most successful authors suffer these things at the hands of those who don't or can't understand the gold dust that they are rejecting.

Talking with a major gift fundraiser about the recession and have to agree that when your portfolio has gone from £100m to £60m you feel (relatively) poor. All the indications are that supporters are continuing to give at previous levels but it's very hard and takes much longer to get prospects to the point of solicitation. Where charities can defer asks, they probably should as asking too soon invariably results in a much smaller gift. That was, I recall exactly the probably we had back in 1992 with a large capital campaign and pressure to get the cash in.

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Perhaps being well informed just makes you grumpy. What do you think???

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

A prophet in his own land

Was talking with Richard Gutch, formerly head of Futurebuilders when we found ourselves having a GOM moment. I was bemoaning the fact that a paper, featuring brand new research about donor motivations to be published this summer, has been turned down by both the Institute of Fundraising and the International Fundraising Congress. Is it that I need to change my deoderant I asked Richard? Sniffing cautiously he demurred and agreed that it's all too easy to get overlooked by the bright and shiny new stuff (aka New Kids on the block). Yes I admit it there's 61 years on the clock - including successfully surviving at least three other recessions. Sometimes its hard being the proverbial prophet. Especially when you know you're right!

Friday, 27 March 2009

Never cold call again

It's always interesting to see what people in other businesses are doing and what we might learn from them.

I came across this supposedly freebe online whilst searching, of all things for street and house to house canvassing agencies, which incidentally didn't appear very prominently. Is a very American site from a sales guru with live video multimedia doing a high powered pitch for his book "Never cold call again" He goes on to suggest that he'll send you the first 10 chapters free of charge if you fill in your email address. However once you've done that you are "forced" into also providing other email addresses to receive a - wait for it - cold email advertising the book. Of course that email is hidden behind a testimonial from you to your friends saying what a great read it is!

Appart from this being a blatent cold sell there are some rather interesting ideas within those first 10 chapters (you can bypass the testimonial pages by typing ...thanks2 into the page ......thanks1). This is around work rates and that most people make a buying decision after one or two visits/conversation. So, he advises cut out the endless follow-up calls and get on with the job of selling. I think there's something interesting there for fundraisers.

These days we spend a lot of time cultivating prospects. Perhaps if they don't "buy" the case for support after two or three conversations we should move on?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Elisher does it again!

Whilst Tony often goes off on such a tangent that you think, "what class A substance is he on?" This time I think the old boy's got it rather nicely.

Think Consulting and the Institute have launched, what I think, is a rather helpful "Fundraisng Health Check Tool" at:

It is of course very simple but, the very act of simplifying your own numbers down, focuses the mind wonderfully. I've tried it for a charity I work with. The comments then generated are thoughtful and thought provoking. Anyone struggling with their net income figures and/or their trustees wanting cuts in investment need to give themselves a health check.

Thumbs up to Tony and no grumps today (well not yet anyway). DO check it out, whether your income is £100K or £10M your mix and returns are worth looking at in a fresh light.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Payment by commission

Great. The Institute of Fundraising is coming out with a new code on remuneration, including the old chestnut about payment by commission. Third Sector has tried to get a debate going by finding someone to speak for commission - though the argument is about payment by results which really isn't the same thing at all.

I'm all for clarifying the total inappropriate nature of commission based fundraising - in my book there are no grounds ever for a commission based pay structure. Not because it's unethical or may lead to problems (which it will), but principally because it won't work.

Anyone who has read Hertzberg understands that money is not a motivator! Lack of it can be a hell of a demotivator but it's just a hygene factor. Perhaps the bankers will realise this truth sometime soon.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Massive fall in charity income

So, according to CASS and the Smith Institute (Third Sector online report), Up to £200m is expected to be wiped off legacies IF charity bequests fall in line with predicted fall in house prices!

Or as Homer Simpson would say, dooooooo! That really has to win this week's prize for a statement of the bleeding obvious. Perhaps CASS should start awarding MBOs rather than MScs.

