“Fundraising isn’t something they want to be seen to tweet about”!

A tale of a hard-working fundraiser trying to make the case for use of digital in fundraising.

I like helping out past colleagues, it’s a good way to stay in touch, chew the fat and talk a little shop. But I was a bit surprised by what I heard when a fellow fundraiser recently.  We worked with back in the day and he got in touch to see if I could help out with a few issues with the head of digital at the charity he works at now:

“ he doesn’t like me tweeting @charity or me tweeting from my account. They like to tweet once a day, and fundraising isn’t something they want to be seen to tweet about”

And this was the HEAD OF DIGITAL!? The hive mind was not impressed by this at all:

Here’s what else my old mate had to say:

“The other weekend we had the largest fun run in the country and I was the only one to tweet about it….I think this was a great opportunity to engage with supporters and I wanted to Storify it but I was only one getting invovlved”

There’s gold in them there hills

What was clear is that a good cause was missing out on some pretty great opportunities to engage with its supporters and that their fundraisers where putting their hand up to help them do this. Gold! Gold I tells ye!

So other than moaning about their head of digital (who I suggested consider a career change), here are the more constructive ideas I had to influence this muppet chap and break down some of the well established friction points found where comms meets fundraising.

I began with a couple of general points to try to erode the “we shouldn’t tweet about fundraising” rubbish. I thought it would be useful to remind him what digital in the third sector (all sectors, perhaps?) should be doing:

“Any organisation which isn’t leveraging the expertise of its digital team to change the ways of working and spread digital skills across the organisation is, in my opinion, going to be left behind”

That was from Laila Takeh pondering who owns digital in charities.

I also pointed out that a lot of experienced and senior fundraisers expect their team to get involved with social media – its part of their job.

“My team and I are all using social media at work and are always encouraging our supporters to fundraise online”

That was Gary Kernahan reflecting on what he learned at the IOF national convention.

Then I got down to some specific examples of good fundraising being expressed in some way digitally.

Some ideas that may help convince the naysayer

  • People who know their stuff are encouraging other fundraisers to use Twitter, “Jump in, the Twitter stream’s warm!”, they say
  • charity: water is probably the go to digital case study from the US, but they are pretty unique. Unique though they are, they are all about digital and  all about fundraising.
  • This is a great campaign, pretty much a one band (Mark Horvath — aka @hardlynormal)  who raises awareness of homelessness via social media and uses it to fundraise. The At Home Campaign has already raised over $36k and Mark is spreading the word about a very important issue digitally (On any given night, nearly 633,782 people in the United States experience homelessness — over 60,000 of them veterans)
  • But remember, fundraising and social media isn’t all about the Twitter  you need to make all the channels work together. A great example by Beth Kanter here, she raised over $5k in memory of her dad, Earl #OceanLoveEarl.
  • If all this compelling digital story telling wasnt enough, I also threw in a stat, courtesy of Just Giving, “just one share on Facebook encourages between £1 and £18 in extra donations.” Cha-Ching!

At this point I ran out of ideas and went back to work, but I can assure you my fundraiser buddy felt well equiped to fight the good fight.

What other tips would you have included?


“Why is Direct Marketing behaving in this way?”

A bit of a taster or my recent IOF London’s First Thursday masterclass “How to set up a direct marketing fundraising programme”

“Think of a cause, any cause, and I will give them £10…”

I started my talk by offering to give away the ticket price of the event to anyone willing to tell me their name and why they wanted to make the donation but, in order the qualify, they had to…

Think of that cause now. Think about the work that they do and imagine, if you’re not already, imagine you are a long term supporter with a monthly direct debit.

Now imagine you see an appeal from that organisation. Any type of appeal but one asking for you to increase your direct debit. The appeal might be about a new project or the need to do more work. And this appeal makes you want to increase your direct debit. So you do. You increase your direct debit by the amount the appeal asked for. Then, a few days later, you get three letters. Three separate, similar looking, letters:

  • One is a letter thanking for your old direct debit amount.
  • Another is the same thank you letter for a lesser amount.
  • And the third is a thank you letter for the new amount you have just increased your direct debit to.

Three, almost identical, yet contradictory letters. With your bank account details on them!

How does that make you feel? (The consensus in the room was that you would be pissed off)

Well it is a true story. All of that did happen and I was the person that sent the three letters. The man who got the letters thought we were wasting his money. Fair enough. So he telephoned the chief exec (by boss’s, boss’s boss!) and told him what he thought. And the chief exec emailed my then director and asked her,

“Why is direct marketing behaving in this way?”

I got the message from her by email too, because I was in database training that day. I didn’t comprehend the irony at the time.

The problem was that previous donations were not marked acknowledged. My process thanked all the gifts not marked acknowledged and I did not realise, when I sent the 50 or so thank you letters, that there were more letters than there should have been. So although that wasn’t completely my fault, it was my responsibility.

And from this I learned the obvious but important things about direct marketing.

The three obvious but improvement important things about direct marketing.

  1. Each person has the potential to take what you do very personally.
  2. A grasp of the detail will help you make that a process works for you and your cause.
  3. Sometimes you have to embrace failure.

I then got to the point and explained how to set up a direct marketing fundraising programme and gave away my £10.  Anna from CAFOD was the lucky fundraiser, here’s the proof (because transparency in fundraising is always a good thing)

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.

Give your fundraising tweets the #XFactor!

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

Image credit: http://luisgalarza.blogspot.com/2011/02/top-100-success-quotes-you-can-tweet.html

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!

Twitter fundraising in action – Listen, connect, thank!

Call it what you want – “social listening”, “keyword monitoring” – you can use social media to boost your charities fundraising. And it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Listen

You don’t know whose fundraising for you until the fundraiser tells you. Today, Sunday 8 Jan 2012 I was listening to the charities Twitter feed and I heard “I’m Skydiving for Muscular Dystrophy on 29th Feb Please sponsor me here & RT https://t.co/8GWKOGr4 @TargetMD xx”

And when I say I was listening, I was listening to lots of different lists, filters and time lines on Tweet Deck.

Use Tweet Deck to listen

My advice is find lots of ways to listen.

(I have a life, honest, but I couldn’t resist a bit of tweeting on a Sunday for a fundraiser ready to dive out of a plane)

2. Connect

I hit re-tweet.

Plus did a bit of extra sharing:

Share things and connect people, it helps people fundraise

Sharing is always good. Sharing and storytelling help you to connect people.

And then…giving happened:

I've #justsponsored Charlotte Gazzard on @JustGiving. Support them and Muscular Dystrophy Campaign @ justgiving.com/CharlotteGazza…Thank

3. Thank

And finally, and most important of all, I said

thank you to the donors”

(I used storify to say thank you)

The bottom line

This was a good result but it might need to happen 100 times a day to fund a research project.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign is on Twitter because it is a fast cheap and friendly way to interact with people, and you can use that for many different purposes. Advice, info and support are the big reasons to use social media – people want us to be there because they are.

So social media isn’t just for fundraising but it is still a good idea.