Group fundraising primer

July 18th, 2007

Too much going on at the moment to blog consistently, which is a pity given that I’ve lots of things to say, regarding Facebook et al.

Anyway, this SlideShare version of Peter Deitz’s powerpoint presentation from yesterday’s webinar, Group Fundraising 101: From Benchmarks to Success Stories does a pretty excellent job of reviewing the current (and rapidly evolving) “Group fundraising” landscape.

Peter defines Group Fundraising as:

The process of gathering money and other gifts in kind over the internet,

by empowering individuals to covey the value of a program or project to prospective donors of their own choosing

through the use of blogs, widgets, images, video and social networking websites.

Technorati group fundraising, personal fundraising

My Fundraising 2.0 presentation

June 9th, 2007

On Tuesday (…it already seems much longer than that), I facilitated an “online fundraising” workshop for a number of wonderful development NGO-people in Brussels. We were all attending the Euforic AGM. Scarily, a few photos have appeared on Flickr.

Not sure how much sense my presentation will make without the narrative, but here it is anyway:

I peppered the session with examples of charities (and donors) already using social media to raise money for their causes. Participants raised some challenging questions. So challenging in fact, that I need to chew on these for a bit before I can adequately respond. And I didn’t really have time to work in my re-mix of David Wilcox’s card game. I have that for another time.

It was great to meet and talk with fellow blogger Paolo Ferrara, along with Agnes Philippart and Andreas Vogt of Concord.

All told, a whirlwind (and almost sleep-deprived) 24-hours, but I did manage an evening stroll around the Grand Place, fuelled by some Belgian sausages and washed down with a glass or two of Chimay Bleu in the company of Nancy White and Joitske Hulsebosch…to name just two. Many thanks to Peter Ballantyne for the invite, and to Birthe Paul and Martin Behrens for making it easy for me on the day.

Here’s the Slideshare link, in case the presentation doesn’t load.

Technorati concord, euforic, fundraising, giving

Blogging the impact of giving

May 31st, 2007

Suddenly Sudan blog screenshot

Thanks to Steve Andrews of Whitewater for this post pointing to a terrific example of how Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) is using blogs to put donors directly in touch with the work they’re supporting.

Canadian doctor, James Maskalyk, is working for MSF in Abyei, Sudan. He is writing a blog about his experiences. It’s truly inspirational stuff; particularly because it comes directly from him in real time, not in a sanitised quarterly charity newsletter. He shares his doubts, his fears, his hopes and his triumphs. He happens to write beautifully, but it doesn’t matter when he leaves uncorrected typos or uses poor grammar. Because it’s real.

Here’s the link to Dr. Maskalyk’s MSF blog.

One commenter / donor wrote:

I have been a monthly donor to MSF for some time. On Tuesday, I will ramp up by contribution, because I have a house, a job, a healthy beautiful sometimes-maddening daughter, a garden, rain, food – and hope. I wish I could give those things to the mother whose baby you tried to save. I cannot, so I will do what I can.

Steve titles his post “Real Close”, which I think is right on the money.

Technorati blogging, msf, net2, social impact, sudan

Leveraging social networking to influence change

March 20th, 2007

PR Blogger Stephen Davies thinks we’ll start to see a fragmentation of social networks. As people begin to tire with the vast, general nature of MySpace et al, they may migrate to niche social networks that are more relevant to them, their passions and their lives.

He asks:

So what does it mean for brands? Niche social networks can be tapped into for more relevancy in online engagement. For example, which platform makes the most sense for a brand like Pedigree? Bebo or DoggySnaps?

Stephen continues…

But identifying the right platform is just the minor part. It’s how you engage with the users in a creative, respectful and non-intrusive manner which will be the key to a successful online PR campaign…

Spot on, Stephen. I’ll come back to that.

Interestingly, there is already some activity in the ‘social networks for change’ space. launched last month, and will be “a space where you can promote your passion, rally for a cause, and raise money for charities in a variety of different ways.”

change-cauzoo.jpgAnd then there’s Carebadges… who do it with widgets.

It’s early days, but I’m not totally convinced that these social networks are themselves authentic enough: they seem a little forced… activism for activism’s sake (not that there’s anything wrong with that particularly). I’m not sure about the lack of focus though – well, unless you’re an activist first, and something else second.

You need to get close to where your supporters are (and their distributed network)… which is why DoggySnaps is so good.