The Chinese pictogram (or is it a pictograph) for the word CRISIS consists of two icons. One representing DANGER the other representing.................OPPORTUNITY.

That surely is the real challenge in these "perfect storm" days, to minimise the danger and exploit the opportunities.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Patronising, paternal attitudes

There is an interesting interview with Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of the Acuemen Fund in the McKinsey Quarterly Report entitled - The State of Philanthropy.

Unfortunately she sets off on a very high horse about how private sector initiatives are very new, exciting and different to anything that the charity sector can offer. The interview is a very revealing example of the continuing paternal (or perhaps maternal) attitudes that aid agencies have been criticised about for decades. It is sad to see that atttitude promoted by what otherwise appears to be an excellent agency. The suggestion that a "private sector" approach to charging interest for services is the way forward, and that charities are not good at trading is just patently wrong. Micro finance has been embraced and extended by charities, to many areas never previously envisaged and in ways that could not be contemplated within the constraints of a straightforward repayment system.Privately funded initiatives, whilst very welcome in offering alternatives and additional funding need to work in partnership with agencies who know and understand the problems they are trying to solve and can do it without patronising and disempowering the beneficiaries.

What's more it seems to link directly to the trap that other financing agencies, offering loan finance to charities, rather than grants, can fall into. That is, the one where they, the funder know best. The voluntary agency can be forced to jump through inappropriate hoops and create costly processes just to comply with the perceived needs of the funder. Some organisations having developed a model, follow it slavishly, unable to respond to change, flexibility and other experiences, not least the expertise built up over many years of successful interventions.

Monday, 16 March 2009

It happens every spring (with apologies to Don Partridge)

Hi ho, the sun is shining, the birds (but no bluebirds in the UK Don) are singing, the daffs are are out and on a morning like this it's hard to be grumpy. Then I read Stephen Bubb's blog on the Grauniad site and think "not again".

As a master of the bleeding obvious he suggests that the recession will pose huge challenges for the third sector and then goes and spoils it all by suggesting "combined fundraising" modelled on the Disasters Emergency Committee" and I think, what particular class A drug is he on?

The DEC works because there is a very simple, well stated case for support that overides most other objections. Annual and Biennenial events like Comic Relief and Children in Need focus increasingly on outcomes that those supporting will get and feel good about donating to. How can that possibly translate into regular, reapeatable, sustainable, activities that a syndicate of charities might be able to utilize? And yet......

There are some really good examples of payroll canvassing syndicates, catalogue trading partnerships and carefully planned events where, a simliar or linked case for support means that supporters do get it and aren't confused by the potentail for conflicting asks. The numerous attempts at linked internet trading channels/arcades/sites have patently failed to garner much support because they do try and appeal to everyone so finish up attracting nobody. Yet Everyclick would probably argue that they are helping a huge range of charities through a successful cause related marketing idea.

On balance I can't see it happening myself but perhaps someone at Futurebuilders (no names please) or Capacitybuilders might finally twig that by investing in fundraising capacity they will significantly enhance the potential to deliver services.

Friday, 13 March 2009

£££ Million plus donors

Went to the excellent launch of the Coutt's (who else?) report compiled by Beth Breeze at Kent Uni (where the report is a free downloadable pdf) about donors who gave £1million or more last year. 193 of the FRBs gave - mostly to higher education or trusts/endowments. What odds on more or less in 2009?

It's, of course, quite true that if your portfolio has fallen from £100m to £60m you feel relatively poor but whilst those, last year, giving part of their seven figure bonus' away might well feel the pinch doesn't the fundraiser's challenge come to the fore? Transformational giving is great for the donor and the recipient charity. There's evidence to suggest even the seriously rich feel the extra nought on the gift is something rather special and even prefer to hand over a cheque rather than simply use CHAPs. Back to Redmond Mullins adage that you cannot thank people too much or too often.

Thursday, 12 March 2009


Here it is - inspired by the ramblings of John Sauve-Rodd:

We've forgotten more than you'll ever know

For baby boomers who remember "the good old days" and actually know how to survive a recession.