Wednesday, 18 December 2013

How to get the Case for Support right?

I've just being editing a cracking case for support for a new charity working with people in poverty in Ghana. What is particularly interesting is that Ghana is generally viewed as "middle income country (WHO) but in fact some areas are dirt poor as a young teacher doing VSO in Lawra found to her considerable cost. Remote, hot, very very poor the kids spent all day hunting for food rather than walking several kilometres (in that heat) to sit in a shack.

However instead of just getting on with the VSO role (to help improve teaching methods) she set about raising the funds to build a kitchen. Working with parents and teachers (who run the free lunch facility) the charity she set up build the facilities, laid on clean water and provided a regular supply of local food. Now attendenc has risen from 76% to 96%. The kids all get a free meal and their performance has improved dramatically.

It's so simple, it's a story. Sarah came home, gave up teaching and splits her time between fundraising and running three projects in and around Lawra. Tell it how it is. What do they do? why do they do it? And why you should support them? We overcomplicate these things. Of course a grant application might need a 10 page description but it's still the same three questions that have got to be asked. ATE Ghana is set to raise and invest £100k in their first year of operation. Not bad for a young girl! Take a look at the story at: What's not to like?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

When does a gift (or a giver) become major?

As followers of this blog will know, I believe that donors give blood and body parts, whilst people give money to charities so should be shown some respect and called, givers, whatever the value of their gift.

We had a particularly interesting meeting at the Institute of Fundraising Consultants Group AGM when Theresa Lloyd talked about philanthropic motivations from the perspective of seriously wealthy UK givers, Eddy Hogg talked about £1m givers from a global perspective and Martin Kaufman talked about what value consultants add to the whole major gift process from a uniquely personal perspective. What all three emphasised is how well universities do at major gift fundraising and that there are lessons for everyone looking at those experiences.

We also discussed, at some length, at what level of gift someone is considered a "major giver?" Some reckoned it's £10,000 or even £25,000 whilst others suggested that £5 per month over 15 years gift aided (£1125) might be considered a possible! My own view, confirmed by published research, is that anybody who can write you a cheque for £1000 can, if so motivated, put an extra 0 on the end. So whilst you may not treat your £1000 givers as major givers you would be foolish not to treat them as major gift prospects! Especially when you add in the possibility of a legacy. Remember the average residiary charitable legacy gift is more than £50,000 and even the average specific legacy gift is approaching £5,000

But what do think?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

The art or science of Philanthropy?

Lots going on in the field of Philanthropy it seems. There's a month of philanthropy events at Charterhouse I went along on Monday and was treated to a very interesting historical perspective. I'd suggest it's worth getting along to one if you can.

Then there is the new book out by Beth Breeze and Theresa Lloyd which is an excellent follow-up on Theresa's original "Why Rich People Give" ten years ago. It revisits 40 of them and adds another 40 "newer" philanthropists. Interesting isn't it that philanthropy is often seen as the preserve of the rich and yet it is the poorest 10% of the population in the UK who give the most as a percentage of their income?

What's more, good old Wikipedia reminds us that, "Philanthropy etymologically means "love of humanity" in the sense of caring for, nourishing, developing, and enhancing "what it is to be human" on both the benefactors' (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and beneficiaries' (by benefiting) parts" In other words, anyone can be a philanthropist! Dawkins reckons we have to teach altruism because it isn't in our Genes, whilst Darwin considered that we actually are very altruistic animals. Economists have a word or three to say about it too, but then they have something to say about most things, just a shame they can never agree. By the way, Theresa, Eddy Hogg and Martin Kaufman are all talking at the Institute of Fundraising Consultants Group meeting on 19th November so if you fancy coming along you can book here.

My own research is beginning to show that what Scott Fitzgerald and Hemmingway were (wrongly) reputed to have argued:
"The Rich are different to us" "Yes, they've got more money" is in fact pretty spot on. Whether people are giving £5 or £10 pounds a month to their favourite causes, or a £1 million a year, they are largely coming from the same place.

For fundraisers the key is to understand where each of their givers and prospects are coming from in order to make the most appropriate, timely, well-informed and relevant ask. Simply when you spell it out but probably Alchemy rather than Chemistry. Or is it?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Are the newly privatised Royal Mail already up to something?

