Saturday, 22 September 2012

Give Generation Y a Chance

Charity press this week was agog with the results of a study by CAF led by researchers from the University of Bristol  which raises fears for the future of fundraising.

The study reports that more than half of all donations nw come from over-60s, compared to just over one third of donations 30 years ago. And the over-60s are twice as likely to give to charity than the under-30s. 

Interesting - yes.  But I'm not sure that I agree with CAF's recommendations, one of which is to ensuring young people grow up giving by making giving part of the national curriculum.  The measures CAF recommends seem to suggest that young people aren't giving because they aren't in the habit of philanthropy or that they aren't involved in charities.

I just don't believe that that is true. 

By the age of 2 my daughter and her peers were already involved in community fundraising activities through their nursery. Before she started school she had taken part in more charity events than my octogenarian father probably has in his whole life time.  Within two weeks of starting school she had already participated in a fundraising event. Giving doesn't need to be on the curriculum - it's part of every day life in schools and it was even in my day.

I don't believe under-30s aren't philanthropic. And I don't believe they are unaware. I do believe they are facing a very different experience of being under-30 than their retired relatives faced.  House prices are astronomical, university fees are high and job opportunities are limited.  

To my mind we don't need to address people's philanthropic instincts, they exist.  We as fundraisers need to horizon scan and identify the changes in society and in the economy which will impact on giving - and adapt our strategies accordingly.

We should be asking ourselves on a regular basis - does this still work?  What should be doing differently?  

I'm not saying it's not a good idea to involve young people in charity work, of course it is.  And moreover, I think they already are.

What I'm saying is that perhaps we should change our expectations of how people should give to more accurately reflect the reality of their circumstances.  Give Generation Y a chance.



Sunday, 16 September 2012


This week I was called by a well known wildlife charity (or rather by a company calling on behalf of them). 

I'm an existing supporter of this charity.  Earlier this year, I had a visit from a door to door fundraiser who suggested I might like to sponsor a tiger.  As it happens I have a little girl and when I was a little girl, I supported the same charity.  I thought that sponsoring a tiger might be a good entry point into her learning  more about conservation and environmental matters.

So I said yes.

"I just ate a caller" - image by Keith Roper

In my case the phrase committed giver is a bit of a misnomer. I'm a bit of an armchair supporter.  I'm not active.  I don't read the mailing packs that arrive through the post. I barely glance at the email that appear in my inbox.  I'm happy to know that my money is going to a credible organisation and a good cause.

I don't really want to chat to anyone on the phone.  There really isn't a good time of day to call me. However, I'm a fundraiser, so I understand the importance of upgrading people by phone.  I have sympathy for it.

Until this call.  The start was okay.  The caller thanked me for my support and asked me why I supported the charity.  So I told him the thing about my daughter etc etc.

And that's where it all went wrong.

My friend on the phone had a script.  Of course he had a script.  He was calling the tiger supporters, he just KNEW that what I wanted to hear about was tigers. Except of course I didn't.  It's not that I have anything against tigers.  I LIKE tigers. I don't want them to be extinct.  I am delighted that my hard earned wages are turning back the tide of extinction.  I'm glad this organisation is doing such a great job - I knew they would be, after all that's why I supported them.

I just didn't need to hear chapter and verse about it.

Only a few moments of my time, he promised.


Mr Tiger Encyclopedia wasn't about to let that happen.  Not when he had so much useful tiger-related information to impart.

"CUT TO THE CHASE," I screamed inside my head.  My noodles were congealing.  My lunch hour was slipping away.

He made the ask.  I said "No thank you, I'm giving as much as I can."

Tiger-man wasn't about to let me get away with that.  Not when there was MORE information he could tell me about tigers.  Another deluge of tiger information and he asked again.  A lower amount.  Again, I said no.

Clearly, thought he, I have not told this woman enough about tigers.  An eternity of tiger monologue later and he asked again.   Again, I said no.

In the end I was beaten.  My desperation to escape Mr Tiger surpassed my firm decision not to increase my direct debit.  I agreed to an increase just to escape.  How much did my stripy friend persuade me to give?   A whole £1 more.

