Are you striving for effective, efficient fundraising to achieve your mission? Then a laser focus on learning your fundraising fundamentals from start to finish should be your first priority.
Learn what works. Learn how to do it, and do it well. Learn why it works. Teach. Repeat.
A radical fundraiser doesn’t add a fresh coat of paint to a broken down car. They know there is as much value in knowing what not to do, as in knowing what’s next. They’ll never stop striving for the most effective, stripped-down solution to achieving their goals. They know that less is more, but least is best.
Too often, because we’re all struggling to save time, we can get tricked. Tricked into thinking that there is always a short cut if we just look hard enough. That instead of the often arduous task of rebuilding a broken system from the ground up, there’s an elegant solution to be found. These elegant or simple solutions are rarely what they seem, because they don’t often account for the required execution.
Here’s what you have, or will, hear most often:
1. Simple solutions requiring complex execution
2. Simple solutions with an undefined execution
3. Simple solutions with an unrealistic execution
None of these are what we are want, because what we all want is a simple solution with a simple execution. But if you can’t execute, there are no simple solutions. The only productive path forward is to look at the three scenarios above, and know how to get started. Knowing how to break down complex systems into manageable parts, knowing how to design systems where they don’t yet exist, and knowing how to manage expectations – these are the skills of a radical fundraiser.
The common excuse from smaller charities that they don’t have the budget for an agency or consultants. As if there’s a chest of trade secrets that agencies have access to that you don’t. The truth is, they don’t. The best ones are on top of their game because they’ve committed to their craft, and have made it part of their corporate culture to never stop improving. They search out great talent, and they care as much about your cause as you do.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well there’s no reason you can’t – or shouldn’t – be building a team on the same principles: commitment to one’s craft, continuous learning, and high talent standards.
If radical fundraising is a secret weapon for the small and medium-sized nonprofit, then the Radical Fundraiser has to be all of the above and more. Adaptable. Always learning, always testing. A chameleon. A sponge.
Not long ago, I posted my summary of a study that looked into the amount of money actually raised online by Movember. As a follow up, I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the study’s authors. A big thanks to Nugroho Dwi Prasetyo and Claudia Hauff of the Web Information Systems at Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), as well as Dong Nguyen, Djoerd Hiemstra, Tijs van den Broek from the University of Twente (Netherlands).
What were some of the reasons or rationale for choosing Movember as your subject of study?
We chose Movember for a couple of reasons. First of all, we were interested in the motivations of campaigners, and Movember provides interesting data because campaigners make a Movember profile page that explicitly contains their motivations. Previous research suggested that people that express social motivations (e.g. “joining my good friends again this year”) are reluctant to give more than token support due to a lack of interest in the campaign’s cause, hence we call them “slacktivists”. We expected Movember to be a campaign that attracts a substantial number of such slacktivists. Furthermore, Movember is a global campaign, so we expected to be able to study effects at a large scale, including the effects of different local campaigns in various countries. Last but not least, the Movember foundation is very interested in our research outcomes, and supports our work by providing additional data on web site visits and donations. We visited the Movember head quarters in the US to discuss our findings and plans.
Do you suspect that the conclusions of the study would be relevant to health charities that don’t have the brand recognition that Movember does?
Interesting question. In 2013, the hashtag #mamming went viral on Twitter. Users accompanied the hashtag #mamming with a picture, in which women placed their breasts on a daily object (e.g. a car, bar, office table, etc.). In this way, Twitter users raised awareness about the importance of breast cancer screenings to diagnose cancer in an earlier stage. This case illustrates that the mass interactivity and publicness of Twitter help campaigners to mobilize, even if they have not yet established any brand recognition: The #mamming campaign is different from #movember because it is a grassroot campaign with a bottom-up organization, rather than the top-down organization of Movember. We are now analyzing the diffusion process and characteristics of the campaign network to see if the similar conclusions hold for grassroots campaigns that do not have the brand recognition of Movember.
Do you suspect that the conclusions of your study would be similar for non-health charities, like international development, the arts, etc.?
I suspect so, the questions we study are relevant to many campaigns: The motivations of campaigners, the influence of the central campaign organization, the influence of celebrities. We might study such campaigns in the future. On 22 January 2016 we organize a Symposium SupportTheCause at the University of Twente with speakers from UCLA, Movember, Twitter, Sanquin (Blood donations in the Netherlands) and BKB Nederland (commercial campaign organizers). More information on this will follow.
During the course of the study, did any organizations besides Movember stand out to you as being particularly adept at using Twitter?