Moving on… I’ve harped on before about how I registered the domain and how I hoped one of the players in the social networking space would create a “My Causes” tab in their members’ profile pages.

LinkedIn for Good

Well, I’m pleased to see that LinkedIn has moved a step in this direction, and should be applauded – thanks to Kerri Karvetski for the tip-off.

LinkedIn for Good

The first not-for-profit to benefit from a presence on LinkedIn is Médecins Sans Frontières.

It looks pretty good… up to a point! I feel it’s only a start though, as this still has the feel of what you might call a “networked giving” and nothing more – in other words, too much focus on fundraising.

The implementation on a member’s profile page (see below) could be improved. I’m not sure that “Member” is entirely accurate in this context either.

linkedin-group.pngWhat if I want a different kind of relationship with a not-for-profit… or with a cause with which I identify for some reason?

LinkedIn members are – on the whole – accustomed to having more of a voice. In fact, I believe that LinkedIn will discover that members will desire a 360 degree relationship with not-for-profits.

LinkedIn feels entrepreneurial. There’s real potential here I think for the not-for-profits to engage members of the LinkedIn network in a relationship that goes beyond giving. Think of members of LinkedIn as potential ambassadors for your cause.

I might be able to indicate in my profile that a preference for becoming a virtual volunteer and trustee.

As Jeff Brooks writes, donors can also give:

  • Information: ranging from market insight to specialized professional knowledge.
  • Voice: the ability to speak for you in many ways.
  • Influence: the ability to help things go your way.

And of course, donations will surely follow.

The 9m+ members of LinkedIn must carry a fair bit of clout between them. You’d think it would be pretty unstoppable if this collective intelligence – already into thinking about network-building and showing leadership in a networked world – could be harnessed to support individual actions through the social network, even to find solutions to problems.

I can actually foresee new agile social enterprises springing up from a network like LinkedIn… united by their ability to connect to others with shared passions, complementary skills, and a vision to change things. And I’m sure there’s a link here with the creation of like the Omidyar Network and Kiva.

The Simplicity of Social Networks by Dan Cooney - published with permissionThere, I’ve just this minute received an email from LinkedIn’s Dave Sanford (thanks for getting back to me, Dave), so this post should serve as a good discussion opener!

Returning to the DoggySnaps example… what started as a photo-sharing community has the potential to evolve into a dynamic social network.

Niche, yes… but it can extend the reach of the Dogs Trust, the not-for-profit behind it.

(Related post: my DoggySnaps interview).

Update: See Dave Sanford’s response, below…

Technorati doggysnaps, linkedin, mycauses, net2, niche social networks, nptechuk

The Next Big Thing in fundraising: saying thank you

March 15th, 2007

We can learn a lot from our kids… and how they say thank you. I’m no exception.

But Whitewater’s Steve Andrews says it perfectly:

Saying ‘thank you’ is one of the best opportunities you have to inspire your donors, to make them feel fantastic about their decision to give.

I urge you to read Steve’s post.

Another ‘must read’ blogger, Jeff Brooks, touched on a similar theme recently:
Photo courtesy Eunice XR Lai

If you want full value from donors, you need to engage them in a relationship and conversation.

Treating donors as human beings. There’s a concept.

Reminds me of something a kid once said to me at youth club. He fancied himself as a bit of a bully. He said something to me in an attempt to provoke a response. I ignored him. He got huffy, got his words muddled up and barked, “You’re talking to a brick wall”. I think he meant to say something else. Anyway, we were teens. It was a long time ago.

People have long memories.

Technorati fundraising, giving, whitewater

That Sarah McLachlan music video

March 7th, 2007

I’m a little slow on the uptake on this one… like two years!

Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan’s World on Fire music video cost $150,000 to produce… except it didn’t, it cost $15 and the rest was donated to these charities.

YouTube Preview Image

Well, it hasn’t actually been available on YouTube for that long; thanks to Kai Chan Vong at Justgiving for the tip off.

Oh, and Justgiving has launched its very own page on YouTube. I’m pretty certain that we’ll see a steady increase in the number of people capturing their fundraising stories on video.

Of course, we already know that $500 can buy a family in China a water buffalo.

Technorati justgiving, sarah mclachlan, youtube

Widgets of the world unite…

March 6th, 2007

I’ve been having a lot of widgety thoughts recently, so I thought I’d bundle up a few loose ends in the one (long) post.

