John the APPALLED charity call recipient - set straight.

John calls charity phone calls SCAMS and is disgusted that deceptive agencies earn 40% 'commission' on monthly gifts made to charity.

I had to set him straight:

"Hello John,

The company doesn't receive commission from charity gifts. They do however receive a one-off fee - for each call, or in some instances, per supporter who makes a committed gift. 

Organisations use specialist agencies because it is a more cost effective way of asking supporters to give monthly. Agencies retain passionate teams of experienced fundraisers - which is too expensive for most charities to do themselves. 

Monthly gifts are important because they give the assurity of donations month-to-month - enabling them to react to emergencies or plan for changes in demand. 

I hope this understanding of regular gift fundraising and your experience hasn't eroded your trust in your favourite charities."

FEELINGS And How to Destroy Them: Stories that move people (Another fundraising blog about storytelling)

A lot has been said before about emotive storytelling and its importance to fundraising. We walk away from presentations by Tom Ahern or Ken Burnett and we say "yeah! That makes sense!" Alan Clayton is rumoured to make people cry in his masterclasses. And if you're open to being confused by dead-pan humour, Sean Triner and Mark Phillips can be pretty convincing. 

And, while we say we "get it", do we really get it? 

When you read George Smith, Terry Murray, Mal Warwick, or even great advertisers like Bernbach and Ogilvy, they all say something about Feelings and connecting with people. And that is what all great fundraising does. 

I, like most people, enjoy the illustrative language, the humorous anecdotes and puns and the - almost expletive - never-ending rants from fundraisers like Jeff Brooks. Yet the Twitter accounts, the daily feeds and blogs, the multiple conferences and masterclasses, volumes of beautiful books and countless success stories from other charities around the world fail to influence some fundraisers

And then it dawned on me. 

Maybe one more blog post will do the trick. Perhaps THIS repetition of the 'tried and tested', the black and white facts and irrefutable proof might make the difference. Will you tell me I'm dreaming?

Whether in vain or not, here are 5 Core, well-rehearsed and ever preached passages that no direct mail letter should ever exclude:

1. Find a story. A real human story
. Tell that story it until the words bleed from the paper.

2. There must be a clear and present NEED. If your organisation isn't able to articulate a real problem that requires it to fundraise, then don't bother writing the letter.

3. The SOLUTION is YOU (no not you, the supporter). A supporter's gift has the power to save, change or improve lives. Your task as a fundraiser is to convince your supporters that this is true.

4. People give to PEOPLE, not organisations.  Your readers are not donating to you. The charity is merely the facilitator of a donation, not the recipient. If you want to sell your organisation to supporters then get a budget like McDonald's or Coke.

5. Ask. Don't forget to ask for something. Anything. That three syllable word in your title implies that you are responsible for raising funds. To do so, you need to ask. If disguised behind a real purpose as dictated by points 1 through 4, it might actually convince people that you need something.

With any luck, these 5 points may have just made the world a better place.

"We have the lowest administration fees of any other Australian charity..."

Out of touch.

I hope that this statement is an oversight and that the leadership doesn't realise it is published on the website. 
However, the wording on this Frequently Asked Questions page is undoubtedly an indication of a cynical culture and an unfriendly, even hostile perception of the not-for-profit sector in Australia.
The statement is unfounded, inaccurate and overtly egotistical. Please take it down.

Which NFPs make the loudest noise about the Cost of Fundraising?

How do Australia's largest NFPs communicate their cost effectiveness? Are the most sophisticated fundraising organisations supporting positive messaging around the cost of fundraising? Or are they perpetuating a negative, misinformed perception that is harming the sector as a whole?

The best fundraising in Australia comes from both large, sophisticated charities as well as smaller, more agile and necessarily frugal ones.

The same is true for the approach that the sector takes when approaching the question of cost effectiveness.

This survey conducted last month compares the use of Cost of Fundraising messaging and infographics across the largest and most visible not-for-profits across the sector.

By comparing where on the website an organisation communicates how donations are spent, one can get a sense of how much value is associated with this message by each organisation.

Many organisations produce graphics to help express visually where the money goes and to show their cost effectiveness. It aims to combat a perceived negative public sentiment that suggests charities aren’t spending enough on the cause.

Are organisations being foolish to spend money on producing messages that communicate how great they are at saving money? Or are we assuming that audiences – our supporters – are fools?

