Monday, 16 July 2012

What went down at #iofnc 2012 – with added Kramer

It is with great pleasure that I introduce today's guest poster, none other than Adrian Salmon.

Adrian has been the Footsteps Fund Manager at the University of Leeds since 2008 having previously been Head of Client Services for The Phone Room in Oxford. Recently he headed to the the Institute of Fundraising's National Convention, and agreed to report back for the Fundraising Collective on what's going on charity-wide. 

Thanks Adrian, and welcome to the blog.


Recently I spent 3 days at the Institute of Fundraising’s National Convention, to find out what’s going on in the big bad world of the wider charity sector. It’s funny, but when I come back to the office from conferences, I always feel like Cosmo Kramer in Seinfeld, sliding in with a ‘Hey!’ to tell Jerry, Elaine and George his latest crackpot scheme. So, is there anything good to tell? Or is it more the equivalent of Kramer’s most glorious pointless scheme – “The Coffee Table Book of Coffee Table Books”? (As a reward to you for reading, there’s a link to Kramer’s best entrances at the end). 

A lot’s changed at the IoF since I was there last – 7 years ago! Back then, digital was just coming into its own, face to face had just started, and the sexy sessions were all about DRTV (Direct Response Television – TV ads, to you and me.)

But now – what a change. Digital’s everywhere.  Everyone’s crazy about it. And three things stood out for me that summed up the whole event.

The first was the debate – between ‘old-style’ (and hugely successful) direct marketer Stephen Pidgeon, and ‘guerilla blogger’ A J Leon.  The proposition? “This house believes that online will entirely replace print as the main medium for acquisition and retention in the next 5 years”. A bold statement indeed, considering that, as Stephen pointed out, giving via online sources still represents only 8% of the total donated to charity in the UK. And even if it grows by 20% year on year for the next 5 years, it will only then be at 13%.

A J had examples of some truly inspirational online campaigns, such as WaterAid’s The Big Dig, in which he’d been involved in enabling the people in Malawi to live-blog straight to WaterAid’s site. And of course everyone knows about Charity:Water – don’t we? (I’m with Celina Ribeiro, who’s written this great article about 4 charity campaigns she doesn’t want to hear about again J)

But although AJ won the day – partly because the motion got changed – my head’s with Stephen.  Online’s got a long way to go yet, folks.

Which leads me onto the second thing that’s shaped my view of the three days – the award for ‘Best Use of E-Media’ at the National Awards on Monday night.
If digital’s where it’s at, this is the best of the best, right?

Hmm. The winner was UNICEF’s ‘Own a Colour’ campaign.  “Own A Colour And Help Save A Child’s Life”. You may have seen it, there’s been a lot about it on Twitter. And it’s a very simple proposition – buy one of Dulux’s 1.67 million colours on the website (which is indeed a fabulous technical feat) for £1 or more, and support UNICEF. The target was to sell all the colours, and raise £1.67m.

Nice. So – how has it done? There’s a counter on the website. Since November 2011, this award-winning campaign has raised….

….£106,000. Oh.
Compare that to one of the other entries, Care International’s Kiva-inspired Lend With Care, that has just broken the £1m mark in loans, since launch last March. Or Wateraid’s The Big Dig, that has raised over £600,000 since June 18th. And, in the way that that campaign has empowered field workers to blog from the front-line, I think there are lots of takeaways for all of us who work in higher education fundraising. 

Now, I’d really hate you to think I’m dissing the huge amount of work that the folk at UNICEF have put into Own A Colour. You can see that they have. And if an online campaign I ran had raised over £100K, I’d be delighted. But UNICEF? If I were in their shoes I’d be a little disappointed, and wondering what we could do to turn this round. It perturbs me that this could now be seen as a model to emulate, and I may write another blog about it. Let me know if you’d like to hear more. 

So, I’m a right grouch and a know-it-all, aren’t I? Didn’t I like anything, I hear you ask?

Well yes, I did. The session that made me go, ‘Wow’ was about mobile. And SMS. And UNICEF, again, but doing something way, way better.

UNICEF have been using SMS on the street as an alternative to the monthly direct debit sign-up, as a way to improve their subsequent donor retention. It’s so much easier to give a gift by text to a street fundraiser, and, by offering street-recruited donors a choice of amounts - £3, £5 and £10 – to donate by text, they can see who’s most likely to convert to Direct Debit. They phone them up afterwards to secure the monthly gift, and get around 1 in 8 people going onto Direct Debit. That’s pretty nice already.

But then here comes the genius bit.  Lots of their donors were saying, “Why can’t I give my monthly gift by text as well?” And of course they can, but every monthly text would have to come, by law, with the option to ‘STOP’ in the message. Not so good for retention. So UNICEF went to the regulator and said, “We’re a charity, not a ring-tone merchant. Can we change this message to ‘SKIP’, instead?” And the regulator said, OK.

So, a regulatory requirement becomes a donor-centred benefit. Can’t manage your £5 this month? Skip until the next. You can’t do this with a Direct Debit. It’s the Milky Way of charity donations – the gift you can make between jobs, without hurting your bank balance.

They phoned back all the people who’d refused a monthly gift by Direct Debit, and got another 1 in 8 people going onto a gift by monthly SMS. Wow.

I’m wondering if I can adapt and copy this, off-street. Are you, too?

So, #iofnc 2012. There you have it. The future’s bright. The future’s digital. The future’s traditional. The future’s mobile? Thanks for sticking with me, and – here’s Kramer!

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