Wow! £3.5bn from the sale of shares and a £10bn pension liability over the next few years. Do the discounted cash flow and you'll see more political dogma than economic logic. What's worse they might already be trying to exploit their position.

I understand that significant and potentially costly changes being made by Royal Mail with effect from 4th November 2013. Basically charities receive a rebate on all freepost envelopes that are returned with a stamp (often 50% of a dm programme)

Apparently Royal Mail have informed Valldata that from 4th November new Business Reply Envelopes must be used with new barcodes and that any mail received in the current envelopes after 4th November will not be admissible for rebate.

Here's the catch 22. All new envelopes need to be submitted and approved by Royal Mail but you can't submit them until the 4th November as the barcode generator will not be available until then!

Valldata and others are continuing to lobby hard on behalf of all their clients to secure an overlap period where existing BRE’s will continue to qualify for the rebate. Because if for example your Christmas mailing has already been produced with the existing envelopes you can expect a cost of £100s if not £000s in additional postage.

This is a difficult and grossly unfair situation and we all need to do something to challenge this. In view of the current media hype around Royal Mail shares I wonder if this would be something that they wouldn’t want the sector bringing to the attention of the general public? What do you think?

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Is it a right or a duty for fundraisers to ask for money?

Went to a very interesting media briefing meeting with the PFRA and the indomitable Ian MacQuillan. Now whilst much of what was said comes under "Chatham House Rules" a very interesting discussion emerged over the aborted(?) Institute of Fundraising campaign that was proposed a few years ago. That was the idea that fundraisers not only need to celebrate the task of asking for support, since that is what changes the world for the better; but actually stand tall recognising that they have a right to ask for money to make the world a better place. Sadly the campaign never happened. Meanwhile the PFRA have used part of this in their more positive media messaging saying that whilst the public has a right not to be harassed, fundraisers never the less have the right to ask. This is proving quite effective in changing the tone of media coverage of street canvassing stories.

In the meantime Ian and I have also debated at length, over a glass of wine, this positive stance and I used a variation in support of street canvassers recently. To paraphrase I said something along the lines that,"fundraisers not only have a right to ask,they have a duty. On the other hand the public certainly has the right to say no!

Should we be getting the tee-shirts printed. As a fundraiser I have a duty to ask for money, whilst you have the right to say no. Maybe a bit too long and needing some more work but I'm convinced that we need to stand up and be counted.Any offers of an improved wording?

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Fundraising and the Summer School

We've just run a summer school for 21 of our MSc students doing Management in Civil Society, to help them select their research dissertation topic. It was however in the scorching heat, no aircon; just 24 of us and three fans, cooped up together for three days in two rooms. This was not condusive to creativy! Guest speakers came and went but inspiration was thin on the ground.

The universally agreed best session was on Thursday night when we adjourned to a local byo indean restaurant and indeed brought our own beer, wine and cider. The discussions were far more animated and suggestions for research subjects ranged from the improbable to the obscene.

Never the less what came out of the fun were some fascinating subjects for fundraising research and in the (warm) light of day next morning several of the students made real progress in firming up topic areas and titles ranging from the improved use of social media for crowd fundraising to the extension of "push" questions (see the cabinet office research for the real story)to improve legacy fundraising.

Even the finance and social policy students were have fundraising ideas! You should try it sometime when you want more creativity in your fundraising plans!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Hot Town, summer in the city.....?

Anybody remember the Loving Spoonful?

Seems rather appropriate as St Swithins day has come and gone and ne'er a drop of rain, so pretty good for the next 40 days. Maybe it's why some are getting sloppy with their spell checkers. I received a subscription reminder from the august Chartered Institute of Marketing with a typo howler in the very first line. Ouch, or should I say "Grwoing"? Checking around I find that those under 30 are not so bothered whilst those over 50 think it is an outrage. More demographic indicators of attitude.

The direct cost was that of a grovelling letter of apology to all members from Chris Daly the (believe it or not)Director of Customer Experience. The indirect cost, certainily amongst baby boomers,is rather higher.So is there ever an excuse for sloppiness? It's hot and the deadline has come and gone so do you just hit the send button and hope? Remember what Douglas Adams said about deadlines. As someone who never made a deadline in his life he reflected that he loved the sound they make as they go "whooshing" passed.

