For Art’s sake… Buy a Brushstroke

January 22nd, 2007

Tate Britain is asking the public to help save one of JMW Turner's finest watercolours for the nation

In an effort to keep one of JMW Turner’s greatest paintings in the UK, the Tate and The Art Fund hope to raise at least £300,000 from the public via phone, postal donations and by donating £5 to “buy a brushstroke” online.

Tate needs to find a total of £4.9m (US$9.7m), and has allocated a record £2m to the purchase of The Blue Rigi, which represents 3 years’ interest from its endowment fund for the purchase of art. The Art Fund charity has added a further £500,000.

The BBC reports that a public appeal launched last month must raise the remaining £2.4m before 20 March, when the temporary export bar placed on the work by Culture Minister, David Lammy, will expire and the painting would be allowed to leave the country.

Several leading artists, including David Hockney, Peter Blake and Rachel Whiteread, have bought ‘brushstrokes’ to support the appeal.

As part of the campaign to save The Blue Rigi for the nation, for the first time ever the Tate has united Turner’s great Rigi watercolours. Painted in the Spring of 1842, The Blue Rigi will be shown alongside two companion pieces, The Red Rigi and The Dark Rigi, which capture the Swiss mountain at different times of day. The exhibition at Tate Britain opens today and will run until 25 March 2007.

Unlike “Your Name On Toast”, which I wrote about recently, this doesn’t quite add up to a ‘traffic pyramiding’ scheme, as you cannot ‘link’ your purchased brushstrokes through to your website. I just hope the appeal is as successful as Alex Tew’s efforts to help pay his way through university with his Million Dollar Homepage.

By Steve Bridger filed under causes, giving

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

A toast to fundraising with widgets!

January 11th, 2007

More on widgets.

One of my recent predictions was that widgets and widget fundraising would make their mark here in the UK in 2007.

A good time then for prolific US-based blogger Beth Kanter to write an excellent case study on her experience using the ChipIn widget for her successful personal fundraising campaign for the Sharing Foundation.

My piece of toast ChipIn founder Carnet Williams hopes that others can learn from Beth to make their own fundraising efforts more successful.

It seems especially appropriate to mention this today, as Beth is celebrating a Big Birthday! A toast would seem in order, then.

Crumbs, I may have just the thing: talking of toast, and talking of sharing… this is another one of those ‘traffic pyramiding’ schemes, but this time in aid of charity. A cool (and slightly eccentric) way to donate to a good cause.

Intrigued? Point your mouse to Your Name on Toast!

Technorati beth kanter, chipin, widget fundraising, your name on toast

Mapping your donors with a widget

January 4th, 2007

I have to point you over to Beth Kanter’s post about the new ChipIn mapping widget that mashes Googlemaps with GEO-IP tracking of donations.

This is the best application of Googlemaps I’ve seen since the Be the Full Stop campaign I posted about in October.

Also worth a read is this post by Idealware’s Laura Quinn about distributed online fundraising tools.

Technorati chipin, distributed fundraising, googlemaps, widget

The trends that will drive charities in 2007!

January 4th, 2007

Photo of crocs courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt (Pink Sherbet Photography)I’m sticking my neck out with some of these (sort-of) predictions.

If I’m honest, I share Bertie’s view that next year, 2008, will be the real breakthrough year when charities get ‘social’. This is partly because budgets have largely been fixed for activity this year.

Never mind, there will be plenty of elbow room to experiment and innovate in 2007.

As always, comments (especially additions to this list) and challenges (be nice) are positively encouraged!

