On 15 September SOFII held a half-day conference called ‘I Wish I Thought of That’ in partnership with Open Fundraising. The event consists of twenty quick-fire presentations by colleagues from across the sector speaking about great fundraising campaigns that they wish they’d thought of, and why.
You can watch some presentations online – I highly recommend that you do. Here are some of the key thoughts I took away from the afternoon…
Use evocative language
Rob Woods, of Bright Spot Fundraising, spoke about his admiration for the charity ‘F**k Cancer’. The name is deeply evocative in stirring up the anger felt by those affected by cancer. In just two words it creates a visceral sense of not only the raw emotion, but also a call to arms to do something to stop it.
As Rob puts it, they are tapping in to a basic instinct of human beings: that we support things that allow us to “throw rocks at our enemies”. And it works best of all because they are absolutely clear on the fact that their target demographic is teenagers. They respond to that language because it’s how they already communicate with each other.
Fiona Lishman, Head of Client Development at On Agency, spoke about Rethink Mental Illness’ #FindMike campaign. Language was used cleverly here to give a crystal clear call to action that was impossible to misinterpret: help Jonny find ‘Mike’. The smart move here was to attribute a name to him to facilitate this (Mike, it transpires, is actually called Neil).
“Find the man whose name I can’t remember but who was there on Waterloo Bridge that day” certainly doesn’t have the same ring to it. And by giving him a name they created an image of a real person in all our minds – who could be found.
Be truly ready to react
One of the recurring themes of the afternoon was that the charities who are most successful are those who were set up structurally and culturally to react quickly to external circumstances.
Catherine Cottrell, Deputy Executive Director of Fundraising from UNICEF UK, asked the audience how many people felt truly able to run with an idea without having to check with senior management first. Only a smattering of hands went up.
Using the example of #nomakeupselfie she pointed out that CRUK quickly checked that no other charities owned the movement, but then they took ownership of it. And they raised £8mn. We need to be empowered as fundraisers to act and react based on our convictions and seize opportunities without being bogged down by red tape.
Meredith Niles, Head of Innovation at Marie Curie Cancer Care, got us to recognise the importance of something we all probably take for granted. She reminded us that JustGiving is a truly amazing platform that allows charities to react to societal events that are out of our control.
Some examples from the UK are Stephen Sutton’s ‘bucket list’ campaign, which rose £5mn for Teenage Cancer Trust. Or the dog rescue home in Manchester which was victim of arson earlier this month, and received 20,000 donations within hours of the news breaking.
Meredith asked, if a human event like this happened to our charity, would our websites be able to handle that volume of traffic? Or process that volume of donations? Probably not. And what about the Gift Aid claim? JustGiving has established itself as a go-to resource for the public to support a cause, and provides a smooth and trustworthy supporter experience which is streaks ahead of most charities’ own webpages.
Believe in the possible
A couple of the presentations at IWITOT delved into the archives to look at some of the fundraising from hundreds of years ago. One such example was that of the Statue of Liberty. On its arrival to New York a major oversight reared its head; there was no plinth for the lady to stand on. She remained unassembled in crates for over a year.
One plucky newspaper editor decided that, since the state of New York and its wealthy philanthropists were refusing to pay, he would ask the working classes to come together and raise the funds. This was unheard of at the time, but, as Aditi Srivastav, Supporter Retention Officer at Plan UK pointed out – it was in essence the first ever crowd-funding campaign. Joseph Pulitzer gave incentives such as having your name printed in the paper, and reported back on progress regularly. Things we still do to add value to our campaigns today.
Give people something (to do)
At the heart of these inspirational campaigns was the recurring theme of charities giving people something unusual, or asking them to do something different. Asthma UK sent out a direct mail pack with a straw and asked people to breathe through it for 30 seconds; to understand what it feels like to struggle to breathe when you have asthma. The RSPCA pledged to care for people’s pets when they passed away as a route to securing legacy pledges. Oxfam Canada sent supporters a patch of fabric on which to write a message of hope for a quilt to send to Ethiopia. Toilet Twinning sent people a framed photo of the individual toilet theirs was twinned with, including its map co-ordinates.
In each case a smart technique was used to deepen the individual’s sense of connection to the beneficiary so that the relationship was stronger and longer-lasting. This is not new, but perhaps we could step back and think creatively about doing it more often.
This is most of all apt because IWITOT is a vital source of funding to run SOFII. The organisers gave us a fantastic afternoon (which I could have written so much more about) in exchange for the price of our ticket – and a free drink! The event demonstrated beyond doubt why SOFII is such an important resource. Do check out their new website, and browse through their archives next time you need some inspiration.