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.”

 

Is life really what happens when you’re making other plans?

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John Lennon had a point when he sang ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans‘ – when it comes to every day life, it does seem like we plan one thing and end up doing something completely different . The thing is, these ‘plans’ are often not really plans at all. They are more like vague aspirations into which we put little effort so guess what, we end up doing something else (or nothing at all!)

When it comes to businesses, it can be much the same. We think we have a plan of action when in fact what we have is a germ of an idea that we might do something about later on… or maybe tomorrow… our plan of action becomes one big procrastination (or to be more polite, we put it off to do something else).

That’s why writing down our plans is a very good idea. Ever wondered why when you write a list you actually get things done? It works the same way for a plan. Get something on paper and start ticking off the action points. The written word has incredible power and a plan of action is a great way to make your goals come to life.

So why don’t more of us write a plan? Some of the reasons given for not writing down goals and objectives seem reasonable until we explore them:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Objection 1: I might change my mind – this is in fact a self fulfilling prophecy.  You will almost certainly change your mind about your goals and plans but even more so if they are not written down – partly because you’ve already forgotten most of what you wanted to do! When they are written down, you can amend, embellish, clarify but you still have a plan.

“You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.”, Gordon B Hinkley

Objection 2: I don’t like committing my ideas to paper

I love this quote.    How many times have I done this? Turned an idea over and over in my mind and never actually made it to the ‘field’.  The thing about just thinking about idea is that it is very easy to persuade yourself that the idea isn’t a good one. You work with the knowledge you have in your head only.  When you write up a plan, you can isolate those areas that need more research, where you have just made assumptions, where you know the truth of the idea… it’s liberating as once it’s written down, you can actually stop thinking about it for a while! And then get on with it when you’re ready.  There’s really is something fun (believe me!) about updating a draft plan you’ve written and getting all the detail into it so that you can figure out how you do.   You can share it with a good friend or your partner and start to get their feedback in an objective way. Try it it’s fun!

 “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Objection 3:  I don’t like planning, I prefer to be spontaneous!

This is interesting because it is the act of planning (and not the dreaming about planning)  that is the whole point.  Planning, in my view makes you consider all possibilities and look forward. You consider the alternatives, you play with how you utilise your resources, you consider options. You can consider what your obstacles might be (in business, how the competition might react).

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” ― Peter F. Drucker

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Final word.  Get out there. Take your best plan (and the best plan is the one you have right now) and do something with it. Commit to your goals and objectives and get on with the things that are most important to you.  Get your business moving, learn that language, travel to the Pyramids.  Plan your work and work your plan.   Life is waiting for you. Unless you have some other plans 🙂

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!

Everything is awesome! Or, what I learnt from the Lego movie

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A 24 hour plane journey from Melbourne to London and a multitude of movies I would otherwise never watch led me to a memorable hour or so watching the new Lego Movie.  A bit of ‘The Matrix’ meets ‘Family Guy’ I thought and all was good. Then, darn it, something started happening. I started thinking that there were messages hidden in this ingenious cartoon creation that I could learn from.

Perhaps it was jetlag but I was getting intrigued. Was this the subtext that I’m told is always submerged for adults only that is apparently part of every feature-length animated movie these days? You tell me.

So if you don’t know the movie, the evil Businessman is trying to ensure that everything stays perfect for ever and that the world works according to his and only his plans.

Mostly Lego world is doing just that until a humble construction worker stumbles upon a great secret that will change the world. He is the chosen ‘Special’ one (getting the matrix metaphor yet?)

Up to now we see an almost automated world where everyone knows where they should be, what they should be doing and what song they should love the most hence: ‘Everything is awesome!’ Yes this song is very annoying but you can’t help singing along! (Try the video and you’ll see…)

So get on with the learnings you say!

1. Being creative does not mean being random and disorganised

As the ‘special’ becomes known to the underground Lego resistance (yes I said that) he gathers together his band of merry men and women and they try to fight the bad guy in their own individual ways which leads to chaos and almost disaster. Teamwork is the answer – creative teamwork.

2. A charismatic leader is not needed

The Special tries his best to be inspirational but as he’s never been much more than ordinary humble construction worker who has always followed the rules he doesn’t know how to be a leader in fact he doesn’t have any real ideas at all. This does not stop them.

3. We are all special.

The lonely guy Emmet (the Special) discovers that he’s sort of not really the special after all. But it doesn’t matter! He’s special in a way no-one else can be and in a way no-one else expected! Go figure!

4. Following the rules is not always bad

Our little anti-hero Emmet (the Special) encourages his gang to fight the badguys with their own rulebook and use  it in their own way, an unexpected tactic which means that they work together as a team and beat the villains at their own game.  This they do to great success.  But they still manage to use their individual skills and creative expression. One even gets to build a spaceship and he is very excited. But I digress.

5. Trying to make everything perfect (or awesome) is not always very much fun or very helpful.

We want to give people enough guidance to work in effective collaboration to achieve positive results but not so much that all freethinking is stifled and they become robots following orders.

6. Help me clarify my objectives, give me a set of tools and some guidelines and let me at it.

A wise advertising man once said: “Give me the freedom of a tight brief” and he wasn’t discussing his underwear. Clarity of goal and methodology is very useful if we allow for individual skills and ideas and if we accept that ideas we wouldn’t have thought of while different are not necessarily wrong and could even be exactly what we needed at that moment.

7. It’s only work right?

When we take it all too seriously it becomes onerous for everyone and no fun at all. When you think we’ll spend 1/3rd of our lives asleep and 1/3rd (or more) at work (I don’t recommend you do them at the same time) it makes sense to make it interesting, engaging and allow for use of our diverse and unique skills.  I mean in that way, everything may actually be awesome! Yay!

 

Thanks for your interest. I’m writing this from the International Fundraising Congress in Holland where I am meeting and hearing from many hugely inspirational people who have to work with incredibly complex rulebooks and still manage to be creative, highly effective and in some cases, very charming. So far no spaceships, but there is time.

Until next time.

 

 

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.