The COST of Fundraising

Fastmap/IOF research says "integrate"

Key insights from the fastmap research into perceptions of engagement channels on behalf of the IOF UK 

The results suggest that:
• A multi-channel approach is likely to be most successful
• Those targeting 55+ females would be unwise to ignore traditional media
• Carefully-designed back-up material plays a key role in converting interest into support particularly collateral that links to other channels
• Some channels are more likely to generate low rather than high-value donations. This knowledge gives fundraisers the power to match their objectives with the media they select. Maximise recruitment versus immediate donations
• Viral fundraising activity such as the Ice Bucket Challenge and Movember have resulted in people engaging with channels in a different way by challenging and sponsoring friends and colleagues, texting photos and videos and spreading donation phone numbers

Download here:

Cost of Fundraising Infographic

For many NFPs in Australia, the cost of fundraising is a confusing topic. It can be frightening to many leaders who are new to fundraising. And it is difficult to determine an approach given the complexity of the subject and the often misunderstood perception of the donating public.

It's not surprising that organisations with smaller ambitions and less focus on individual giving fundraising will want to challenge the perceived high cost of fundraising among the public. They are quick to point out that gifts are largely going to the cause and they place more importance on communicating strong return on investment statistics and a cost effective approach to administration and fundraising.

Experienced fundraisers would point out that they are wrong to do so; organisations that go to great lengths to tell supporters and website visitors that they spend only 12c in every dollar on fundraising and administration are perpetuating a common misconception that charities should spend all the money they raise on the cause.

I was surprised, and a little dismayed when I started to look at cost of fundraising communication across NFP websites in Australia.

The cost of fundraising infographic is very attractive - and some organisations have created some eye-catching designs to express their penny-minding approach to improving lives or beating cancer. It is very disappointing that some of biggest larger charities - with huge acquisition budgets, large in-house teams, greater efficiencies of scale and larger media buying power - are touting the same cost of fundraising messages as those that have less understanding of what's at stake.

Let's open up some more constructive dialogue on the topic.
Please comment if you have an opinion.

There's nothing emotive about Tax.

It's that time again. Fundraising managers phone their counterparts to try and gauge the success of their Tax appeal as the June 30 deadline draws near. And as the opportunities to change the course of the campaign are whittled down to the last two days of the financial year, the flip of the coin is to send a desperate appeal email in a last ditch attempt to improve success - or avoid disaster.

And most organisations are getting it wrong.

Tax deductibility is a rational concept and it isn't a strong reason to give. Reading the multitude of emails that arrived today and will inevitably arrive tomorrow makes me feel we have completely dismissed so much of what we have learned as fundraisers.

- people give to people
- emotional engagement with the cause will convince people to donate over any rational reason
- the biggest motivating factor is engagement or proximity to the cause

In the last attempt to encourage donations before the deadline, it doesn't seem the best strategy to forget what we have learned. Tax deductibility might be a secondary, rational reason in support of the main argument. But we shouldn't lead on it. Let's hope there is some stronger, more motivating content next year.

More asks to high-value donors = more income

I don't suggest that asking for large gifts by mail is the right approach. However, this blog, published by everybody's friends at Future Fundraising Now references a study discussed on Grizzly Blog and points to the importance of frequent communication and asks for donations of our higher value supporters in much the same way as standard mail responders. 

Future Fundraising Now: More mail, more money

More mail, more money

Posted: 03 Dec 2014 04:59 AM PST

The Grizzard Blog shares one of those scary pieces of knowledge that live in the major donor world: Stop Mailing The Major Donors!

Actually, don't stop mailing the major donors.

The post reports on a test where five hundred $500+ donors were sent a list of the 12 direct mail appeals they were scheduled to receive in the coming year. They were given the chance to opt out of as many of those 12 as they liked. If they didn't respond, they'd get all 12.

37%, of those donors returned instructions. The highest number of appeals any of them selected was 3.

At the end of the year, they compared the group that received all 12 mailings to the group that had identified those mailings they wanted. 

The result was interesting: The donors who received all 12 mailings gave 35% more than those who restricted their appeals. 

This is a bit of a surprise to me. It's normal for a group getting less mail to give less. But usually, giving donors choice -- any kind of choice -- results in more giving. I'd have expected the positive impact of choice to outweigh the negative impact of less contact. Silly me.

There may have been something about the nature of this choice that pointed the donors in the wrong direction. If you think about it, those donors said no over and over again. Nine times or more. That sets a pattern.

But there's an important lesson here: Less mail, less giving. That's true in nearly every situation. Including major donors.

