Fundraisers beware – people are fickle!

There was much amazement on Channel 4’s Paralympics/comedy show The Last Leg when a knitted Adam Hills doll on EBay was mentioned and bids rocketed up to over £34,000, with Great Ormond Street Hospital set to benefit. But people were not as generous come the end of the auction, bid after bid was retracted and the actual result was £12,100.

The Adam Hills doll

Bids peaked at over £34,000 but over half were retracted


Still a result for GOSH I think but it just goes to show, people are fickle and even the most concrete looking fundraising pledge can fall short.



You don’t need a microsite, you need a message!

People often ask me about building a fundraising microsite and I’m happy to help them. But, the thing is, I think they are asking the wrong question. Maybe they should ask, “what tools do I need to fundraise online?”

The microsite delusion – if you build it, they will come

Is there a cause you are passionate about and you want to raise funds for them? Great. Here’s a tip for you – you don’t need a website, you need a message.

A message and an audience. So where is the biggest audience, like, ever? Facebook.

“Alough the website was useful, the most effective tool was Facebook”

Phil Szomszor, Fundrasier for St Michael’s Hospice

Hell yeah it was.

Now I know Phil also said his website was “useful” but this is a guy who works in Technology PR, so he probably had skills and resources that most people don’t. And, even then, the most effective tool was still Facebook.

So don’t go about building a website unless you are slinging them up left, right and centre faster than a boy scout can pitch a tent. Otherwise it is simply too much effort for what you will get out of it – not enough bang for your buck, a mediocre return on investment, a sub optimal cost income ratio. Getting the picture?

Fear not, Facebook is an awesome tool

Facebook works great for fundraising – spreading your message, hosting events, sharing photos, video, links to press coverage. It does pretty much everything a website can do. Not Convinced? Then ponder these facts:

  • A spontaneous Facebook campaign resulted in the NSPCC gaining 50,000 new supporters and around £100,000 in donations in just 48 hours. The number of visitors to the children’s charity’s website also shot-up up by 500%.

NSPCC tweet

  • 27% of Just Giving donations are from Facebook and that was in 2011, it’s probably gone up.
  • Facebook completely outstrips other soical networks for the number of donations it provides

(Many thanks to Just Giving for those stats, you can find our more in their fundraising infographic.)

That’s right – you don’t need a fundraising microsite

You need a message. A story. Something people can identify with. I can’t tell you what that should be, but you will know it when you see it.

I would advise though not to rush into the raising awareness and spreading the word about your fundraising until you have worked out what your story is. It is very important. People learn through stories and if you want them to listen to you and take action, you need the right message. The right story.

Once you have a message, then you can think about the most effective tools to spread the word and what might work for you. I would only consider three in the 1st instance and in this order

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Blogs

And I probably wouldn’t bother with the blog to start off with.

Once I was happy that I was spreading my message, telling my story effectively, I might consider adding in some other elements to build upon that. Perhaps a little content curation but only if I thought what I was doing was working. By “working” I mean spreading my message, getting people to help out, getting some press coverage, getting people sponsoring or sending in ££. Things I could count, measure or spend.

If you are Facebooking and Tweeting away and you still don’t think you are getting the results you want, you might need to make sure your message is working for you. Do people “get” your story?


All of these things, Facebook and wot not, are just tools. It is your story that is doing the fundraising because your story is the most powerful way to get your fundraising message across, social media is just a way to share the story.

So, what’s your story?

Is face to face fundraising a joke?

I like a laugh and, like Stewart Lee, believe that “Great comedy can act as both a social barometer, and a social pressure valve.” So when I hear one of Britain’s top comics talking about fundraising, I’m interested. Along with Shaun Lock, who made some interesting points (and funny jokes, obviously) about digital slacktivism, Kevin Bridge’s set on Channel 4’s Comedy Gala for Great Ormond Street Hospital touched on face to face fundraising. Although he did not the use of the phrase “chugging” (“charity mugging”) he did highlight the negative conations that word represents.

For Kevin Bridges, face to face fundraising is linked to guilt and pressure. When you see a man with a clipboard in the street, it’s time “to plan your excuses” but sometimes,

“You don’t think fast enough and the charity guy is right in your face and he’s caught you off guard,

‘Excuse me sir would you like to help sick children?’

‘No, sorry. I’m just..ermm…no. Nope. Fuck ‘em mate fuck ‘em.”

And there we have it, it is absurd to not want help sick kids, but when someone stops you in the street to get your bank details to help that cause, you feel trapped, caught out, cajoled and are preparing excuses. Is that what fundraising is about?

No, this is not what good fundraising is about. But, worryingly, people seem to think it is.

“But there is no control over what is said”

Some thoughts on the challenges social media poses to care professionals providing info, support and advice and some ideas on how I (and perhaps you!) can help them…

Part of what I do involves training people on how to use digital tools to get things done. Things like fundraising, PR and, now, service delivery. Soon I will be parachuted in to a small (ish, around 13 staff) national charity to spend half a day with their fundraising team and half a day with their services team. The fundraisers are already using social networks to support their work, but the services team are not out of the starting blocks…yet.

Now I know a bit about service delivery, mainly through by work as a trustee at Bexley Moorings Project, but I am by no means an expert. So I’m not going in there with any preconceptions of how they should use social networking to help support their client group. What I am going in there with, I hope, is an understanding of the skills they will need and the questions they need to answer to work out what their strategy should be and what procedures they might need to make that happen.

I have one concern though, how far can I take them toward their end game of informing families about how they can help and providing them with the most relevant support?

They have already begun thinking about this (my title comes from their notes) and have identified areas they want to look at and, of course, they know well how to support their client group. So what happens if they quickly grasp all the tech? At that point they may know everything I know which is relevant, but I will be lacking the understanding of nuances of their work. What happens then? I think need help.

Can you help?

Any advice in the form of a comment below would be grand but what I would really love is for someone with relevant knowledge and experience – I’m thinking perhaps someone involved with service delivery for people with disabilities, someone from a social work background or maybe someone who works in an advocacy service – to drop in on the training via Skype (or Google+ if you’re down with kids) for a good old chin wag. Are you in?

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!