  • 2007 will be the year of the widget. Charities will benefit from the downloadable fundraising widgets offered by Justgiving (launched just before Christmas) and Bmycharity (on its way).
  • The desire from donors (especially major givers) for more involvement and information will intensify and the need for accountability will further erode the sacred cow of the general fund. Note: most charities will be dragged kicking and screaming down this road. Initiatives like the ImpACT Coalition seem more concerned about reputation management than championing transparency. This is disappointing.
  • Social entrepreneurs and venture philanthropists will have an even higher profile this year.
  • The page view is dead, long live, err… something else! Hmm… web metrics just do not cut it (and just when you’d got to grips with it!). But what should we be looking at now? In 2007, the sector needs to identify new measures of ‘engagement’ online. This work is urgent, especially as charities need to show accountability for everything they do. Engagement + accountability = effectiveness. Note: numerous conversations in recent months tell me that there’s a lot of head scratching going on around this one. Get in touch and maybe together we can figure something out.
  • A blended media approach will gain ground and charities will reach and engage stakeholders where, when, and how they want to be communicated with. This means greater cross-departmental collaboration.
  • More charity employees (and virtual volunteers) will identify with the roles of buzz director / community steward / social reporter. Charity managers will sit up and listen (and even start blogging). Note: I’m thinking of co-organising an open-space event for those championing social media tools (and change management) within their organisations.
  • Charities will get better at reporting their achievements and aggregated update reports via RSS feeds will become standard. Podcasts will become commonplace.
  • 2007 will provide some high-profile stunts and more cause-related avatars in Second Life, but remain a peripheral activity.
  • Some well-equipped charities will learn to use these tools for storytelling and weave user-generated content into their own content, thus giving stakeholders more of an authentic voice.
  • The distinction will become more apparent between those charities wishing to build hosted communities for supporters and activists and those who have accepted the inevitable loss of control of ‘their’ cause and become active in existing communities and social networks.
  • Furthermore, by the end of 2007, many charities will register that they need to slim down their websites, and create a more personalised, targeted, atomised (but consistent) presence on the web.
  • One Laptop Per Child imageOne or more of the popular social networking sites will tap into the desire for members to identify with a cause and create a “My Causes” tab.
  • We’ll end 2007 with some excellent case studies (I’ve high hopes for Red Nose Day in March), some disappointments and a great deal of learning in the process.
  • The novelty of ethical gifts will begin to tire by the end of the year (there are too many copycat catalogues out there).
  • Not really a prediction as the One Laptop Per Child project looks set to really happen this year. Interesting to read about the look and feel of the UI.

Technorati buzz director, net2, nptech, olpc, predictions, trends

More than just the bacon

January 3rd, 2007

Three Little Pigs - Present Aid

My young daughters were chuffed to bits when their godmother bought three little pigs from Christian Aid’s online giftshop, “Present Aid”.

When my wife explained to Nelly that the pigs were going to live in Nicaragua, she chirped back, “Mami, can we go and visit them there?” We hesitated. Hmm… good idea but better we go and look at a photo on the charity’s website! Naturally, Nelly wanted to know how the pigs’ new owners were treating them!

Of course, while we didn’t expect to be able to look at ‘our’ pigs, perhaps we could look at a photo and receive updates of the pigs progress?

The Present Aid website FAQ says:

At the time of purchase we cannot be certain as to what project your contribution will benefit. This means that we are unable to provide updates or photographs. For a more general update on how Christian Aid is spending your donation please visit

After Google’ing “La Labranza” I discovered that Christian Aid has been working in the mountain community for fifteen years alongside its partner organisation, the Community Movement of Matagalpa (MCM).

The Independent on Sunday (IoS) partnered with Christian Aid for its Christmas appeal. An article written by Katy Guest and headed “The healing power of happy pigs” tells the story of La Labranza through the lens of its inhabitants, including (very appropriately) a woman named Nelly…

Nelly lives in the northern region of Matagalpa, where the crops scent the air with spearmint and coffee, and children fill in holes in the roads in the hope of a lobbed coin from a passing driver. Her house is a mud construction with a tin roof – from a distance, it looks as if it has been thrown at the side of the hillside by a giant hand, and stuck. Its position is dizzyingly beautiful, but dangerous.

Now the gift card my daughters received includes some copy about how farmers in La Labranza “like Juan Rayos Sequira… looked forward to receiving a pig” from MCM, which he can use “to start a litter of piglets”. For every 12 piglets born, he passes on two to another family. Those left over provide him with both food and an income.

Katy writes more compellingly in the IoS…

In this area, 70 families have been given pigs with donations from MCM. They cheerfully forage around the hillsides, eating banana peel, spoiled vegetables and windfall chayote fruits. A community organiser, Ciriaco Ortiz, explains: “When little pigs are born, people give one back to the fund and one to their neighbour. Now there are 410 pigs.

I find all this interesting, as I read an article published in Professional Fundraising last month which identified that how “ethical gift funds” are spent varies from charity to charity.

Stances range from those such as the Good Gifts Catalogue which ensures the money is passed to the beneficiary in full and used solely for the purpose stated, to ensuring the money goes to the community the gift was intended to help, to merely contributing to the charity’s general fund.

I’m sure there’s some potential here, through visual storytelling, for my daughters to become more fully engaged with ‘the pig story’.

But it’s clear from FAQ number 29 on the Christian Aid website, that if you buy three pigs, the money goes directly to Christian Aid’s agriculture & livestock fund. Today… many days later, another glance at the gift card reveals that the money (that’s our daughters’ godmother’s money) will indeed “go into an agriculture and livestock fund to help… bring similar schemes to poor communities in the developing world”.

