Archive for the ‘fundraising’ tag
Horrific as they were, the Boston Marathon bombings had a way of bringing people together. Millions across the globe wanted to help or do something, and donating to the victims was often the most accessible way of expressing solidarity and support. We have seen these ‘crisitunities’ many times before – especially in the wake of natural disasters. The age of crowdfunding means that nonprofits have more resources at their fingertips than ever before.
This week’s guest post from Holly Aker looks at what crowdfunding lessons nonprofits can lean from the One Fund Boston.
Giving back to those in need is an inherent human reaction, especially when an event like the Boston Marathon bombings occurs. To give people an outlet to provide support, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino formed The One Fund Boston immediately following the bombings.
“One particular strategy—crowdfunding—helped The One Fund Boston raise over $20 million in less than a week and attract considerable attention. The nonprofit has received an outpouring of donations from organizations including shoemaker New Balance, Major League Baseball and Simon Property Groups, among many others,” Stephanie Kapera, a contributor at Software Advice, explained.
Other organizations and groups also began popping up soon after the bombings, and by taking advantage of websites like Teespring, Pinterest and other social media channels, these organizations raised a significant amount of funds for the Boston Marathon victims.
So once your nonprofit organization launches its crowdfunding campaign, how can you get the word out to those who want to give back? We’ve compiled a few tips to help set you on the right path to exceed your fundraising goal.
- Act quickly – Get your campaign up and running within the first few days after a disaster. People feel less passionate about a cause as more and more time passes (see graph below).
- Leverage online influencers – Target people on social media who have large followings and have an interest in your cause. Then send them a message or tweet, asking them to share your campaign with their audience.
- Use a multi-channel approach – Spread your campaign across as many social media outlets as possible to reach the highest number of people.
- Use hashtags – Hashtags help raise awareness by acting as bookmarks for topics.
- Get visual - Studies show the majority of human learning occurs visually and that an image with text and a visual aspect are four times as likely to be shared.
With the right tools and strategies, social media can be that extra kick to make your crowdfunding campaign go above and beyond.
To read a longer version of Kapera’s article, click here.
And here’s an infographic to describe the success of infographics. It’s shocking to see just how much of a difference infographics can make in responses and donations. As you can see in the example with African Wildlife Foundation, using an infographic for an appeal to supporters increased response rates by nearly 900% and increased donations by over 250%!
Fundraisers might want to experiment with using infographics in campaigns and compare to traditional messaging. Based on these numbers I would say it’s worth a shot.
‘Crowdfunding’ is spreading quickly in the nonprofit world. This innovative method of raising money uses the internet and social media to connect donors with charity projects in need of funding. The standard format is:
- Charities register and post projects in need of funding, including a description, funds needed, timeline, video, etc.
- Potential donors browse projects by issue, location, etc. and give whatever amount they want
More and more crowdfunding sites are popping up on what seems like a daily basis. For charities and fundraisers, these sites can be good for easy-to-describe, short-term and one-off ‘projects’. For example, raising $5,000 for a piece of specialized equipment for a child with cystic fibrosis. Or securing money to support emergency disaster relief. But for more complex and long-term issues, such as climate change adaptation or reducing homelessness, crowdfunding is probably not the best forum for securing sufficient and sustainable money.
Crowdfunding sites can be a helpful tool for small charities that are thin on the ground with fundraising capacity or that struggle to get their voices heard through their own networks. These third party sites generally have more traffic than individual charity websites, so they can be great for raising awareness and bringing in new donors.
Some of the challenges for all charities who use crowdfunding sites, however, include: stewarding and retaining new donors, attracting 100% of the project funding needed (many are stuck with only partial funding), competing for prominence and visibility on the crowdfunding site, and securing support for ‘unsexy’ causes. As Sophie Hudson of the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network points out in this article, charities have had different levels of success with crowdfunidng, but most should not expect it to be a silver bullet for solving their fundraising problems.
So where should charities look if they want to experiment with crowdfunding? Here are a few suggestions:
- The Big Give (UK) – charities post projects and donors can give to them. They also run an annual campaign called the ‘Christmas Challenge’, where charities secure matched funding from their Board and major donors to leverage more donations from the public.
- Start Some Good (US) – this site connects social entrepreneurs with funders in more of an ‘impact investing’ style of donating.
- Weeve It (Canada) – connects charity projects with funders and, impressively, takes no transaction fee – so 100% goes to the charity.
The past couple weeks has seen Conservative governments in both Canada and the UK release their 2012 budgets. Traditionally, conservatives have been pro-charities because they want to reduce the size of government and the services it provides to citizens. The more the non-profit sector can step in to fill the gap of government services the better. It means taxes can be lowered and social services can be funded by private philanthropists. It’s no wonder charitable giving and the non-profit sector in the US is so huge. But social inequities continue to grow and many people find themselves marginalized and without basic services, like healthcare, adequate education and employment opportunities.
So it’s worrying that these newly announced budgets will hurt the non-proft sector’s ability to both fundraise and stand up for the people they are working to support. The UK budget primarily does the former (i.e. diminishing capacity to fund operations), while the Canadian budget does the latter (i.e. silencing advocacy and critics…plus some intended limiting of funding).
UK budget – hurting charity funding
The hipocracy of the “Big Society” is clearly demonstrated in the UK government’s budget move to limit charitable tax relief to £50,000 a year or 25% of the donor’s income (whichever is higher). Charitable tax relief means that individuals do not pay taxes on the money they donate to charity – which is meant to encourage philanthropy. So it is baffling that the conservatives want to put a limit on this relief (which was previously unlimited) and thereby give donors a disincentive to give large sums to charities at the same time that the government is cutting social programs! This could – and probably will - severely hurt non-profit funding, which is already forcing charities to downsize and close at unprecedented rates. For more on the budget implications for charity funding, check out this article from The Independent, Philanthropists: Giving up Giving?
Canadian budget – silencing critics
If the UK budget will hurt charities’ ability to raise funds, then the Canadian budget will hurt charities’ ability to perform their services. Essentially, the conservatives are seeking to clamp down on political activity and foreign funding of charities. Is it because of ongoing systematic problems and abuse of charitable status? No, it’s because, as some critics argue, the government is trying to muzzle its politically active opponents through fear mongering. Here is the Budget 2012 excerpt that causes concern for Canadian charities:
[U]nder the Income Tax Act charities may devote a limited amount of their resources [10%] to non-partisan political activities that are related to their charitable purposes. Recently, concerns have been raised that some charities may not be respecting the rules regarding political activities. There have also been calls for greater public transparency related to the political activities of charities, including the extent to which they may be funded by foreign sources.
What evidence do they have of “concerns being raised” about charities’ political activity? Presumably they mean their own concerns, because almost all charities are well below their allowable 10% of political activities, and there are by no means widespread abuses of this limit. And what “calls for greater public transparency” of “foreign funding” has there been? Perhaps they mean a few minority conservative Senators who are protecting industry interests and have no real case against international funders seeking to achieve the same charitable aims as their Canadian counterparts. What about foreign funding of Canadian industry? No mention of that of course.
Essentially this budget is the Canadian government’s public declaration that they won’t stand for charities that seek to criticize their policies and activities. It and the UK budget are very worrying for the short-term future of non-profits.
With most charities, you have your fundraising department, your program departments, and your communications department. The communications department is usually responsible for, well, communications. And this includes everything from annual reports to marketing materials to branding. It also often includes anything to do with the press: radio/tv interviews, press releases, etc. But press materials being the sole responsibility of the communications department means the content put out is often flat.
This a big mistake. The press can be a charity’s best friend and has the ability to do something all charities want: create more awareness. With greater awareness of issues comes a stronger mandate for change (among the general public and politicians) and a larger outpouring of donations. This benefits all areas of a charity – especially its beneficiaries!
But in oder to achieve greater attention from the press – and thereby the general public – nonprofits need to involve other department in their communications. Here is an example of the roles different parts of a charity can play:
Programs: the people on the project teams are the bread and butter of a charity and its raison d’être. They are the people who know the “core” elements of the work the best and so are in the ideal position to be writing/speaking about what’s happening on the ground. In my experience, they are the most passionate and knowledgable about the work. So, have program staff regularly involved in external communications, since these are the people most stakeholders want to hear from.
Fundraising: if program staff are the experts on the need for the work and the charity’s unique response, then fundraising staff are the experts on the call to action. Namely, donate! Press attention naturally lends itself to a implicit or explicit ask for support. It’s no wonder that most newspapers run large-scale charity appeals every winter. Fundraisers need to capitalize on the opportunities greater press attention gives them.
Communications: the communications department has a central role when dealing with the press and external stakeholders, but it should have to do with overseeing what goes out rather than writing all the content and doing everything from conception to completion. They are critical in ensuring brand consistency, tone, relations with editors, etc. But the most important content will often come from the program and fundraising departments.
There are number of websites and magazines that provide charity rankings. One of the main factors in determining where nonprofits sit on the list is the percentage spent on charitable activities vs administration (e.g. claims like “We spend 90 cents of every dollar directly on the people we help”). For someone looking to donate, this seems like a self-evident reason to give or not. The more money that goes to projects, the more impact a donor’s money will have.
There are undoubtedly some cases when analyzing the percentage spent on charitable activities is the best indicator of a nonprofits effectiveness. But it is by no means the only indicator and probably not event the best single indicator. The only thing it looks at his how much money was spent. It doesn’t say anything about whether that spending achieved anything or not.
Undue emphasis on program, fundraising, and admin expenses
Donors say the amount a charity spends on administration is the number one single reason for deciding whether to give after conducting research. This is probably encouraged by charity rankings that put the greatest weight on fundraising ratios. For example, MoneySense’s top 100 charities list dedicates about half the ranking points to money spent on charitable programs and fundraising efficiency. Similarly, raking website Charity Navigator rates nonprofits, by in large, according to “Financial Efficiency Performance Metrics” – i.e. program, admin, and fundraising expenses and efficiency.
Does all this focus on program vs administration expenses distort the perception of a charity’s effectiveness? I would not only argue that this metic doesn’t say much about nonprofit performance, but I would go further and say that it can actually hurt charities. This is because effective charities with proven programs will continually need to spend money on seed funding, innovation, replication and development. In other words, effective charities often go through periods of spending more money on administration and development because it is necessary in order to create new and innovative programs. So, they may have higher fundraising costs than charities that run the same programs year after year, but could be more effective in their work.
Some rankings changing they way we look at charities
There are some organizations that rank charities that are leading the way in taking a more holistic view of a charity’s effectiveness. Two great examples are GiveWell (good article on limitations of rankings here) in the US and Intelligent Giving (run by New Philanthropy Capital) in the UK. These organizations put more weight on reporting and impact than pure financials. There needs to be more of this, as one-dimensional charity rankings do nothing but hurt charities and the people they help.
Many of you are no doubt starting to notice moustaches cropping up on men’s faces – maybe even you are spending your November trying to grow a nice soup strainer. You’re probably already familiar with Movember- the month when men grow moustaches for charity. It’s fun and often hilarious, even if people often don’t know exactly what their donations are going towards (it’s for men’s health issues, like prostate cancer). The support of a friend/colleague/family member’s “Mo” is often satisfaction enough.
From its humble beginnings as an idea between friends in an Australian pub, Movember has snowballed into a global campaign with over one million participants. The graph shows just how rapidly this annual sponsorship ‘event’ grown over the years.
Why has Movember been such a global success? What makes it such a great fundraising initiative? On the face of it, Movember is no different from other annual campaigns – breast cancer awareness month, marathons, poppy appeal, etc. There is a hook (pink, running, etc.) that provides a way for everyone to get involved. It’s often as much a social event as it is a charitable motive. So, it seems like Movember is similar to the others, but using moustaches as the hook.
While this is true to some extent, there is so much more that makes Movember a unique, successful initiative:
- low costs – unlike sporting events, like marathons and mountain climbs, there is no money that needs to be raised just to cover the cost of participation. Growing a moustache costs nothing, so more money goes to charity.
- creates a shared experience – there’s something about growing a moustache that men love. It’s a source of pride and embarrassment at the same time, but, above all, bonds all those who are participating.
- visual awareness – something particularly genius about Movember is the marketing power of a moustache. When you see someone sporting a moustache in November you instantly think of Movember. Their association with the campaign is literally on their face.
- user generated – it’s easy for any guy to create an online ‘Mo Space’, starting growing a moustache and ask others for sponsorship. It couldn’t be much easier for a man to participate
A clear and compelling case for support is essential for motivating people to give to your cause. But unfortunately fundraising communications can often be filled with confusing jargon, stats, and ideas. So, here are tips for three key areas nonprofits can improve on funder communications.
Make it easy for donors to understand the issues you are talking about. In plain language, what is the need, why is your charity best-palced to respond and why should the donor support you? Answer these questions clearly and you will stand a much better chance of securing their donation. Major donors are approached with requests for support often on a daily basis – if something is confusing, they are unlike to continue reading.
Make stats and numbers understandable
This follows from the point above, but has to do specifically with making numbers easy to understand. The human mind has a limited capacity for comprehending anything more than small numbers. So, statements like “5 million of x” or “300,000 of y” often fail to have the impact charities expect them to. We just can’t fathom what 5 million of something is in practical terms. Instead, relate numbers to something people can understand. For example, instead of saying something like ‘We help over 500,000 people’ try putting it as ‘We help someone every minute of every day’ or ‘We help more people each year than the population of x’. Think creatively about how to reframe numbers.
Make it flow
Eliminating jargon and making numbers comprehensible are essential steps to making donor understand what you are asking them. But it’s also vital that communications flow in a natural and cohesive manner. Does your proposal jump around from one idea to the next or does it tell a story that easily transitions from one section to the next? My preferred format (along with many others) is generally: background, need, response, objectives, activities, budget/ask.