Do I feel good about my gift?  No.   Do I feel pleased or impressed by the work of the charity?  No.


Because the person I spoke to didn't listen to a word I said. 

He didn't listen when I told him why I supported the charity.  If he had, he would have realised that tigers, lovely though they are, had nothing whatsoever to do with my motivation to support this particular charity.   He might have asked me some more questions and found out what really made me tick.

Then he might have said, "interesting you should say that... did you know about....{insert relevant programme}?"

If he had, he might have got the increase he wanted.  He might have got an individual cash gift which was significantly more substantial.

I know this, because when I was called by Nottingham University that's exactly what they got - a committed gift AND a substantial (for me) cash donation. It was a discussion NOT a monologue and the caller wanted to know what I cared about. She listened and found a way for me to support something I loved.  And I didn't even like my university that much.

Now, I know this poor fellow had a script.

So did the Nottingham caller.

I know he might have been nervous.

So was she.

The difference was she listened, responded and treated me like a human and he did not.  How valued does that make me feel as a supporter?

Not at all.  

(thumbs up to Nottingham though - nice job!)



Friday, 7 September 2012

Will You Will .....?

Yesterday I went to a panel discussion at a local law firm on 'Engaging Legacy Donors'. It got me thinking that gifts in wills are the cornerstone of charities in the UK. Many charities depend on legacies and without them they would not exist. In fact, while 74% of the UK population support charities, only 7% currently leave a legacy to them when writing a Will*.

A representative from Macmillan Cancer Support spoke about their Legacy Programme and he explanined how they've moved from 'asking' for legacies to 'telling' how legacies change lives - I hope to adopt this storytelling approach in my work.

Types of Legacies
  • Pecuniary Legacy A fixed case payment - eg. "I leave 10,000 to Charity X"
  • Specific Legacy A particular asset - eg. "I leave my premium bonds to Charity X." All income from the date of death is paid to the beneficary - in this example any premium bond prizes would also be payable to Charity X. 
  • Discretionary Legacy The executors have the discretion to decide who will receive a legacy although they may be influenced by the wishes of the testator prior to death. eg. "I leave 10,000 to be shared between animal charities at my executor's discretion".
  • Residuary Legacy This legacy is a share of the residue of the estate after payment of all debts expenses and other legacies. This is where most problems can occur for recipient charities. This type of legacy can prove to be problematic. You should ask the solicitor for a copy of the Will and Confirmation to the deceased person's estate. This will show your entitlement from the estate and the Confirmation gives details of the value of the gross estate. Remember there will be debts which will reduce the value and these may be significant (eg. mortgage over property). It may be up to six months after the date of death before the Confirmation is granted.

Have you been left a legacy?
This may sound obvious but how do you find our if your charity has been left a legacy? Some solicitors can be slow in notifying charities that a legacy has been left to them and the first you hear of the legacy is when the estate has been wound up and the solicitor sends a cheque to the charity.

It's good practice to try to encourage your supporters to indicate if they have left a legacy to your charity in their Will. This will enable you to plan for your charity's future.

Macmillan Cancer Support say that 'Gifts in wills help fund more than a third of our services - we simply couldn't do what we do without them. A gift in your will can make a vital difference to someone living with cancer in the future'. 

I'm going to devise my 'tell', Will You?

Niamh, @niamhini

Next week I'll give you top tips on the administration of legacies, the challenges and how to keep legal costs down!

*Stats from Remeber A Charity

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Digital Fundraising - are you ready?

I was speaking to a colleague from NGO-land this week and the chat went something like this.... 

"Print direct mail is dead.  Dead.  Everyone is going digital."

Print media - RIP?


It's times like these that I get keeping-up-with-the-Joneses  anxiety.  Crossing over from voluntary-sector fundraising to university-fundraising is the not-for-profit career equivalent of a North Londoner moving South of the River Thames.  We're rare beasts, we folks who have straddled the divide.  Much of the time it's a case of never the twain shall meet.