Our interests are not limited to Movember. We are analyzing multiple campaigns or cancer early detection, including #Mamming (breast cancer), #DaveDay (pancreatic cancer) and #HPVReport (cervical cancer). An increasing number of patients worldwide dies from cancer, making it one of the most urgent global healthcare issues. The WHO claims that about one third of all cancers could be prevented. Early detection of cancer could save thousands of lives yearly. Hence, it is important to raise awareness about the necessity of regular screenings and early diagnosis. Social media, such as Twitter, are gaining popularity as a medium for cancer early detection campaigns from healthcare organizations and concerned users.
Do you have any advice you would give a small charity with limited resources on how to improve their fundraising on Twitter?
From our Movember study we find that campaigners with an ‘injustice’ motivation (“I had testicular cancer” or “for my dad”) raise significantly more donations, so they are very important to such health campaigns. We also found, in the case of Movember, the biggest group of campaigners have a ‘social identity’ motivation. These campaigns raise much less if they campaign as individuals (so the “slacktivist” hypothesis seems to hold up), but in teams they raise more. Hence, giving campaigners ways to team up seems to help the campaign. Finally, we showed that having celebrities tweet about the cause has a measurable positive effect on the campaign, but in the case of Movember, the organizational tweets seem to have a bigger impact on the number of visitors to the Movember site than celebrities.
Radical Fundraising is nothing new.
I’m not suggesting we abandon or replace the best practices that brought us to this point. For me, Radical Fundraising is a reform of existing standards and practices to make them more applicable, and more effective, for today’s increasingly under-resourced fundraising shop.
I use the term under-resourced most often, because this isn’t about big shop versus small shop. ‘Small’ and ‘large’ are relative terms. Bigger is not always better, and small is not always a disadvantage.
In today’s competitive environment, under-resourced can be your competitive advantage.
Under-resourced can mean you’re undervalued. Under the radar. Underestimated by your board, your donors, and maybe even underestimated by the very people you’re trying to help.
It’s precisely this moment when you’re least expected to succeed that an abrupt change in strategy may in fact be the most direct path to success. It’s now that you are most able to implement a radical new style of fundraising. Here are 5 starting points for you to consider. How many could you pull off?
1. Radical Recognition: Stop calling people that support you ‘donors’ altogether. Call them campaigners, call them activists, call them shit disturbers and radicals. If they’re standing with you to create social change, that’s what they are.
2. Radical Stewardship: Throw segmentation out the window, and treat every donor like they’ve helped move mountains. When you run out of hours in the day, recruit volunteers to help.
3. Radical Fundraisers: It can be possible to strike a balance between a suit-wearing “professional” and a flag-waving activist. We don’t have to choose one or the other.
4. Radical Roles: The archetype of the ruthless campaign operative doesn’t have to stay relegated to politics. Regardless of sector we can be just as ruthless while remaining principled and respectful, exhaustingly thorough yet nimble.
5. Radical Skills: The movement needs tech-savvy, data-driven decision makers to move in lock step with communication specialists that can strike with a succinct, simplistic, bone chilling call to action that can’t be ignored. Better yet, we need people that can do both.
Wow, Kay Sprinkel Grace’s presentation at AFP Congress BLEW UP Twitter. So much so that I couldn’t resist pulling together a summary for anyone who wasn’t there, or forgot to take notes:
Were you like me, not able to go to the AFP Toronto Congress this year? I’ve been watching tweets come fast and furious on Twitter under the #AFPcongress hashtag, and Dan Pallotta’s keynote presentation was clearly full of amazing quotes. Here’s a quick Storify of some of the best:
If you haven’t noticed yet, the path to achievement and success is not all upside. For every milestone you meet, there is a price to pay in return.
This year has been the most successful of my career, but it’s brought more stress than ever before. In the midst of it all, it was confusing. Achieving these goals should be giving me conviction and energy, not stress and uncertainty, right? I was lacking perspective on why this was happening, and feelings of burnout were creeping in.
For highly productive fundraisers like you, stress and burnout can almost be a given. It’s a fast moving domino-effect that looks something like this:
1. Achieving big goals requires setting big goals.
2. Big goals will mean more unknowns.
3. Overcoming unknowns requires learning and growth.
4. Learning and growth requires sacrifice and discomfort
5. Sacrifice and discomfort create stress and burnout.
It doesn’t have to stop there, but for many it does. Plus, none of that considers layers of stress you might have at home, challenges with co-workers, health issues you may be working through, etc.
