#IFC2017: best conference ever?

Just got back from the effing awesome #IFC2017 fundraising conference. If you get the chance, get that in your professional development plan (or if your org has no budget, you can volunteer too).

Here are some of my key takeaways that are applicable to all of us:

With technology, power dynamics are changing

Jeremy Heimans talked about the old power vs new power dynamic in the opening keynote, and that set the tone for the whole conference. It’s worth a watch.

We’re not structuring our organisations for success

Some of the organisations who have had the biggest impact recently have been structured to:

  • Be flexible
  • Empower BIG change by asking people to do something big in exchange for something big
  • Empower change agents within your organisations (and if you’re a manager, run defence for them!)
  • Be OK with not taking the credit for the victory
  • Offer value beyond data collection and being someone’s direct debit

I feel like people are underestimating digital

Power dynamics are definitely changing, and it’s more clear than ever that flexible organisations with a culture of taking risks are taking advantage of key moments when they matter. Take ACLU – when was the last time someone raised $42 million in a single weekend through DM*?

They had all of their ducks in a row (culturally and technically) to take advantage of some of the world’s biggest fundraising and activism moments. All they needed to do was be prepared.

Any of our organisations can be taking advantage of key moments like the ACLU (or countless other US-orgs have done).

Through the sheer number of people at Paul de Gregorio and Jo Wolfe’s mobile session, there’s also clearly still a mental separation between mobile and digital (and as Paul said, digital = mobile, mobile = digital). We’ve gotta rethink this stuff.

*Just as a total side note, the only people I’ve ever heard saying “direct mail is dead” are consultants complaining that people are saying “direct mail is dead”. Direct mail is very much alive, it just serves a different role.

Good fundraising is good fundraising

The core elements of what makes a great fundraising offer don’t change, no matter what the medium. Whether you’re talking itch & scratch; fluff & bite, or the Four Whys, it all comes down to making a credible offer to the right person at the right time.

I disagree with Tom Ahern

Shit, I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I disagree with something Tom Ahern said. He said there are no best practices in digital – that’s not true. The single best practice in online fundraising: test everything. I’m going to write a post about that soon.

FLICK the haters: complaints can be a good thing

Quick note: This isn’t just another article about how you can turn a bad donor experience into a good experience by handling it properly!

At pretty much every job I’ve ever had, people FLIP OUT when lots of angry emails come into the supporter services inboxes. Especially senior people.

Here’s a truth to repeat in those moments to quickly ground yourself:

Your best campaigns – the ones that motivate most people into action – will probably also generate the most complaints.

If you’re doing your fundraising properly, you’ll be telling a deeply emotional story that will feel uncomfortable. To lots of people, they want to right the wrong you’ve just told them about.

But there’s also a small section of people who don’t seem to enjoy life. They’ll just get angry that you’ve made them feel uncomfortable and will flick off an email about how bad you are.

It can be easy to get caught up in the hysteria about needing to change stuff to address the complaints, especially if your boss is the one receiving emails. So, take a step back and do this:

  • Figure out how many complaints is “a lot” (often it’ll be fewer than ten)
  • Look at how many donations you’re getting
  • If you’re getting lots and lots of donations, don’t worry about it – you’re running a great campaign! Get back to the people who have written you the angry messages, but pat yourself on the back for a job well done – because of you, you’re raising lots of money to make your mission possible
  • If you’re generating a lot of complaints and your donation rate is shitty, your campaign might actually be pretty grim. I can’t help you there, better go into damage control mode.

It’s about reframing the conversation to “look at how much money I’ve generated for our cause!”

You’re doing great work.

The Four Whys of great donor-centric copy

I used to have a problem when I started out in fundraising – I was trying to make my copy emotional, while also ticking all of the boxes to really speak to the donor’s desires to create change.

I’ve found that before I write copy, I picture having a quick conversation with my donor – and she’s only asking me four questions about my appeal. I call them the “four whys”:

Why this?
For most of us, this is the easiest part – you’re defining your problem for your donor. It’s also where most of us stop.

Just telling people what’s going on isn’t quite enough to completely nail an awesome fundraising appeal.

Why now?
This is where you need to add urgency – define why giving *now* is critical. You want to give your donor the drive to get out her wallet now, before the next thing in her life comes along and she forgets about you.

If there’s a deadline coming up, it’s usually a great chance to ramp up the urgency. Deadlines can include all sorts of stuff – big decisions being made, events… even the possibility of someone dying.

Why me?
You need to tell your donor how her donation will make a dent in solving your problem. Do this by telling her your plan – the specific things your organisation is going to do to resolve the issue.

One of the biggest issues that make our donor feel disconnected to our causes is that we’re making our problems too big – so big that it feels they can’t be solved. Make sure your solution will have a realistic impact that her £20 will help move forward, and then show that to your donor.

Why you? (I also like to call this So what?)
Answering this is where you describe why your organisation is the best positioned to tackle the problem.

This is your chance to show your connection to the issue.

You can do this simply by making sure you’re using the right signatory for appeal (someone with a strong personal reason for asking for donations, like an Exec Director or someone with family affected comes to mind), but you can also by describing your past successes (without taking away from the need to donate this time!) and describing the expertise you have in tackling the issue. Pretty often you don’t need to put this one front and centre, just further down in the appeal is ok.

Give the four whys a try next time you’re coming up with an appeal.