Maybe when times are tight, both literally and metaphorically, we need to be even more careful. When budgets are being cut, we need to be more creative and make even stronger cases for investment. That means accurate data.

Just a thought on another sunny day.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Raising money when times are hard

Attended a very good session of the fundraising consultants where trusts large and small told us in no uncertain terms what we're doing wrong. Interesting much of what was said has a resonance whether you are talking to a grant maker, an individual, a corporate or even a major gift prospect. So here are my top ten tips, not in any particular order, courtesy of Clare Thomas, Shirley Scott and Gaynor Humphreys.

!. There is increasing demand for(and in places reducing supply of) funds so do even more research to match your needs with theirs.

2. Everyone loves a project so always find appropriate ways of describing what needs to be funded, but be honest.
3. There is a growing understand of and appetite for social investment and even loan finance. So be bold, creative and take, calculated, risks.

4. People are thinking more strategically so help them to think about medium term goals and objectives. Those are usually more measurable which brings us neatly to.......

5. Make it measureable. Find the right measures of outcome and impact and make sure you report successes and failures.

6. Nobody wants to fund "replacement" funding especially where it is a result of cutbacks (government or previous funders) so look to capacity building and even restructing where cuts will mean changes, downsizing, consolidation. However you can be creative and positive about how these changes will deliver different outcomes.

7. Always look to maximise the impact of the investment being made. That doesn't mean hiding fundraising costs, quite the opposite. Be up front about the whole pound, the sustainable nature of the work and how the investment will make a measureable difference.

8. Really interestingly many grantmakers are reporting reduced levels of good applications though many are seeing more spam, spray and scattergun approaches. Back to more research and appropriate asks. There is money out there and this is backed by Joe Saxton's research from the "Charity Awareness Monitor".

9. Whilst Corporate giving is in decline and trust giving is fairly static the lottery funds are increasing. Sometimes the obvious is the right course of action but only after you've done your homework.

10. I lied I just like the alliteration. Though my all time top tip is still relevant. Be curious and ask questions. There are no idiot questions, only ignorance for five minutes or a lifetime.

Let me know if you've got a hot tip to add.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Oh what a circus, oh what a farce......... (with apologies to Tim Rice)

What a complete and utter farce!

A certain group of fundraisers attempted rather pathetically to organise a seminar in a business school. Perhaps they'd have had more success in the proverbial brewery, though I rather doubt it.

Instead of first come first served for tickets we were all invited to sign up and wait for the ticket allocation. I got my confirmation to attend (I thought) a few days ago. Ah.... but that was not the right list. Apparently tickets had been allocated to a few lucky takers and the rest of us (quite a few) were turned away having spent hours getting there! Paying customers, turned away. Is that any way to run an event?

You might think that, as an events fundraiser (we were after all paying for the event) you'd say yippy get a bigger room, another venue, but somehow pack them in. OR, at the very least, have the sense to let people know that the event was over-subscribed and please, don't waste your time coming.

If you can't run a seminar for a few dozen interested fundraisers, what hope is there of persuading major givers to part with their (mostly) hard earned cash. to paraphrase Charlie Brown, I weep for my generation!

Friday, 22 March 2013

A more philanthropic society?

Did a new lecture this week looking at the development of Civil Society and how Philanthropy might help along the path to a more Civil Society. I was immediately reminded of The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. If you haven't read it do look at the TED talk with Wilkinson summarising the whole thing in a quarter of an hour and it might just change the way you look at the world!

In a nutshell, using widely available health,GDP,and other indices of well-being they have shown incontravitably that our life expectency and well being is governed not by our absolute wealth but by the degree of inequality between the richest and the poorest in any particular society. I find it terrifying that inequality in the UK is increasing fairly dramatically after nearly half a century of the gap getting wider.I am outraged that in 2013 in the 7th largest economy in the world the Trussell Trust is needed to set up food banks because poverty has increases to the point that large numbers of people really do not have enough to eat. And yet our government continues to cut benefits.

