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.

48 hours to build the most awesome digital campaign the world has ever seen

Following the success of our innovative and highly-rated hothouse session in Amsterdam last year, we are returning to the IFC in October with a masterclass running along the same lines.

Put simply, we are giving ourselves – and the delegates – 48 hours to build the most awesome digital campaign the world has ever seen.

We’ll start off by sharing the creative principles and successful studies from causes that have engaged support and raised real money online. We’ll then hand over to the delegates to work in groups to create campaigns around a brief they help to create.

As well as the speakers’ expertise, delegates will have access to virtual support from THINK’s specialist digital designers, online influencer researchers and social media marketing experts – all working remotely to build the awesome digital campaigns.

Working as a group to tight timescales, delegates will also be exposed to some of the theory and practices of agile working that will give an insight into the culture required to be a successful digital team.

Finally, the groups will feed back on their work to see if we really have produced the most awesome digital campaign the world has ever seen.

From this masterclass delegates will learn:

  • How to creatively build a digital campaign from scratch
  • How to work as a team in a very short time to agile working methodologies – so gaining insights into successful digital culture and working practices
  • How to plan a multi-faceted digitally-led campaign

If this all sounds good to you, then join us at IFC 2018!

Facebook’s new fundraising tools: What to consider when using the new non-profit features

For several years, Facebook has been steadily turning itself from an individual-oriented social media platform into a business-oriented marketing machine. In pushing down organic reach and pulling up paid reach, making its advertising features more powerful and introducing Business Manager, it has been trying to entice more businesses to spend more money through the platform.

This is no different for non-profits – the potential reach and impact per dollar through Facebook far exceeds any other kind of current marketing tools, online or otherwise. Facebook, therefore, has been busy introducing new features for non-profits to use in order to maximise results.

Donate, Donate, Donate

The most obvious ‘new’ feature for non-profits is the Donate function. This has been extended to three areas.

1. In-page donation: Facebook has for a long time had a Donate button available for non-profits to use on their page, but in the past this just acted as a redirect to an external website – the non-profit’s own donation page. Now, supporters can donate without leaving Facebook – the Donate button can be added to a page or a post, and the user journey from sentiment to transaction is as short and smooth as possible.

2. Adverts Donate button: Facebook has expanded the scope for calls to action in Adverts Manager or Power Editor. Now, if a page is set up as a Non-Profit Organisation, a wide array of options for a call to action button have been opened up. Prime among these is the Donate button. This still just redirects users to the non- profit’s own landing page, but it makes for a clearer and more engaging call to action than the old Learn More button.

3. Live video fundraisers: Facebook has been pushing its live video function for a couple of years now – boosting the viewing figures to extreme levels, well beyond what the standard of the content actually deserves. Now, when non-profits are using live video, they can add a Donate button to the stream. This has so far been much under-utilised, requiring the kind of large digital team, technical know-how and forward planning that few non-profits have. However, the potential reach that live video has makes this an enticing option.

Don’t Get Distracted

It would be easy to get distracted by the new fancy charitable tools that Facebook is offering, and to rely too heavily on them to bring in results. However, the new Donate buttons are only as good as the campaign around them – there still needs to be strong messaging, imagery and other marketing components.

What also needs to be taken into consideration is the user journey. With the new in- Facebook Donate function, do you actually want to keep users within Facebook, or would you rather direct them to your own landing pages, with your own branding and response mechanism?

The answer to this is not straightforward. It can be cheaper and quicker to recruit leads or capture donations directly in Facebook, but without the opportunity to give the supporter more information about your cause, it can mean that they don’t go on to support you on a longer term basis.

One example of this is a lead generation campaign that we ran recently for a US environmental non-profit. It produced a lower cost per lead when signing people up within Facebook rather than directing them to the non-profit’s landing page. However, there was a higher conversion rate to donations from those that signed up through the non-profit’s landing page than those who signed up in Facebook.

As with all marketing, we would recommend testing approaches when activity begins and analysing which approach produces the KPIs you want to achieve. This can be frustrating when Facebook offers such quick wins, but this doesn’t always necessarily correlate with the best results long-term.

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.