Never assume donors will give more or retain longer if they get less contact. It almost never works that way.


Innovative Greens Direct Mail Campaign - Victorian State Election

Fantastic campaign arrived in my letter-box yesterday. It stood out among the hate-inspiring anti-labor leaflets and multitude of Liberal propaganda that I've received in the last two months. Good stuff - keep it up @Greens #Vicvotes

4 insights from 2 top donors

As Published - fpadmin | 04 November 2014 
The key role of the chief executive officer and board in gift-making decisions was elaborated on two of Australia's most generous philanthropists – Simon Mordant AM and John Grill AO – at F&P's recent major gifts seminar, Liz Henderson reveals.
John Grill and Simon Mordant smallerA nonprofit’s chief executive officer and board have a central role to play in the process of major donors deciding to make a significant gift.
This was just one point made by John Grill (left) and Simon Mordant (right) – Australian philanthropists who between them have donated more than $35 million – in a candid interview at F&P’s recent Art & Science of Major Gifts Seminar in Sydney.
Mordant also stated that lack of engagement by a chief executive officer had been a factor in him ending his involvement with an organisation. While Grill said “too small” a vision of what he could help to achieve had prevented him committing large gifts in the past, and that he believes nonprofits should be prepared to cater to donors’ say in where their money goes.
The pair have plenty of experience in both major gift-giving and big business. Mordant is a long-time corporate advisor and recently retired managing director of the global investment banking company Greenhill, who with his wife Catriona started making significant charity gifts 15 years ago after they resolved to give away all their wealth during their lifetime. In 2010 they gave $15 million to support a major re-development at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
As for Grill, in 2012 he supported excellence in industry through a $20 million gift to establish the John Grill Centre for Project Leadership at the University of Sydney, where he studied himself before going on to become chief executive officer of international resources and energy company WorleyParsons.
Here are four of their insights:
1. Nonprofit leadership has a key role in major giving 
SM: We've got to believe in the governance, the chair, the board. We've got to feel very passionate about the CEO and the vision the CEO has. We want to spend time with the CEO’s team and make sure it is cohesive. With institutions we feel passionate about and where we believe in the CEO and the board, we're very comfortable to support core overheads.
JG: I think if you’re going to get major gifts or major projects being undertaken for your charity or nonprofit organisation, unless the CEO is involved it’s very unlikely to happen. Because you’re very unlikely to satisfy the demands of the donor and make them feel they are contributing to a worthwhile part of what you’re doing.
2. Lack of executive engagement can end relationships 
SM: I’ve had a couple of experiences with institutions we’ve supported where we’ve drifted apart – either because the CEO hasn’t wanted the level of engagement that we’ve sought, or there’s been a change in CEO and the incoming CEO has taken a different approach. Catriona and I have both been on boards, contributed meaningfully, served for years and at the appropriate time come off the boards - and never heard from the institution again. And you scratch your head a little bit.
3. Big vision inspires big gifts
JG: I’ve looked at giving a donation and really haven’t been able to sort out an arrangement that I was prepared to support – and in some cases, because the charity, in my view, weren’t thinking in a large enough manner. They had too small a view of what I might do, I suppose. And I think if they’d be prepared to come up with a bigger plan in the area I thought of, I probably would have supported it.
4. Charities should try to meet donor requests
JG: Sometimes, if they want to get that donation, they have to change what they are doing in an area. I think that, increasingly, donors will want to have a say in how the money is used: not directly, but certainly in how it’s streamed and if there is a particular project they think should be developed with their money. The charity should work with that donor to try to achieve that aim. And if they can, they get the money. If they can’t, they won’t.
 Liz Henderson is the editor of Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine.

Exercising Self-Control - an interesting insight

As published by Lumosity.

You could train your self-control with a technique that’s so easy, you can do it while you eat, flip channels, or brush your teeth. It might just be possible according to a new research study in which 70 college students went through 2 weeks of self-control training that involved using their non-dominant hands in everyday life. 
The strength theory of self-control
Many scientists liken self-control to a muscle: the more you use it, the more fatigued it becomes. If you’ve lifted weights until you’re sore, you’re more likely to drop a heavy bag of groceries; and if you’ve used your self-control until it’s drained, you might snap at a well-meaning friend. 

According to the researchers who conducted this 2013 study, the strength model also has a theoretical upside. They hypothesized that the students in this study could strengthen self-control in the long run — in the way that a body builder eventually strengthens his muscles after weeks of training — by practicing self-control more often. In this case, students would train by resisting the urge to use their dominant hands. 
How the study exercised self-control and tested aggression
At the beginning of the study, each student answered an Aggression Questionnaire to help researchers understand their natural aggression and anger levels. 