How can we possibly hope to address these issues? The UK GDP is £1400bn. Government spends £800bn. Civil Society in the UK raises and spends perhaps £50bn. Francis Beckett (What have the Baby Boomers done for us) asks where are the UK philanthropists to match Buffett and Gates? He has a point. A number of wealthy people are giving £millions to good causes but as yet I can't see many of the Billionaires joining the club.

However perhaps the time has finally come for "Social Investment". We know micro finance works in developing countries so why not here? Instead of and interest rates of 4000% we could have syndicated social enterprises lending money at sensible rates and getting not only a social return on investment but a modest financial return for their philanthropic backers who would appreciate the multiplier effect. The Banksters aren't going to do it. The Bank of Dave is doing his bit but we need some serious similar investment all over the country. What about it?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

I've seen the future

Cracking discussion at the fundraising consultants group last week. For those of you who missed it let me recap. I talked about likely trends in fundraising and drew some comparisons with what is happening on the High Street of Anytown UK.

I reminded everyone that, despite what Yogi Beera said ("The future ain't what it used to be") there are always opportunities if you focus clearly and are prepared to take (calculated) risks. Here are my five tips for 2013.

Firstly, Public Sector Funding - even in adversity (£5bn cuts in the next spending round) there are opportunites where the government is dismantling the welfare state and outsourcing everything they can lay their hands on.

Secondly, Crowdfunding - it is beginning to work but as Howard Lake says, whatever else you do go mobile. In other words we're likely to see the tipping point this year when more website access is via mobile devices than standard computers. You simply must optimize anything you put up, for mobile devices.

Next, my favourite subject, the Baby Boomers. And not just for legacy prospects (cause we're never going to die - well not in larger numbers until about 2015) but for social investment. We really do want to change the world, but through investment not necessarily donations.

Fourth point is to think about our volunteers. Remember the Olympic factor. The volunteer army were outstanding and had a fantastic time. We need to make it as much fun for our active volunteers if we want them motivated and fundraising for us.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Retail.As I said, I’ve seen the future and it’s 99p! What is the only sector (apart from pawn shops) that is growing in double digit figures? It is the pound shop. Poundland, 99p and others have opened hundreds of shops in the last few years with many more to follow. We all seem to love a bargain. Charity shops have done a great job merchandising the higher value gifts ( putting the branded bags and clothes into upmarket areas like Chelsea and Kennsington. Where are the charity "everything at 99p" test shops? If we can't do the great bargains with donated goods then we don't deserve to succeed.

Over to you.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The fundraising outlook for 2013

So you survived the apocalypse. Now what the hell do you do? I liked the Shamen on the beach in Lima warding off the impending EoTW* that's the bet to take. I have a colleague, Professor Bruce Lloyd, a very erudite fellow at LSBU who does a lecture to my students every year on "Forecasting the Future" so if you want to know what's going to happen, just ask Bruce. In reality, of course, he reminds us that nothing is certain but some things are more certain than others. So it's a question of balancing risks and asking the right questions. Let me know if you'd like a copy of his last session it is worth thinking about.

So 2013 is upon us what is the outlook for fundraising in the UK? Double or triple dip resession looks horribly likely. The government's retreat from the Big Society continues. A lot of the cuts have not yet hit the proverbial fan. From April onwards I predict a steady stream of charities and groups going out of business or, at best, merging with others who are struggling. Some larger charities will be able to help out (National Trust to bail out the English Heritage Blue plaques for example?) but they themselves are at risk of beign squeezed by the bigger commercial providers of contract services.

What's more whilst there are some individual winners the predicted rises in legacies is yet to happen as the baby boomers really do try and live forever (or at least til beyond 2020). So there is still time to get a legacy strategy sorted. And I mean a real strategy with a vision that will appeal to the baby boomers and not more of the same old,same old.

Doing a session at the Institute of Fundraising Consultants Group in the afternoon of the 30th January at the DSC so come along if you'd like to hear more of my Cassandra and EoTW* predictions plus a couple of nuggets that I think could be gems in 2013.

Meanwhile may 2013 bring you everything that you've worked your fundraising socks off for. What's more, if you don't believe we've got to work even harder have a look at what NfP Synergy is saying about trust and confidence and be very afraid!

*End of the World