What needs to happen is an intervention between steps 4 and 5 to acknowledge the onset of stress and to begin managing it in a deliberate manner. I’m going to stop short of giving you advice on how to best manage your stress because there are a tremendous amount of resources out there from qualified professionals. Talking to your doctor would be a good start, and go from there.
If you’ve been at this a while and have been there, this post is probably stating the obvious. For the younger professionals, I hope this helps! If it does, let me know on Twitter @brockwarner or connect and send me a note on Linkedin.
If you’re a fundraiser and you use Twitter, you’re probably like me – you really, really want to combine the two but it’s just never succeeded quite like you’ve hoped. Chances are, if pressed to justify the use of Twitter within a multi-channel fundraising strategy, you’ll fall back to hackneyed phrases like “it’s about relationships”, “we need to start a conversation”, “we need to widen our circle”, etc. The answer is never “because it will raise more money”.
What doesn’t help is a lack of comprehensive published research, which I believe stems from differing opinions on how to qualify and track these donations.
A group of researchers in the Netherlands took on the challenge using one of the most successful online fundraising campaigns this decade – Movember. [Read the full study here, as a pdf] They tested three straightforward hypotheses:
1. The more well-known Twitter users support a Movember campaign, the more funds the campaign will raise.
2. Movember campaigns that emphasize the social and fun aspect of the campaign will engage users better, and thus will raise more funds.
3. Movember campaigns that focus on health topics raise more awareness to the campaign, and thus will raise more funds.
The study included data from Australia, UK, Canada and the US, and they defined a “Twitter donation” as a completed gift that originated from a Twitter link. For the first hypothesis, they normalized the definition of a “well-known” user by region. For individuals in the US it was 100,000+ followers, UK was 20,000+, Canada was 11,000+, and Australia was 7,000+. They collected and combed through 406,000 tweets, and compared those with the $357,000 Australian dollars via Twitter from 21 unique national Movember campaigns, originating from 127 different countries.
And in case you’re wondering, they found that 2.9% of all Movember donations in 2013 can be attributed to Twitter.
Across all countries the team “did not find significant correlations between donations and Twitter activities”.
There were significant correlations between Movember website visitors and the Movember-related activities of well-known Twitter users, and ultimately these are potential donors. An increase in online donations requires an increase in traffic from new sources, so this finding is not insignificant. The team found in Australia and the UK that tweets emphasizing the social aspect of Movember drew in significantly more visitors than health topics, while in Canada and the US this same correlation was weak or non-significant.
What I take away from this is an affirmation of what myself and others have long suspected – Twitter is best used as the beginning of what will likely be a long, involved donor journey. If Twitter were a nightclub, a tweet is a glance across the dancefloor with a hope that you’ll make brief eye contact and not come off as creepy. Every relationship has to start somewhere.
Again, all credit here to the researchers. You can read the much more detailed methodology and additional findings in their paper “What Makes or Breaks a Health Fundraising Campaign on Twitter [PDF]” published in October 2015.
UPDATE: If you liked this, you’ll also like Part 2.
If you believe that any form of grassroots movement can affect social change without first considering how monetary influence plays a role, you’re wrong. Change requires a shift of power, and money is the most powerful lever we have at our disposal to move, exchange or redistribute power.
Whether it’s cash, product, service or skill, somebody pays at some point in time. The change may come about on a macro scale, like electing politicians, eradicating stigmas, or enacting or redacting laws. Or, at a micro scale like paying forward a good deed, stocking a food bank’s shelves or planting trees – regardless, somebody pays.
Attempting to create positive social change is radical. But, we typically point to the end result – the art that was created, the cure, or the books on the shelf – as the indicator that progress has been made.
Fundraisers are great (I hope) at telling donors that their gift was the moment that dreams became reality. But what if the fundraiser never asked? Donors or potential donors often have an idea or intention smoldering away. They know they want to help, and they know they have something to offer. Great fundraising by great fundraisers should be like gas on a fire.
Fundraising is the first radical act because it makes donor’s dreams a reality, which in turn make big change possible.
Where do we go from here:
Picketing students in Montreal, Idle No More activists in Attawapiskat, law students in New Brunswick or a coder in Vancouver – these people are, and will continue to be at the leading edge of the next century’s social change movements. What they are not likely learning is how to raise money quickly, effectively, and ethically. If we aren’t offering to, or even recruiting them, for an opportunity to learn and practice fundraising fundamentals, we’re doing a disservice to our country, and the lives they could potentially change because a funded movement is significantly more likely to succeed than an unfunded movement.