The students were then split into two groups: a training group and a control group. Over the next two weeks, the training group was told to exert self-control by using their non-dominant hands as much as possible for everyday tasks. The trainers filled out online diaries and answered text messages from the researchers to help stay on track. The control group received generic texts and questions during this time period.
After two weeks, all students came back to the lab to take part in two experimental tasks designed to provoke anger and aggressive behavior — and to help researchers measure how successful training had been.
First, students were told to present their life goals to a stranger over video chat. As far as the students knew, this stranger was meant to give constructive feedback. In reality, the stranger’s goal was to provoke anger: instead of real feedback, students got a barrage of insults. Immediately afterwards students answered questions about their anger levels

Next came a disguised test of aggressive behavior: students were told to play a competitive game against the same insulting stranger. If they won, they could punish their opponent with a loud blast of white noise. In reality, the “games” were rigged so that the students won every time, and the length and loudness of their blasts gave researchers an opportunity to measure aggression levels.
Less anger linked to self-control training
In the survey administered after the students received insulting feedback, the training group reported feeling less angry than the control group.
And when researchers looked only at students with high Aggression Questionnaire scores, an even more striking difference came out. The naturally aggressive people who didn’t undergo self-control training tended to deliver more aggressive blasts of noise, as expected; but the naturally aggressive people who did train self-control showed no unusually aggressive behavior.
What’s next?
Self-control is one of the more fascinating aspects of human behavior. While this study examined practicing self-control in a very specific situation, this ability can have far-reaching effects on other aspects of everyday life. In a past study, for example, researchers found that people perceive coworkers with higher self-control as better at their jobs. And anecdotally, all of us can remember a time when self-control felt crucial to a task.
That’s why it’s so encouraging to see researchers explore such a simple, accessible technique for training self-control. While further research remains to be done, the non-dominant hand technique is yet another way you can challenge yourself during your regular routine. Next time you play a Lumosity impulse control game like Color Match, add to the challenge by using your non-dominant hand.

Could this be the worst use of survey information ever witnessed?

This is not good marketing. Someone at Australia Post has convinced this company to spend money on targeting potential art investors via the lifestyle survey. Below is how they think an email communication on this subject should look:

Let's bullet what is wrong:
  • Why is it branded from Australia Post?
  • I'm not their target audience (not CEO, not an investor, not old or wealthy)
  • Why is there a pen writing on a computer screen?
  • Why is Grace Kelly worth more than gold? 
  • Can I rent Andy Warhol?


Revolutionary design for people living on less than $4 a day

D-Rev's Krista Donaldson tells McKinsey about a radical approach to medical design that is changing the lives of the world's poorest people. To read the transcript visit here.

Interestingly D-Rev - which stands for Design Revolution - has found that their mission cannot end with innovative designs.

Experience has taught D-Rev that in order to ensure their products are reserved for the people who really need them, they have to be responsible for the manufacture and distribution. The goal is to make sure an $80 knee is distributed to prosthetic clinics around the world and sold for $80 to low income recipients. In the US, an equivalent item would cost $6,000 and without this level of logistical responsibility, D-Rev products might be provided to clinics and individuals at a greater cost than intended.

Australia Post reduced deliveries should be seen as a big threat to direct mail

Many charities have spoken about the impact of a saturated direct mail environment and there is a level of criticism of the industry for sending too much mail - much of which lands in letter boxes on the same day.

If you are of the opinion that charity mail is being lost in the clutter, imagine what the situation will be like if Australia Post is successful in it's campaign to reduce the number of delivery days from five to three. Visit this link to read my article last month which encouraged people to acknowledge the importance of daily mail delivery as a public service which is still necessary for thousands of Australians. 

If Australia Post is allowed to make this change, direct mail responses will be impacted. If a supporter is forced to receive a week's worth of mail in three days rather than five, or worse, if their mail is held at a post office to be picked up in person, the clutter will increase and individuals will be far less likely to respond and donate.

Already the most significant expense in any direct mail campaign is the postage and these costs are unlikely to decrease as a result of reduced delivery days. More certainly, the number of responses received by charities - and therefore the amount of funds raised - will shrink. 

Are charities concerned about the potential impact? Should the not-for-profit sector be involved in the debate? Let's start talking: #charitymail