In terms of major gifts work, generally speaking universities are the swots in the classes: their programmes are well established, long standing and successful.  It's a very cost effective way to fundraise and it can be transformative.  But compared to say, committed giving, it's also unpredictable and tends to lend itself to organisation's which can facilitate donor-led giving.

Just need a solid stream of unrestricted income?  Major gifts is not your friend.  

Major gifts is the Savile Row suit of the fundraising world - bespoke and tailored to the donor.  It works for places where fundraising isn't bankrolling the photocopier, the data processing and all the other icky bits and bobs required to keep an operation alive and functional.  It's great for universities and it can be great for charities too - but not on its own. 

Bespoke fundraising is what universities do best

Like I said, universities are top performers in major gifts.  But, in terms of direct marketing we're looking at a very different scenario.  Whilst the voluntary sector are streaking ahead with SMS fundraising, contactless payments and integrated digital communications strategies, universities are what might be called late adopters.  

You could argue that the Ross Group universities don't need to mess around with mobile phones.  After all, big gifts work.  Oxford just got £75 million from a donor for a bursaries programme. King's College London was given £20 million for a law school. A couple of years ago, Edinburgh received £10 million to establish a regenerative neurology unit. 

These are transformational, enormous, dramatic.  But they probably aren't cost-relieving. They allow universities to do something important, different and special.  If you're a women's shelter needing to keep your doors open for another six months, that's no good to you.

Broad-based fundraising is important not only because it enables charities to deliver their ongoing, essential work but because it offers financial sustainability.  A fundraising programme based on many is safer than a fundraising programme based on few. 

Obviously, the best idea is to have both.  But I'm straying off the point. 

The point was are you ready for digital fundraising? 

Here's the thing:

  • Digital communications are cheaper. 
  • Digital communications are interactive (mostly).  If we accept that relationship building is the key to successful fundraising, that's ace
  • Digital communications allow us to reach new audiences. 

Digital communications raise money.  Done right, over time they raise a lot of money.  An SMS text donation can turn into a phone call which becomes a monthly pledger.  The donation could come off the phone bill, it could come from a bank account.  No paper is involved.  That's cheap.  It's convenient.  It lowers the acquisition costs. Compare that to street fundraising?  I'm sold. 

Health Warning.  Let's not be too hasty, because as Charlotte Beckett points on out on her most excellent blog:

"In the UK, as we know, 12% of the adult internet population has donated online, and the share of donations from online channels has risen 85% in 3 years. But it’s still 3.7%. "

Accepted.  But the key word here is risen.  This is a trend and in fundraising, we're in the business of horizon scanning, or if we're not, we should be.  It's a competitive business don't you know.  In the last quarter of 201115% of all donations made to UK charities were made digitally (source: IoF).  

Whether you sit in a university development office or a charity fundraising department, digital is coming.  No, not coming.  It's here.  And it's eating the market up with the tenacity of an underfed piranha. 

Digital Communications - nom nom 

So I'm asking you... 

Are you ready for digital communications?  Do you have a strategy?  Do you have the skills?  Do you have the technology in place?

Check out Bryan Miller's 12 Digital Fundraising Trends in 2012.



Saturday, 1 September 2012

Why do you get no respect at your nonprofit job?

Mazarine Treyz
Welcome to Guest Collectivist Mazarine Treyz, Author, The Wild Woman's Guide to Fundraising  Follow Mazarine @wildwomanfund on twitter. 

Can we talk for a minute about how to demand respect in your fundraising office?

Picture this.

You've got the title of development coordinator, but you're the sole development staff person. Or maybe you're part of a team of two.

Despite your title, you're doing it all. You're doing donor communications, like appeal letters, annual reports, etc. You're doing grants. You're doing events. You're doing a heck of a job, but getting yelled at by your boss every other week.

Cream on the top? You haven't gotten a raise in two years, while your boss has laid off staff and given himself a raise. And infinite vacation days. And you have to use up yours by the end of the fiscal year.

So there's a bind here.

There's disrespect when it comes to salary, and there's disrespect when it comes to day to day treatment.

Let's deal with the daily disrespect first. Yelling at you? NOT. COOL. Get some context. We're not here to rag on your boss. What's the larger societal structure that enables this sad situation? It's called rankism. 