First though, if you’re playing catch-up a bit, Heidi Cohen has written a good widgets primer on ClickZ. badgeNow… I happened to replace half a dozen conventional light bulbs at home on Sunday with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Over in the US, Yahoo! has launched a campaign in collaboration with Inconvenient Truth producer Lawrence Bender, Wal-Mart, and others, to raise awareness among Americans about the energy and environmental savings afforded by CFLs.

When you purchase a CFL bulb anywhere in the US it will be added to! And, you guessed it… you can easily and quickly configure your own widget (or ‘badge’ in Yahoo-speak) and install it on your website, blog and / or social network page with a simple cut and paste. Brilliant!

If you’re interested in reading more about the campaign, Lawrence Bender has written a guest post on Yahoo’s Yodel Anecdotal blog.

Demonstrating impact

The first book I ever read on campaigning was Des Wilson’s A to Z of Public Advocacy, first published in 1984. I can’t lay my hands on my copy (in the garage?) but if I recall correctly, one of Des’s golden rules was encourage you to campaign for something, rather than against something, and the 18seconds widget does a great job of visualising – in raw numbers anyway – the accumulated impact of hundreds of thousands of small actions by distributed individuals to effect positive change.

I emphasise “positive” change, as leveraging Web 2.0 communication tools for good was something that was discussed in a lively ‘conversation’ hosted by Amnesty’s Dan McQuillan during the Uploading Innovation ‘unconference’ last week.

If you hadn’t guessed already… for me, widgets are one of the most exciting ingredients in the emerging Web 2.0 toolbox.

Wear your cause on your blog

Another new kid on the widget block is Carebadges, who aspire to be the yellow bracelet campaign of the web, and while I think the implementation can be improved a lot, I agree with co-founder Saar Gur who told me:

Uploaded by Zanoobi on 26 May '05We think that as people express their identities on the web, there is a big gap where social causes ought to be. We want people to express the things that they care about beyond cultural items (music, movies, etc.).

Last year I actually registered the domain name – – and wrote on this blog that I would willingly give it up to any organisation which promised to use it wisely (or hand it over to MySpace if they agreed to establish a “My Causes” tab on their social networking site!)

Anyway, I interrupted Saar…

We want to give people ‘badges’ to help them identify with a cause and have a positive social influence amongst their peers. We use our “impact meter” of impressions/awareness, donations/support to help recognise folks that use their popularity for good. The money [donations] will come later if we can give tools to those who want to create cool badges, email signatures, etc., and we focus on the social impact that each user has in recruiting new members…

I’m not totally convinced in this peer group tactic, in much the same way as I’m not sure how much saying “I’m In” means you’re really anything other than a number. You’re agreeing that Oxfam’s mission is a noble thing.

Widgets have the potential to show you how by taking this or that action, you are making a difference.

Communicating success

This could be the Holy Grail for widgets.

18seconds does this in a visually compelling way… it joins the dots… and it makes it look simple.

But wait a minute. ChipIn’s Carnet Williams says something very interesting in this interview with Britt Bravo (which to Britt’s great credit rather trumps my own interview with Carnet last month).

Carnet says…

What I think 2007 really should be part of is the evolution of the widget into a smart widget. We are going to see widgets that are going to be focused around transactions, such as a ChipIn widget around donations, focused around intelligent content, meaning that widgets will soon be able to identify the users, and where they’re located, so that they can serve our conditional and intelligent content.

I really think that widgets are going to evolve and you’re going to start seeing a whole new breed of widgets that are more intelligent, that are richer in the data, and that have a much more grounded rationale so they’ll move from becoming decorations to part of a business process for companies and individuals online.

Now the slightest hint of ‘smart’ widgets is enough for me: if I could only get information I care about – e.g. what difference a project I supported is actually having, or the accumulated effect of campaigning actions, etc. via a widget… now, that would surely become a key driver of my future support for that cause.

The Network Effect

For a great insight into the power of the widget widget web, check out Dion Hinchcliffe’s excellent article, Tracking the DIY phenomenon Part 1: Widgets, badges, and gadgets.

Dion identifies the YouTube ‘badge’ (we’re still talking widgets) as demonstrating the value of ‘chunking’ up content and services into bite-sized reusable pieces.

Particularly because it has so many viral distribution pieces built into it, the YouTube badge is the canonical example of the power of opening up and letting the entire web distribute your content for you.

Not content just to ask you if you’d like to share a video with friends via e-mail (resulting in friends forwarding to friends, and to their friends and so on) but YouTube makes the code snippet for embedding it right on your own site or blog readily visible and available to the right of each video.