Radical fundraising, to me, means harnessing the intense passion and emotion – anger, if possible – to propel forward action. Fundraising is a not-so-distant cousin of pickets, boycotts and sit-ins, and grabbing hold of that passion in your donors or the public is powerful if you can pull it off. And take my word for it – age is a variable independent of passion.
My submission is that fundraising for radicals is not a replacement of any best practice we currently have. It’s an expanded view that welcomes activism, protest, provocation, and anger into the fundraising toolkit alongside love and gratitude.
This won’t my last post on the topic. Follow me on twitter @brockwarner if you’d like to keep in touch, ask questions or share.
Fundraising has never stopped being a challenge for me. Years ago, for a short time, I thought I was a pretty good fundraiser. So much so I even started this blog! Yikes. I’ve learned since then that ability and confidence in your ability are two very distinct things, and they don’t grow in equal measure. The latter that usually jumps out to an early lead, then quickly runs out of steam. The volume of posts here have declined because of this. I’ll sit down to write a new post, then question if I’m really qualified to do so. Those posts are rarely published.
Early on as a student, intern then in my first real job I had amazing opportunities to learn, apply, share what I learned, and repeat. I soaked up as much as I could and a big boost of confidence came along with that. It may be because in our earlier years we haven’t yet been pushed to the limits of our ability yet.
The more I learn the more aware I am of what I don’t know, or what I have yet to learn. Stepping back and asking why is an essential part of your professional development, and one answer inevitably raises more questions. For the first couple years, most questions are answered with blogs, webinars, books or conferences. After a few years you’ll have to dig a little deeper, but the answers are out there if you want to find them.
Keep asking questions for four, five or more years and the answers to your questions will feel near-impossible to find. Not because they are especially advanced or indicative of an above-average IQ, but because they are highly specific to the roadblocks you’re facing at the time. The audience for those answers is too small to justify a conference session, webinar, or book!
If you’ve lasted this long in fundraising and you’re still asking tough questions – you’re certifiably obsessed. Not just obsessed with raising more money for your cause, but obsessed with doing it at really, really well.
I’m obsessed. I search out new ideas, new thinkers and do-ers. Just as importantly, I’m always on the lookout for people that are obsessed with doing the basics really really well. And there’s one fundamental thing that we can all do better: show our donors some love.
Where am I going with all this? Well some good friends and I are trying to unpack what exactly it means to love your donors with an event called the #DonorLove Rendezvous. It’s a day of idea-sharing and for fundraisers, designed for finding and sharing practical specific solutions to the challenges you’re facing each day. Here are the details:
The #DonorLove Rendezvous
Wednesday May 11, 2016
9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Artscape Wychwood Barns
601 Christie St, Toronto, ON M6G 4C7
$99 – limited time super early bird pricing
Learn more and register: donorlove.ca
The #DonorLove team is as obsessed with practicality, idea-sharing, and creativity as I am. They are an inspiring bunch, and I am proud to have been invited to help out. So if you’re looking for something new and different in 2016, give this one a try.
If you hadn’t noticed, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Toronto Chapter announced today that speaker applications are open until February 27th for their annual Congress.
Here’s why this is important:
AFP Congress in Toronto is one of the best educational offerings for fundraisers in the country, and amongst the largest in the world. Speakers and delegates come from all over the country and world, and for good reason. I’ve attended six times, and even did a short presentation once which was an honour.
I’ll let you in on a secret though…
You can be one of the presenters! And I don’t mean that in a cheesy motivational poster way. I mean anyone can submit a proposal for any topic you want, and as many as you want. The education team reads and considers every one.
Even if your session doesn’t get accepted, you’re saying to a committee of your peers “this is important to me, and I think it will be of interest to others.” That’s powerful.
My challenge to you, and a bit of help:
- If you’re a fundraiser reading this, go submit AT LEAST one session application regarding where you live, if you plan on going, if you think you’ve got enough experience, etc.
- Tell your network that applications are open, and encourage any and every fundraiser you can to submit an application.
Need help getting started? Just tweet at me (@brockwarner) and ask me to give you a session name. Then, you write up the description and submit it. Or don’t, but if I can at least get you rolling, that’s a start.
If it’s presenting that has you nervous, don’t let that hold you back from submitting an idea, because that can be dealt with later. If you want any advice, tips, feedback or or just an sounding board – I’ll help, send me a DM on Twitter or a message via Linkedin and we’ll talk.