‘4 Steps: what a Fundraising Product is, and isn’t’

Charities are fast cottoning on to the value of applying Product Analysis discipline to their fundraising operation. I’m speaking about it at the IFC this year, with Catherine Cottrell. At the start of every fundraising Product Portfolio Analysis project comes the big question, ‘What is a Product’? Answering this question is one of the most useful outcomes of following through a project this. But for those reading this blog looking for a clever, concise definition, I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. It’s just not that simple.

The definition varies from charity to charity, and from person to person within organisations. Nonetheless, I’d suggest that if you’re not clear what your products are you’ll be missing big strategic opportunities. Clarity here helps you understand what to develop, where to invest and innovate, and crucially where to disinvest.  If you’re a fundraiser struggling with this question, I recommend starting by taking the following four steps, steps that include my simple product considerations checklist:

  1. Shift your perception to a consumer viewpoint. Think about what you do from your audience’s point of view. Your product list needs to make sense to them, these should be ‘offers’ you could explain to them if they asked how they can support you.
  2. Write up a list of what you now think your products are, department by department.
  3. Review your list against my checklist (which you can see at the bottom of this post) and make changes to your list.
  4. For each product write a short punchy definition and objective, and list the key activities that fall under each product.

This process will cause lots of healthy debate and your final list may have to break a couple of my checklist considerations. But that’s fine, as you’ll now have a better grip on what you’re selling to your audiences and be ready to start your evaluation. I aim to post some thoughts on next steps so stay tuned, or just give me a shout here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Now we are two…

Just a quick post to welcome lovely Kate Jenkinson to Moving Thinking as Associate Strategic Consultant. For those of you that don’t know her, Kate is a brilliant fundraising planner, with years of experience. I recruited her to the Whitewater planning team years ago – one of the best decisions I made there. Kate recently helped to set up the In Memory Insight group with Legacy Foresight, and brings heaps of fresh thinking and experience with her. You can read a bit about her on the ‘about’ page here.

Knowing Kate as I do, I can confidently predict the following: there are fun times ahead, there will be whining about tea and my calculator will be stolen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

‘Are you local?’ 4 insights from research

‘Local’ is a huge word for fundraisers today. I see evidence of this almost everywhere I look at the moment.

In recent research I ran for new product development for ace cancer charity Maggie’s, localism was the burning issue. Supporting local causes was, for most of the participants, an unassailable priority and, in some cases, a filter for whether to support at all. ‘If it doesn’t say Oxford on the outer envelope, it goes straight in the bin.’

The chart below shows the part locality plays, along with perception of size and who the cause affects, in how participants priortise the charities they support.

So why is this? From my investigations, I think the supporting public’s perception of localised causes and their subsequent prioritisation can be boiled down to the following:

  1. Trust and tangibility. ‘I know where the money goes, I can see the impact and those involved. I feel like less money is wasted on advertising and admin.’
  2. Need. ‘Without local support, my local charity and services could not exist.’
  3. Charity begins at home. ‘In hard times, we have to look after our own first.’
  4. Community and belonging. ‘Supporting my local charity or being part of a fundraising group gives me a sense of belonging, being a part of my community. And in this uncertain global age, real connections with the people near me is comforting.’

The challenge for charities today is to figure our how to use this trend appropriately for their organisation. I believe that whoever you are, there is room to apply this trend to your activity. If your charity has local services, the task is simple. Clarify the local impact and emphasise this to those in that region, both in your asking and in your thanking and feedback.

But if you’re a big charity that does all your work in far away places, you can still capitalise by acting on point 4 of my list above. You can create and emphasise a sense of belonging to a local community of like-minded people, people who share a common worldview. And today’s social and location-based technologies and our mass adoption of networking online gives us the ability to foster a sense of community like never before.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Integration – four definitions

If you find that people mean different things when they talk about ‘integration’, you’re not alone. I’m running a session on this at IOF London next week, along with Lucy Gower of NSPCC, Liz Tait from Battersea, Nick Burne from Think and Max du Bois of Spencer du Bois. Here’s the blog entry I wrote to introduce our four areas of integration…

In the language spoken by us citizens of charity marketing land, the word ‘integration’ has come to mean many things. The same is true of ‘strategy’, ‘engagement’, ‘stewardship’ and other words, but I’ll leave those for another time. The multiple meanings of something as important as integration serve to confuse or even paralyse and can lead to poor decision-making.

So, before you consider whether integration is right for you, here’s my attempt at pulling the word apart into four distinct areas:

1.    Departmental Integration – working with other fundraising or communications colleagues towards a common goal

2.    Touchpoint and Media Integration – integrating fundraising across multiple touchpoints and channels, understanding the interaction between them so that the whole of the activity is greater than the sum of the parts

3.    Brand Integration – the integration of brand communication goals with that of fundraising, so that brand and fundraising are working in harmony and avoiding battles

4.    Service Integration – bringing fundraising closer to the end product of the charity (the reason we’re raising the money), to enable new and combined fundraising and service delivery opportunities

It’s important to make these distinctions, as each area has its own benefits and challenges – all four areas of integration are not right for all charities and situations. What is important is to consider each area, as in its various forms greater integration is usually a good idea.