What is Rankism? 
Rankism is workplace abuse and can cover all of the other -isms, such as sexism, racism, and classism in the workplace, to name a few.  How do you know if you're a victim of rankism? Believe in what you feel. You may feel anxious, pushed down, maybe your stomach hurts, maybe your afraid, unable to enjoy things you used to like, angry and unable to function at work. This rankism can come from a co-worker, a subordinate, or a person higher up in your organisation. 

According to WBI-Zogby U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey, 54 million Americans are bullied each year, resulting in massive turnover and cost to employers.

So why should you learn how to demand respect? It's NOT THAT Bad is it? No, it's worse. When I was working at a certain nonprofit, not only did a board member sexually harass me and nothing was ever done, my boss yelled at me all the time for NO reason. My boss yelled at other people, never approved budgets, never fundraised, was rarely in the office, threw out reports I gave him to update him on what I was doing, since he missed every single scheduled meeting we had, and he was found stealing, TWICE from the nonprofit, the second time for $44,000. 

If you don't have good boundaries and learn what's going on in your workplace, it can REALLY make your life miserable. I want to save you from the pain I endured at this nonprofit job.

We're going to look at the different types of rankists in the workplace, somebody rankists and nobody rankists.

Somebody Rankists
Tyrant -who without emotion does everything to make underlings obey
Seething Giant – use angry outbursts to intimidate others into submission
Gangster – use others-often without their knowledge-to keep dissenters in line or push them out. Everyone gangs up on one person, deciding they are the problem. Then, when they are fired, another person becomes the problem.
Sovereign -design a system that ensures loyalty at the expense of the organisation
Grandee -take advantage of their position so others support their lavish lifestyle
Scapegoater -blame others to distract from their own mistakes
Fabricator -feigning a legitimate position, they lie and steal in large and small ways.
Gatekeeper -award access to individuals and services solely to meet their own personal needs
Snubber -ignore those they consider to be lesser than they are.

Nobody Rankists
Retaliator -Slams back in the same way in which they were assaulted.
Dog-kicker -Strikes at someone more vulnerable rather than at the original rankist.
Flatterer -Compliments somebody rankists to keep in good standing.
Persuader -Takes the case against rankist activities to those in power and asks for changes to be made so everyone is treated with respect
Activist -Brings together those who agree rank abuse is happening so they can organise and bring about change
Avenger- Executes a secret plan to get back at rankists without the Avenger being recognized.
Gossip – Spreads stories to undermine the somebody rankist.
Placater – Always gives, hoping everyone will get along.
Noble Sufferer -Would rather be seen enduring the pain of the rankists than acting to change the situation.
Onlooker – Does not leave the environment, but does not partake of activities.
                       -From Battles between Somebodies and Nobodies - Julie Ann Wambach

So, do you recognise yourself in this list? Do you recognise your boss? Your co-workers?

If you are a boss and looking at this list and wincing and recognising yourself, there is something you can do. Here are 7 tips for listening to your staff.

Now that you've got some context, just think about this. We've all been a somebody and a nobody rankist at some point. Which ranks are okay to pull?

Persuader and Activist. You can persuade people to notice what is going on. And act as activist to draw it to the attention of others in your nonprofit office.

When you can name it, you can claim it. Do you feel relieved other people have had the same experience you have? 

Consider forming a nonprofit workers union at your nonprofit.  Here's a resource on why and how to do that.

And here's 18 ways to demand dignity at your charity.

Now, what about your salary?
How can you get more money?

This one is tricky. When they call you development coordinator or officer or manager, even though you're doing everything a development director would do, then they see you stuck in that role, and probably will not want to give you the title of director.

It's like my friend Amy Sample Ward says, “If you start out making the coffee, that's all they will ever see you doing.”

So to get a higher salary, you will need to make a lateral move, aka jump to a new job.  If you want some tips on how to do this, head on over to, where I have TONS of resources on how to find a job, as well as good interview questions for you to ask, and what you'll probably be asked, and MORE. Aw. Yeah.

Thank you to The Fundraising Collective for this opportunity to post on your blog!