Not content just to have their content just on a single site, YouTube realized that it was by mobilizing millions of users to extend the YouTube platform to their own sites that they could achieve lasting and durable network effects. E-mail propagation is powerful but it’s almost certainly no match for having millions of persistent, discoverable YouTube badge installations all over the web.

Dion kindly gave me permission to reproduce the following graphic (originally published here) which illustrates the full potential of the network for extending the reach of your widget / message.

Widget Network Effect: Dion Hinchcliffe - graphic reproduced with permission

Here in the UK, Justgiving has added badges (these are just badges) to the toolset available to fundraisers (is it just me who thinks all widgets, gadgets, etc… look better with rounded corners?).

Justgiving badge

Their widgets have been doing pretty well, too. Since their release at the end of December, over 8,000 individual Justgiving widgets have been posted on the web and the highest performing widgets have registered over 500,000 page impressions.

Right now, there are 1,479 “active” Justgiving widgets, all doing their stuff, and this figure is expected to rise pretty steeply as we get nearer to the London Marathon.

Justgiving’s Simon Doggett told me that a Flash version of their widget is in testing, and should be released later this month (fundraisers have been asking for a widget that is optimised for those websites that currently block iframes, e.g. MySpace).

Well, that turned into rather a long post, so I had better think of a way to summarise how I believe widgets can prove a winner for not-for-profits:

  • You move beyond the single website model and turn the entire web into a distribution system for your content / stories (Dion Hinchcliffe)
  • Smart widgets will (hopefully soon) allow you to report back on how you are making a difference

Technorati 18seconds, chipin, justgiving, nestauploading, net2, nptechuk, saar gur, widgets

Saved by the brushstroke

March 1st, 2007

Last month I wrote about the public appeal to raise a lot of dosh to keep one of JMW Turner’s greatest paintings in the UK.

Today, the BBC report that the campaign has been successful.

I understand that over a third of 11,433 individual donors ‘bought’ brushstokes, and that of the £552,198 raised in total (via post, phone and web), £73,281 – or 13 percent – was donated through the buy a brushstroke initiative.

By Steve Bridger filed under giving

Technorati buy a brushstroke, jmw turner, tate, the art fund, the blue rigi

An interview with the Widget King

February 7th, 2007

Last year, Hawaii-based ChipIn launched its “social ecommerce” service designed to help individuals connect with people in their social network for collection of money for a personal cause, to purchase a gift, or for community fundraising.

ChipIn widgetIn recent months, the business has morphed into a “distributed fundraising widget management company”. Shel Israel blogged about this following a breakfast meeting he had with Carnet Williams, CEO at ChipIn, last December.

Now, if you want to find out how the ChipIn widget works, then you should read Beth Kanter’s case study, who incidentally interviewed Carnet in his pre-ChipIn days.

I think that distributed widget fundraising is a hugely important development and is set to sky-rocket this year… something I asked Carnet.

Do you agree that 2007 will be the Year of the Widget?

Yes! But I have a caveat on the term ‘widget’. I think in 2007 we will see a trend moving away from pure consumer-based widgets that act more like banner ads, and see the rise of the “smart” widgets – actual mini-applications that are embedded on both websites and desktops.
We are moving towards a more business-oriented rationale for widgets. Some good examples are the widget to access and upload your files. It also plays mp3′s. This is a widget that serves a clear business purpose. That is where we wanted to position ChipIn – as a transactional widget that helps collect money. We will soon move beyond just tracking the collection of money, and onto tracking many different actions.

How do widgets offer a brand-building opportunity for not-for-profits?

When we think of widgets, we should be thinking of online branding and advocacy. It is not just the widget or the donations that not-for-profits should be seeking, but building a network of advocates that will carry a particular message. If the message is compelling, the donations will follow. Not-for-profits have an amazing ability to harness the power of their constituents’ social network through well-designed widgets that offer compelling value (content, actions, etc).

What is the blueprint for a successful widget strategy?

Just like selling your organisation’s mission, a widget strategy must start with a compelling message / reason to create a widget in the first place. It must cater to the stakeholder who is going to carry that widget around with them. It has to offer value in terms of changing content and help an organisation’s advocate make their case for support.

Definitely check out Beth Kanter’s Sharing Foundation case study, mentioned above [and listen to Nick Booth's podcast of Beth talking about her widget fundraising].

How do you measure the effectiveness of a widget?