OK, so it’s there in the small print, but try explaining that to your five-year old daughter.

This little piggy went to market; this little piggy was in fact a can of worms.

No. I think not. Instead, I’ll tell Nelly (my daughter) about her namesake in La Labranza…

Nelly is fattening up her obliviously happy pig. The children chatter about planting trees as they cross the river on the way to school.

Ah, a happy ending.

Technorati christian aid, ethical gifts, nicaragua, present aid, storytelling

Blogging the effectiveness of direct mail

December 11th, 2006

I recently exchanged emails with Anna Crofton at direct marketing agency Whitewater. I should give them a plug since I’m a regular reader of their blog.

Whitewater deserve a lot of credit, not just for allowing the team to “share what’s on their minds”, but for tackling some tricky issues head-on, such as health warnings on direct mail and the sacred cow of the general fund. The blog is a great way for clients and other fundraisers to get closer to their thinking.

While we’re on the subject of traditional media, kudos to Jean-Luc Walraff and his creative team at McCann-Erickson in Belgium for devising this brilliantly effective Little Premature Christmas card. Every year, the premature baby unit at Edith Cavell hospital sends cards to the other departments and to former patients. This year, they sent this card in mid-October. When opened, the message inside reads:

It’s a little premature, but Happy Christmas

Little Premature Christmas card. Agency: McCann-Erickson, Belgium

Spotted in the Ads of the World blog.

Technorati accountability, direct mail, fundraising, mccann-erickson, whitewater

Save the Children offers yak a Second Life

December 5th, 2006

Owen Gibson writes in The Guardian that Save the Children today becomes the first UK charity to participate in Second Life, a virtual world accessible over the web via software installed on your computer.

Having ‘sold out’ of yaks for a programme designed to provide the animals for Tibetan families, Save the Children has turned to Second Life in an attempt to raise more money and awareness.

From today, participants in Second Life will be able to travel to its “Yak Shack” and pay 1,000 Linden dollars (the game currency, named after the company that conceived it) for their own pixillated yak.

The money is then transferred into a Save the Children account at the current exchange rate of US$3.50 to 1,000 Linden dollars.

Save the Children's Yak Shack in Second LifeIf you think this reads like a shaggy-dog hairy-yak-story, then think again; a recent survey conducted by the US-based Center for the Digital Future suggested that for many people, online or virtual communities are as important as their real-world counterparts. The results of the survey were released last week and reported by the BBC.

Another study identified that the way we behave physically in real life is mirrored in a virtual environment. So, your virtual self can feel just as strongly about causes as the real you. But would you ‘connect’ with a cause, or organisation in the same way? The jury’s still out for me.

The Yak Shack concept was created by Ogilvy Advertising and works well as an extension of the charity’s “Wish List” virtual gift catalogue.

Ogilvy’s Kathryn Parsons traces her interest in Second Life back to the Picnic06 conference where she heard Philip Rosedale (the Founder of Linden Labs) make a specific reference to Second Life’s potential as a fundraising community. (A report of Philip’s talk is worth a read in itself.)

The agency was already working with SCF and Kathryn told me the connection with ‘virtual gifting’ seemed to good a creative opportunity to miss. Of course, using Second Life as a platform to fundraise will also enable SCF to connect with an audience usually considered difficult to reach.

Kathryn added that “it was important for us to create something which both respected the charity and also the ‘residents’ of Second Life”.

So, during the build, Kathryn worked closely with the Second Life community (seeking advice from Linden Labs, “in-world” avatars, and from Aimee Weber).

“We wanted to make sure we created an experience which is valued by the community and which will eventually become a fundraising success,” she said.

SCF is following the lead of US charities that have recently begun to take advantage of Second Life’s popularity and booming virtual economy. Aimee Weber also contributed to a sponsored virtual ‘walk’, which raised $40,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

If your interest has been piqued, Beth Kanter writes frequently and passionately about this stuff, which has coined terms such as ‘avatar marketing’. Beth has also posted links to Second Life resources and discussions aimed at not-for-profits.

Aimee kindly offered to give me “a teleport and a tour” of the Yak Shack, but I had to decline (I don’t yet have an account!). However, I’m still keen to monitor how successful the Yak Shack proves to be for SCF.

Apparently, yaks and their new owners can return to the ‘Shack’ on 16 December to show off their individually customised yaks (woolly jumpers, etc.) for the chance to win an interview in a Second Life magazine.

If you’re a Second Lifer, dig deep into your virtual pockets.

Technorati aimee weber, avatars, net2, save the children, second life, yak shack

Cause and Effect

October 9th, 2006

[This is rather a long post - some might say ramble - but think of it as an introduction to some of the themes I intend to cover on this blog.]