So now, when some know-it-all asks you the ‘how integrated is your fundraising’ question, you can respond smugly with, ‘what sort of integration do you mean?’.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

portfolio analysis: ‘taking the myth’

In most charities there’s a mix of genuine wisdom generated through years of fundraising and widely accepted fundraising myths. If unchallenged, phrases such as ‘that doesn’t work for us’, ‘we aren’t allowed to do that’ and ‘our supporters only respond to…’ can do years of damage. These myths can prevent innovation, limit growth and encourage investment in the wrong activity.

I’m in the midst of a full product portfolio analysis with a client at the moment, and its great to see the fundraisers I’m working with challenging some of their own myths. We’re enjoying throwing myths away, as well as confirming some hunches. By applying real rigour and objectivity to how we judge activity, we can shed new light on income streams. New opportunities arise and big strategic decisions can be made on much firmer foundations.

There’re lots of well-used portfolio analysis tools and processes you can follow, and I wouldn’t say that one size fits all. A quick google will give you lots of interesting reading. Much depends on timescales, the complexity of your programme and your specific strategic challenges. I’m using currently a combination of audience gap analysis, an adapted GE Matrix and some competitor mapping and its working out really well. Whatever you do though, try to build in as much evidenced objectivity into your portfolio review as you can, as it this that will enable you to challenge your myths and help to set you on the right path.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

More video please!

Being the father of a little girl I love US charity The Girl Effect, and as a marketer I love the brilliant use of compelling video in their fundraising. Check them out if you haven’t already, its lovely stuff. I came across them recently via their entry on SOFII – worth a read.

(I agreed)

But this is rare, particularly in UK charities. Solaraid is one notable example. I think this needs to change, and quickly. Today, film and video production is cheaper than ever. We’re consuming, interacting with and sharing stories and ideas with video now at an incredible rate – just check out the numbers published by Youtube alone. We expect video. And if done well, the moving image has more power to emotionally engage people than any other medium, it’s the closest we can get to personal experience.

Charities have the best stories to tell. So tell them! Here’s a simple way to start to start the revolution.

  1. Allocate a few hours pull staff together and review your video fundraising capabilities. What are your stories, where are the opportunities, what are the barriers, what video assets do you currently have, what are the gaps?
  2. Put together a small number of short videos that tell the story of your cause, or current campaigns, and contain a clear and compelling ask. Animation or live action, new film or edit of stock footage – whatever works best for the story you want to tell. If you’re pleased with them you’ll find lots of uses; online, at events, for corporates, internally etc. You might have the skills in house, but if you don’t there are plenty of agencies and independents to help you make films, including a new partnership I co-founded called Story Partners. Remember though – this needn’t cost you the earth but you do need genuinely compelling films.
  3. If you can, put your video front and centre on your home page, or failing that your donate/ how you can help pages, with options to share, like, tweet etc. But push for home page if that where the bulk of your volume is. Have a look at charity:water for another great example.
  4. Over a few weeks, test your fundraising videos. For example, which drive the best click-through to donate rates? Which drive best value? Which are shared or liked most?
  5. Now you should have a case for further investigation or investment in video as part of your fundraising mix.

I’ll be watching! In the meantime, please do share examples of your own or that you’ve come across. I’ll be picking up this theme again.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Brand vs Fundraising – 4 ways to prevent war

I’ve been here before and, sadly, I think I’ll be here again. A major brand refresh almost at the point of implementation that does not support fundraising, and could seriously damage it. Let the battle between brand and fundraising commence! Again.

With charities desperate to increase fundraising income, or at least maintain it through uncertain times, it seems incredible that these situations arise. And yet they do. Jeff Brooks’ recent post on brand redirection succinctly highlights the fundraising pain that can result. Click here to read it.

But often there are genuine, inescapable reasons to change the brand. The charity’s remit may have moved or expanded, they may be crucial new audiences to connect with or two brands may have joined forces. So here’s 5 ways to avoid the battles and ensure that your brand change helps you raise more money.

1 – Keep fundraising at the heart

If your charity relies on fundraising professionals to fund its work, then these professionals need to be very closely involved the brand project. Fundraising cannot be tacked on, or even just consulted – it needs to be a driving force behind any changes. Fundraisers should be involved in the project objectives, briefing, development, implementation and evaluation. If not, you’re in trouble.

2 – Ensure the audience focus is right

Where does your income come from now, and where is it likely to come from in the future? Keeping these priority audiences firmly in sight throughout the process will ensure you don’t veer off into la la land. Your charity will have multiple audiences, all of them important, but if the brand message isn’t right for those that give, it just isn’t right.

3 – Differentiate meaningfully

The values wrapped up in your brand can help you understand and communicate why your charity is special. And yet there is very little variation in values from charity to charity. Spencer du Bois created this chart, showing the most common values of the UK top charities – it powerfully illustrates the problem. Many of these values communicate the essence of charity rather than what’s special about the cause and the charity’s approach. This is at best useless, but at worst it’s very damaging. It creates a sea of well meaning but ultimately bland brands, and bland is not good for creating valuable emotional connections with people.

4 – Test and adapt

If you can, push for some simple tests of the key elements of your brand redirection before launch. Qual research amongst key audiences will guide your thinking, but it’s worth checking your decisions in the real world too. Response can be a world away from researched opinion. This should be done with tonal changes, guidance on imagery and changes to core propositions. And most importantly, act on the results even if this means going back to the drawing board.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized