European conference tour – what I learnt

Over the past two weeks, our CEO Jason Potts and I have been lucky enough to speak at three fundraising conferences in Europe and to attend sessions run by other fundraisers. While the locations (Austria, Slovakia and Holland) and themes of the conferences were different, I wanted to share some recurring trends.

i. There is no easy solution

A few times over the course of the conferences, I heard people say “I was hoping to come here and find the solution.” I pondered this for a while, before coming to the conclusion that there is no easy solution. How can there be one thing which every non-profit could implement which would work for them all? If fundraising was easy, would it still be the huge sector it is today, with thousands of people across the world working to raise funds for non-profits? Wouldn’t that easy solution have been rolled out and most of us have been made redundant? This takes me on to my second observation:

ii. People have a fear of interaction

The thought of sitting listening to someone talk to me for 1.5hrs or more fills me with dread. I would much rather be part of an interactive session where I can use my brain, work with my peers and learn by doing. It was therefore interesting to see that the majority of ‘workshops’ I attended were not in fact sessions where people were asked to ‘work’, but presentations from experts with a few moments of interaction during Q&As. This makes sense if what people are really looking for is an easy solution, and they want to come and listen to someone tell them how to do their job, but so much is then missed in terms of peer-to-peer interaction and learning.

iii. We’re still a very insular sector

At two of the conferences, there were no speakers from outside the sector. At the third, non-sector speakers made up perhaps 10% of the speaking roster. What is the sector’s fear of learning from other sectors, from being inspired by what’s possible when you have budget to spend and resources at your fingertips? No, we might not be able to then directly replicate what those in other sectors are doing, but we could at least be inspired by them.

iv. What goes around, comes around

In the same way that fashion comes around again and again, we shouldn’t be naive to think that old techniques can be pushed aside every time the next big thing comes along. However, we’re still seeing too much of those old methods at these conferences and not providing enough space for what’s new. Sessions entitled ‘What’s new, what’s working and what’s not’ don’t really seem to highlight the emerging trends. If we’re to catch up with the for profit sector, we need to think about leapfrogging what’s happening yesterday, today and tomorrow and look at what’s going to be happening next year.

I realise this post may be a little negative – this is not to say that I didn’t learn some amazing things and get to network with incredible fundraisers who are working tirelessly to do good, but I do think we need to start rethinking some of the ways that we engage at these conferences if we’re really going to accelerate our sector and look to learn all we can from what is happening in the wider world.

Come and join us!

We’re looking for an experienced freelance digital project manager to help us on our mission to transform the world of non-profit digital engagement:

Role profile: Digital Project Manager

Contract type: Freelance

Contract length: Initially to end of 2018, with the possibility of this being extended

Hours: Ideally 1-2 days per week

Salary: Please submit day rate with application

Location: Home based

Accountable to: Strategy Director


About THINK Digital

THINK Digital helps to create and deliver transformational digital strategies and data-driven engagement campaigns for national and international non-profit causes. With a small core team and a wider team of experienced associates, we work in an agile, responsive and flexible way from across the UK and internationally in order to best meet our clients’ needs.

All of the team is home-based and work from both the UK and elsewhere. We have regular remote team meetings and face-to-face team meetings twice a year, usually in London or Bristol.

About the role

We are looking to take on a freelance Project Manager who can manage a large, year-long piece of work for an international client.

The role will involve being the main day-to-day contact person for the client and will involve managing the THINK team who work on the project.

Core deliverables over the course of the project include:

  • Producing a global digital fundraising strategy
  • Designing, building and hosting a global digital donation platform
  • Developing and delivering three digital-only fundraising and engagement campaigns
  • Building and managing an ongoing online donor engagement journey

As well as managing this project, there may be other projects which you would be asked to work on as well over the course of the year.


  • Setting up projects, including briefing documents and timelines and agreeing these with the client
  • Briefing in the internal project team, including task setting and deadlines
  • Keeping the project running to time, ensuring that tasks are completed on time and to spec
  • Ensuring that the internal team has the information required from the client
  • Ensuring that the client knows of requirements from them and that these are gathered from the client and passed on to the internal team
  • Liaising with the client to keep them updated on project progress
  • Keeping the Strategy Director updated on project progress
  • Producing reports on results, sharing these with the Strategy Director and the client
  • Organising regular results calls with the client
  • Feeding back to the internal team on amendments required

Person specification


  • At least two years’ experience of digital project management
  • Experience of using project management tools, such as Basecamp and Leankit
  • Ability to analyse data, especially in Google Analytics
  • Experience of report writing
  • Ability to manage a number of projects/tasks concurrently
  • Ability to manage people and their time in order to deliver tasks to spec and on time
  • Experience of liaising with clients in a timely and professional manner
  • Proficient in use of Microsoft Office products
  • Fluent in English


  • Experience of working in/for the non-profit sector
  • Knowledge of using Facebook Business Manager and mass marketing tools (ie Mailchimp)
  • Experience of using CMS
  • Educated to undergraduate level

Application details

Please send your CV and a covering letter, including your day rate, to Aroon Dougan ( by 5pm UK time on Friday 26 January 2018. Please feel free to email Aroon beforehand if you have any questions.


Making sense of Facebook’s placement tool

One of the more neglected elements when setting up a Facebook Ad Set in Power Editor is the Placement function. When configuring an Ad Set, it is easy to keep checked the Automatic placements setting – after all, this is the easiest option to take. The Edit placements option carries the warning that it “may reduce the number of people you reach and may make it less likely that you’ll meet your goals”.

It is natural that Facebook would want you to use automatic placements – after all, this places your adverts in more places, such as Instagram and other sister platforms. However, while using automatic placements will usually increase your reach, it will also likely drive down your engagement rates and cost per click.

For instance, while Instagram advertising is becoming more common and therefore palatable to Insta platform users, it generally produces far lower engagement rates than Facebook advertising. Instagrammers aren’t used to clicking on images that direct them away from the app – it’s not what Instagram was built for.

The same is true for other placement options. Few people look at the desktop Right Column in Facebook, and even fewer click on the ads there. Messenger, also, is only just starting to host advertising, so users will be unfamiliar with being marketed to through there.

There isn’t enough shared data to conclude which placements work best, and it will vary from organisation to organisation, and creative to creative. Testing out different creatives in different placements is always recommended, but if you’re working with a tight budget and short timescale, the best option is to go for Facebook-only placements, and stick to the simple Feeds option – the most visible and engaging advertising spots out there.



Creating an effective call to action

One of the most important aspects of a digital awareness or fundraising campaign is having an effective call to action. You might have the most worthy cause around, but without a top-notch call to action it will go unnoticed.

And just because you understand your organisation’s mission inside out, someone seeing a piece of content won’t. You need to get your message across as quickly and concisely as possible, ensuring that the person seeing it knows exactly what the issue is, and how they can do something quickly and easily, and most importantly – right then – to make a difference.

With Facebook advertising becoming more expensive, and email providers becoming more savvy at detecting anything even remotely spam-like, this is becoming ever more important.

When we’re starting to put together the creative for a campaign, we try to follow three key rules: be urgent; be concise; and have a clear cause and effect.

  1. Be urgent

An online campaign needs to have a sense of urgency. Why do supporters need to take action now? This urgency may need to be manufactured – a campaign to raise £30,000 in a month can instead be rephrased as needing to raise £3,000 today. For other campaigns, the urgency may be the natural focus-point of the campaign – emergency medical relief after a natural disaster, for instance.

  1. Be concise

Keep the call to action brief, definable and easy to understand. Use plain English and avoid the use of jargon. Tailor the language to the target audience. People are bombarded by different messaging all day long – you want your call to action to be as simple and eye-catching as possible.

E.g. Breast cancer can be devastating. But you can help.

  1. Have a clear cause and effect

The action that a supporter needs to take should be clear and simple. The effect of that action should be definite and measurable – a definite good will come of a simple action.

E.g. Donate £10 today to send a warm blanket to a cold refugee family.

These rules can – and should – be applied to any campaign, whether it’s emergency aid, lead generation or a long-running capital appeal.

Ten characteristics of successful digital organisations

Research has found that whatever the organisation – be they in the corporate or non-profit sector, and regardless of what product, cause or service they are engaged in – those which are having the most success in the digital space all share similar characteristics.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked with a range of INGOs to help them build their digital capacity and increase their engagement and fundraising potential through online channels.

Here are ten characteristics which enable organisation to succeed in the digital space:

  • User-focused, user-centric and user-accountable
  • Symbiotic: joined up/collaborative in spirit and in practice
  • Of the web, not just on the web
  • Open: innovative, inventive and aware
  • Analytical and data-driven
  • Inclusive: everyone on board, everyone involved
  • Agile and flexible with a strong test and learn culture
  • Have and encourage strong leadership, teamwork and focus, at all levels of the organisation
  • Interactive: dialogue is invited, encouraged and valued
  • Think like a platform

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you adopt a digital-first culture, get in touch –

Challenging preconceived notions of target audiences

As part of a recent campaign for an INGO, we carried out extensive testing of Facebook advertising across a broad range of countries. We not only wanted to raise funds for a specific campaign, but were also testing proof of concept of the global digital fundraising strategy we had produced for them.