Digital Vs Direct Mail #IOFNC

I like direct mail, I like digital. But which is better…

Okay it’s not about which is better, but is it possible for digital media to completely replace print for fundraising engagement and conversion in five years? That’s the subject of debate for what could be a cracking session at this year’s Institute of Fundraising National Convention. I’m torn.

Firstly, I’m a big fan of AJ Leon, so much so his last IOF appearance, unFundraising, was the subject of my first ever blog. He is a great fundraiser and speaker, but the area of my job that brings in the most consistent ROI is not my digital work, it’s our direct mail programme. And by a long way. So, for me at least, digital has got a long way to come to deliver the same conversion and ROI.

So Mr Pidgeon, who I have not heard speak but has all the credentials to give Mr Leon a run for his money, has some solid numbers to build his argument on I imagine. It’s going to take more than  just a few solid case studies to knock that down. However, we’re talking about what is going to happen in five years time. Digital already has print licked for reach, engagement and scalability. And it is evolving…fast!

There are organisations making digital work for fundraising now . According to CEO Scott Harrison when interviewed in January this year, 75 percent of charity:water’s donations come from the from the Web. In February, when I was at The Good Agency’s Social Media Week London event, Social Giving – fundraising’s “third way”?, Paul Young, charity:water’s Director of Digital, quoted 80 percent.

I admit, charity:water is the exception and not the rule. And it’s a pretty unique cause; they take no transaction fees from gifts to cover processing costs – 100% to the cause. But could their model or similar become the norm and how long will that take?

In five years, who else can catch charity:water and what tools will they have?

How well AJ Leon can answer that question, will decide if he can convince me that the very solid numbers Stephen Pidgeon can quote, can be beaten by digital within five years.

Personally, I hope digital makes that kind of impact as soon as possible.

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A beginner’s guide to #BarcampNFP

I didn’t know what to expect of an ‘unconference’ before I went to Barcamp, if only there was a handy beginner’s guide…

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It’s not a conference

It’s an unconference! So don’t be surprised if you don’t get registered the moment you arrive. You might turn up at a session with no one leading it because they got caught up in something else. So?

That predictable stuff is for boring conference dwellers, at an unconference you just get stuck in: “as no one seems to be leading this, shall we just start chatting about social media fundraising.” So we did.

Out of chaos comes order

There is no pre set agenda, that as much was clear beforehand, but exactly what was in store I did not know until I got there. But then again, no one knew.

“One of the major rules of each barcamp is participation. This is exactly why the organisers almost expect all attendees to prepare to contribute to the day with their insights and willingness to take part in discussions. From this point of view all attendees are speakers! “

This actually made me a bit nervous, I’m often the person in the room who knows the most about digital/social media (it’s why I get invited to meetings) so this room filled with expertise had potential to intimidate. A bit.

But it was fear of the unknown really, the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming, the knowledge on the floor varied and so the emphasis on participation felt right, not daunting. I started to learn stuff.

Bring Questions, take answers

Because the day is free-form, you can help shape it. A great chance to really make use of the experience of others to help you do what you do. I took the opportunity to throw out a few questions underlining some of what I’m working on at MDC.

Getting to know how other people approach explaining digital tools and why they should use them to the “non techy”, how to show the value and impact of social media (if, in fact, it should be called that) and how to go about managing a website with multiple contributors. These where all things I got help with.

Share answers, take questions

I especially enjoyed Laila Takeh’s lunchtime session called if digital is integrated – who owns it? It covered a lot of ground, I enjoyed being involved but what I took away were questions. Who does own digital? I hope it’s me.

Learn stuff

I learnt a lot of stuff and have a bunch of ideas to take back to the orgs I work with, stuff like this.

I hope this beginner’s guide will be useful to someone; if you have any questions, just ask.

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Give your fundraising tweets the #XFactor!

I have a simple formula for making a fundraising impact with Twitter,

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Something + Twitter = Success

And it doesn’t really matter what the somehting is. By which I mean Twitter is at its most effecive when it is combined with other activty, other media; something else that is going on right now. In this example, it is the X factor.


I’m not the biggest fan of the X Factor, as I believe it possible that Simon Cowell has killed pop music and now he’s doing something unpleasant to its corpse. But my opinions about the “repulsive” Cowell and reality TV aside, the X Factor is a Twitter phenomena that creates an immense amout of conversation, so there is an opportunity there for charities if you can be relevant to the conversations they are having.

I was very impressed the job the Blue Cross did when they were on undercover boss, so when I heard the Lloyd family, who live with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, would feature on the X factor I thought it was an opportunity to raise awareness of the work Muscular Dystrophy Campaign does funding research and supporting people with MD. So that is what I did, and we got some of the most re-tweets we ever have:

X Factor re-tweets

Pleased as I was about this, the real win came months later when I spotted one of our fundraisers tweeting about their Just Giving page and I read some very interesting stuff about why she was fundraising in her story:

You might remember seeing the video on the X factor showing the Lloyd family and 3 brothers affected by this disease. I was inspired by seeing this, and meeting individuals from the charity, to help & raise money for this worthwhile charity.

I got in touch with Jill to find out a bit more:

So I cannot claim that it was all about the tweeting; it was a magic combo of the X Factor, tweeting and some face-to-face contact that got Jill inspired by the work of MDC. But none-the-less, I’m delighted by how the methods the charity are using worked in harmony here to draw in a new supporter by explaining to them what we do and the kind of people we help. Jill could have fundraised for the hospice that was featured in the X Factor or perhaps a Duchenne specific charity, but she didn’t.

I’m putting this down the magic formula of something + Twitter = Success.


Perhaps Simon Cowell ins’t so bad, he did have a hand in this and the awareness really means a lot to a small (ish) charity. So some humble pie for me, but I did learn some things about fundraising and Twitter.

Be relevant

You cant just rock up on Twitter and start asking people for cash on eviction night. Well you can, but it won’t work and it most likely make you look like a spammer. But if you know something is going to be on TV that is related to your cause, the people you support, or the work you are doing; live tweeting during the show is a great opportnity to make connections with people, raise awareness and perhaps fundraise.


When I got back to the office on Monday, I had measures to share. Very important for convincing anyone who thinks social media may not be all its cracked up to be or a bit wishy washy. These people exsist! And sharing your measures with them is a powerful way to get them on board.


This post would not be here if I didnt hear what Jill was saying on Twitter and take the time to read her story on Just Giving. Those sections of Just Giving are a goldmine of great stories – mine that gold and share!


I tweeted about Jill’s fundraising, asked questions and blogged about it, it has all helped me to learn more.


Although I didn’t ask Jill for money, someone from the chariy went to her work and asked for support. This wasn’t an accident, Jill was asked and because she knew about the impact DMD had on the Lloyd family, she wanted to help.

And finally…

I would like to thank the Lloyd Famliy, the X Factor, my charity colleagues, Together4ShortLives and Jill, of course. They all had a hand in this, I just wrote about it.

And don’t forget, you can still sponsor Jill!


Jill’s event was postponed by snow until Sunday 19 February, so she took the opportunity to do a bit more fundraising and thanking her donors on Twitter. This blog also got a mention. Good luck Jill!

She did it!

Well done Jill!