Online fundraising and Regular Giving increases: findings by M+R Benchmarks Report

It’s refreshing to see some solid benchmarking on the trends in the NFP sector.

In this 10th edition M+R Benchmarks has created some highly useful data on trends in online fundraising. It involved 105 participants in eight sectors.

Interestingly, it shows a decline in response rates to emails; revenue growth increased by growth in email lists.

The report shows an increased trend in monthly giving which is very positive as this is a great way to provide sustainable revenue for organisations.

You can read the whole report here and I’ve quoted some highlights below.  By the way, the report includes some useful and illuminating graphs particularly about which sectors are growing and which are declining.

  1. “13% of online gifts came from mobile devices

  2. For every 1,000 email subscribers, nonprofits have 355 Facebook fans, 132; Twitter followers, and 19 Instagram followers. In 2006, those numbers were basically zero, zero, and zero: Facebook was limited to .edu email addresses, Twitter was just about to launch, and Instagram’s founders were still in college.

  3. Nonprofits invested $0.04 in digital advertising for every $1 of online revenue. This might not seem like much, but considering that overall online revenue grew by 19% in the last year, digital advertising is an increasingly important market for acquisition, conversion, and retention.

  4. The volume has been turned way up: the average nonprofit in our study sent the average subscriber on its list 49 email messages in 2015.

  5. Monthly giving accounts for 17% of all online revenue – monthly giving is growing quite a bit faster than one-time revenue. In the first Benchmarks Study, only about half of the participants had a recurring giving program at all.”

 

We went dry in July and helped raise over $4m – with @Dryjuly

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@DryJuly, which raises money for adults living with cancer by supporting organisations involved with cancer research, equipment and treatment, raised over $4m this year through its online and social media marketing. See their beneficiaries here.

It’s a very cool annual campaign with very low effort on the part of the participants and I suggest it has the benefit of growing involvement year on year.

The campaign asks its participants to give up drinking alcohol for a month.  They can just stop there if they like – a great way to have a healthy month.  Most people however would make a donation to get involved and then perhaps raise money from their friends, family and colleagues.

It has a positive benefit for the participants who have an AFM – an alcohol free month – who basically could donate what they would have spent on alcohol during July to the Dry July campaign.

It would be interesting to see how many participants a) join again after the first year – ie their retention rate and then b) whether they raise or donate more money in subsequent years.  I’d like to know what their retention rates are given it is hard for many charities to attract regular donors via online channels.

It may also be a good way to involve men in fundraising – notoriously difficult.  Movember is another annual campaign (the participation requirement I like less as it involves my husband growing even more facial hair!) But I’m sure its successful in this time of trending beards!  This was a fantastic idea started in  2003 by Adam Garone (who sports a most impressive mo’) and the other three co-founders inspired 30 guys to grow a moustache or beard and fundraise for men’s health during the month of November. Now, 10 years later, the campaign runs in 21 countries and in 2012, over a million ‘Mo Bros’ and ‘Mo Sistas’ took part.  Some very hairy people out there! Barbers everywhere rejoice!

I love these innovative, fun and joyful ideas.  They focus very much on the user, the customer, the donor and do not rely on doleful images and sad stories.  Certainly, there is a need for that type of marketing (and many will tell you how well these elements help) but I do love the fun and happiness created by campaigns such as Movember and DryJuly.

Giving up the grog for July made me reflect on my own drinking habits – and that is a good thing. Perhaps its having a similar effect on others – another interesting piece of analysis to consider.

I encourage all of us in the fundraising and NFP sector to look for joyful ways to engage with our ‘customers’ and stakeholders – make them the hero, give them ways to engage that THEY like and watch how they get involved and even show off their participation.  Well done to DryJuly.  Great result.

New Game? It’s already the end of the 1st quarter!

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I can’t believe it’s March!” I’ve been hearing that all over town. And it’s true. As we near the end of the 1st quarter of the year (3rd quarter of Aussie financial year), time as usual, has flown.  Do you have a game plan for the rest of the year?

For me it’s been a new year that’s already brought considerable change.

I just completed my 5-year goal of overseeing a major campaign with the Zoos Victoria Foundation to raise more than $25 million, and am now steering my own boat, offering my strategic services as an independent and part time contractor.

After working for more than 15 years in full time roles in international aid, conservation and with the last 5 spent in the world of zoos, I’m excited to now be branching out to work with a very different animal; that being higher education sector and business organisations. Yes, it’s going to be a very interesting year!

Of course my passion for protecting threatened species remains as strong as ever, so I will continue to assist with fundraising strategies, and offer the benefit of my experience to other NFP organisations faced with branding, positioning and funding challenges.

Good design and the promotion of good Australian design is another long-held passion of mine, and I’m keen to see where that will lead me this year.

I’m currently growing www.gorgeoushampers.com as a way to promote Australian made produce – my gift hampers are such fun to design, create and distribute – and I’m hoping to continue sharing the joys of Aussie food and wine around the world. After all, who wouldn’t want to sample some of that?! So that’s my first quarter of 2015 taken care of!

What’s 2015 brought to you? I’d love to hear about any changes you’ve encountered or are proposing this year?

Remember, there’s only 3 quarters (eek!) to go to the final touchdown (or goal, depending on your game!).

I’ve shared my game plan. Love to hear yours!

Should you be certified?