We look at the number of widgets created, how many times they are viewed, and most importantly, we track the parent-child relationship between widgets. This allows us to track the word-of-mouth impact a widget is having, and the best advocates at spreading the message.

Can you identify some successful distributed fundraising activities and blog-raising campaigns?

DonorsChoose ran a great widget campaign last year to get bloggers to support school projects. I think they were one of the first not-for-profits to jump into this space themselves.

There are other campaigns running now, such as Network for Good’s campaign.

What are the main barriers to the adoption and spread of widgets (e.g. those sites which operate as ‘walled gardens’)?

I think the main barrier is going to be a crowded space and widgets that do not provide tangible value. For example, widgets that are just fancy banner ads will get old and tired very quickly for users.

The web is now all about user-generated content and changing content. Widgets need to follow this trend and provide a robust and rich media channel between the organisation and their supporters.

The walled gardens of the larger social media sites (MySpace, TypePad) will be an issue for groups, but we [ChipIn] are working to provide an aggregated approach to this problem by working with the larger sites to allow our system to work across the board. Everyone is always holding their breath to see what MySpace is going to do… but the desktop widgets may take some pressure off.

What’s behind the repositioning of your product as a Widget Management System?

Very simple. We had so many clients asking us for the platform that it made sense for us to shift our business from a consumer-facing product, to a back-end widget platform. We designed our core system to integrate very easily with our clients’ payment systems.

So, we are poised to fundamentally change the way online fundraising and advocacy will work within social media. We want to go far beyond just fundraising and see that as measurable benefit of our system. We want to see ChipIn become an online organising tool unlike anything else seen before. You’ll see a totally new and revamped ChipIn in the next month or so!!

(Wow… is this something for Comic Relief to try, perhaps?)

Technorati carnet williams, chipin, distributed fundraising, nptech, social ecommerce, widgets

Not-for-profit’s have the gift of stories

January 29th, 2007

Nancy Schwartz invited me to submit a piece for this week’s Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants theme on “How do Nonprofit Communicators Compete for Audiences’ Attention?”

So here goes…

Back in October, in my second post to this blog, I wrote about what I believe is our sector’s secret weapon: storytelling

Some fifteen years ago, I frequently travelled around the UK for Oxfam talking to often quite large groups of the charity’s dedicated supporters about ‘third world debt’ and ‘structural adjustment’. Inevitably, I weaved in human stories from the ‘field’ to help illustrate the impact of these reforms on those living in poverty, the intended beneficiaries of Oxfam’s projects.

It seems that Michael Gilbert of Nonprofit Online News has a similar past. In his review of “Storytelling: Branding in Practice“, Michael says:

Back when I was a lobbyist for environmental and consumer organizations in the mid Eighties, I came to the conclusion that our cause had a secret weapon. We didn’t have the advantage of good ol’ boy webs of relationships with legislators. We certainly didn’t have the cash that built and sustained those relationships. But when the system worked and the fourth estate was functioning properly, we sometimes, just sometimes, had an amazing power on our side: the power of the true story.

Of course, we’re not talking about stories in a ‘newsworthy’ sense, but rather stories that remind your colleagues of the reasons they joined your organisation: passion for the cause.

In my last post, I went on a bit (too long?) about engagement. Now, I’ve always found it difficult to engage with a piece of direct mail, and this will only get more difficult with the trend towards a more visual culture. (But I’m looking forward to listening to and learning from Anna Crofton of Whitewater when I meet her on Wednesday.)

I’ve written previously about how Kresta King Cutcher has been posting powerful images from Rwanda to the Flickr photo-sharing community. And you could try weaving your Flickr photos into a storyboard.

For a primer on digital storytelling, you can do no better than read J.D. Lasica’s 10 Easy Steps tutorial.

Little Longhorn; photo courtesy Robert ThompsonWhen all the ingredients are in place, you get something like this:

A plea: make a little time (8 minutes to be precise) to watch this inspiring story about a water buffalo donated to the Su family in China (thanks to Carnet for the tip).

It moved me to tears.

I can imagine empowering the entrepreneurs on Kiva to tell their own stories in a similar way.

By the way, I learned from these guys that this week is National Storytelling Week here in the UK. Good timing, eh?

Update: after posting this in a bit of a hurry, I’ve since noticed that Robert has a whole page dedicated to the water buffalo story. He’ll revisit the Su family in March to do a follow-up interview.

Technorati flickr, kiva, national storytelling week, robert thompson