CFREJust recently I decided to apply for certification as a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) Why? What? Did you know you could be such a thing? I was encouraged by my highly professional and effective fundraising colleague Stephen Mally of Fundraising Force that this was something that was considered highly important for all fundraisers and I do agree that it is important that we help recognise the skills and abilities required to be provide excellence in this challenging – and somewhat undervalued –  field.  It is not, as a lovely contact said to me the other day, just a matter of sending out a few ‘begging’ letters. He added: ‘Surely your assistant could do that?” I hope there’s more to fundraising than a few sporadic mailings no matter how well written?

For me, it was a choice to acknowledge the commitment I had made to my own career over these past 16 or more years. It was a way to promote the continuing professionalism of the sector and to encourage others to seek to further their own careers.

So I’ve signed up and will take the exam later this year.  I had a look at the number of  Australian ‘graduates’ to the certification and while there were a few there were not that many. So it made me ask? Do you think it’s worth the effort? Should it matter whether you’re a CFRE?  I’m interested in your thoughts.  And will let you know how I go with my study before the exam.  It never hurts to brush up on your knowledge and I’m sure I’ll also learn a few things I didn’t know before. If you’d like to find out more about CFRE, visit www.cfre.org or go to the Fundraising Institute of Australia website for more information.

What’s in a name? that which we call a Fundraiser by another name would it be as sweet?

Apologies to Shakespeare… But I’m pondering: Why do we call Fundraisers… well, Fundraisers?  Yes we do the action of raising funds … but that is so much only a part of the end result. What we do more than just raise dollars is build long term relationships and help philanthropists deliver on their own philanthropic goals.

In doing that we must do so much more that is often overlooked in the focus on the bottom line.

If you hire a Sales Person for your sales team, you want certain specific things from them in terms of meeting budget goals and building client relationships.  And clients hopefully are getting a product they want and need in exchange for their cash.

And yet a Fundraiser often must manage more than you’d expect from a sales person and it’s time we found a new description of this much misunderstood role. As a Fundraiser,  if you are to be successful in encouraging others to donate their time, talent and in particular treasure to an organisation, any fundraiser must learn an entire range of skills hidden in the term ‘fundraiser’ .

If you’ve ever met a great Fundraiser then you’d know that we are the sum of many parts. They are often good people managers, good financial managers, have a strong understanding of strategy: can take a helicopter view of a business to understand not just its financial needs but its priorities and urgencies.  They learn how to build long term relationships;  must learn how to recognise a philanthropist’s needs and goals and try to match them with their organisation’s needs and goals. It’s a tricky, sensitive business and one that takes maturity, knowledge and understanding of the role philanthropy plays in any non-profit business’s success.

Perhaps worrying about the title is a red herring. As with many things, it starts with the brief when a recruiter is starting to look for someone who can raise funds.

1. Forget the title: Look for relationship people – that is those who understand other people AND understand money and how it works within a business. 

2. Look for those who understand how to put together a strategic plan and can explain the organisation’s priorities to potential donors.

3. Look for those with a track record – yes, the bottom line does come into it, it’s just not the only thing.

4. Look for a link to your cause. Does the potential recruit really care about what you’re doing.

Just because I started this off looking at the title, I’d like to suggest a few alternative (nice) names for fundraisers:

Chief Relationship Officer; Strategic Prioritiser; Philanthropic Advancer, Bonding Adviser….

Perhaps the US has become more inventive – whatever we call them, fundraisers deliver a very valuable service to our non-profits and I believe it could be time we gave a higher recognition to their varied skills. They bring more to most organisations than just dollars. But as a ‘Strategic Prioritiser’ myself, perhaps I have a bias view. Over to you.

 

Can $50million ever be a bad thing?

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Much has been made of a recent philanthropic gift of $50m to an Australian university to set up a scholarship fund. Quite right, you might say.

The donation secured Graham and Louise Tuckwell the honour of having made the largest philanthropic donation to an Australian university by individuals.

The couple funded 25 scholarships of $20,000 each per annum for up to 5 years.

An interesting question is whether the University would have set up the scholarships without this impressive and very generous donation – ie was the scholarship a strategic or donor driven decision? Many organisations struggle with these questions. Should we accept a large gift which we otherwise would not receive unless we tie the gift to the donor’s specific requirements? It is not suggested that in this case the university in question had this dilemma – but is there ever a time when $50m is a bad thing?

Most not-for-profit organisations can cite examples of where trying to deliver on a donor request in order to secure a large gift has cost them more than if they hadn’t accepted the funds in the first place.

When a business (and non profit or otherwise we are all businesses) tries to deliver solely what is of interest to the donor, time and resources are taken away from other strategic priorities. Staff can become disheartened when they see their core needs being unmet while other ‘less urgent’ projects taking priority.

How do we avoid these situations and put ourselves in the best possible position to accept a generous gift AND improve our capacity to deliver on our core values and deliverables? I would suggest 3 things:

1. Be willing to have a transparent and honest discussion with the potential donor about what will really help your organisation deliver on its mission. What do you really need to move the organisation forward and meet the supporter’s philanthropic objectives?

2. Have a plan around your vision – if you can’t share your strategic vision with potential supporters how can they fund your highest priorities? If you don’t know, neither will they. Create a strategic plan with room for growth – show how you would put their funds to the best possible use.

3. Be willing to say no. Or to be more positive, be willing to say ‘yes’ to the gifts that will push you and your organisation along on its journey. Yes, you must always be flexible and you should know where the line is.

I wish all organisations the very best of luck and good fortune in their fundraising and hope their planning is going well for the next financial year. May another multi-million donation be just around the corner. Make sure you’re ready to say ‘Yes’ to it.

Read more about the donation here at the excellent Fundraising & Philanthropy Magazine http://www.fpmagazine.com.au/50-million-donation-for-australian-national-university-316794/