It’s right that a charity mobilises and directs (donated) funds where it identifies there is greatest need. The ‘general purposes fund’ is something a charity will fight to protect at all costs. But this position is becoming more difficult to sustain.

The general public do not always understand how their donations are used by charities. Young people now prefer to fundraise for a cause, rather than donate to an organisation (do challenge this view if you think it incorrect). Increasingly, more discerning donors (or those with a lot of cash anyway) like to channel their donations through specific (and more glamorous) projects to measure their impact and effectiveness, in much the same way as they would any commercial investment.

These shifts in the ‘giving landscape’ will only accelerate. The image and reputation of charities will increasingly depend on their ability to demonstrate value and impact. Blogs and other forms of social media bring new opportunities (and some risks) to charities who are willing (and well equipped) to take advantage to further their mission.

This was the broad topic under discussion at a thought-provoking workshop held at NCVO on Thursday. We were brought together by Megan Griffith from NCVO’s Third Sector Foresight project. Some of the other contributors have already blogged about the session, including Molly Webb (Demos), Nick Booth (Podnosh), and David Wilcox.

I expressed a few opinions last week, which will attempt to share with you here.

We can all agree, I think, that the web has empowered individuals and invited more scrutiny into the work of organisations.

Charities are not immune from this evolution but they do have a secret weapon: compelling stories.

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.

Intrinsic to good storytelling is the conversation that it generates. Dialogue always (or nearly always!) followed my ‘debt’ workshops.

Blogs and social media provide the best tool set yet to continue the conversation.

Let me return to the issue of donations and accountability for a moment. Back in the summer, Justgiving announced on their blog (aimed at their charity clients) that they had amended their terms and conditions “to make it clear to our individual users that their chosen recipient charity reserves the right to use the funds raised through our site for its general purposes, not a particular appeal.”

I found this interesting, not least because Justgiving has transformed the process of charitable giving in the UK. (Declaration of interest: I was on the Justgiving payroll, albeit very briefly, in 2002).

The public must know whether they are contributing to a particular project, or to the general work of the charity. Why does this matter? Crucial to answering this question is understanding what makes people tick.

Some have a personal connection to a charity or cause (e.g. cancer prevention); others of us will have been ‘emotionally engaged’ through images beamed back to us from a disaster zone.

Interestingly, despite younger people normally being the least likely to give to charity, polls taken soon after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami tragedy indicated that a whopping 86% of 18-24 year olds said they gave money to a charity in response to the disaster.

Certainly the epic scale of that disaster pulled at heartstrings and loosened purse strings like nothing else since Bob Geldof’s Band Aid phenomenon a generation earlier.

I would still argue that most people now have a much looser affinity with an actual organisation – and “Generation Y” (or Generation “Why” as Oxfam would have it) use online social networking (and their mobile phone) as their primary method of communication (See “Email is for old people”). Causes and single-issue campaigns are arguably what build a movement and put ‘fire in the belly’ (but more about that another day).

Actually, I’ve just purchased the domain name – – but will willingly give it up to any organisation which promises to use it wisely. Or I might sell it to MySpace if they agree to establish a “My Causes” tab on their social networking site!

I’m not suggesting charities ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and pull their existing fundraising campaigns. The old-fashioned collection tin remains the most popular way of giving to charity. I’m talking ‘baby steps’ here, poco a poco… although within a few years I do expect job roles and budgets to have been juggled around.

For example, I would encourage you to recruit a social media champion. This individual may already work for you. Find out who it is, tell them that he or she is now the charity’s ‘Buzz Director’, and ask them to identify where your key audiences gather online and join in the conversation.

I’ll be exploring how you do this on this blog.

Technorati buzz director, discerning donors, justgiving, my causes, net2, oxfam, storytelling

A Chicken is not just for Christmas

October 6th, 2006

Darren Rowse is a six-figure blogger. Last week he celebrated ProBlogger’s second birthday by “giving something back”. He raised over one thousand Aussie dollars to buy 110 ‘pairs’ of chickens for families living in poverty. That’s more than just chicken feed.

Darren put a percentage of his weekly blogging income into ‘buying’ chickens through Oxfam Australia. He invited his readers to contribute as well.

A “chook-o-meter” in his blog sidebar tallied the number of donated chickens.

If you have a blog, consider using it to promote the Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue. Since the first catalogue (launched for Christmas 2004), shoppers have bought 700,000 ‘gifts’ through the scheme. Oxfam UK told me that chickens proved a particular hit with shoppers in 2004, with 520,000 birds ‘delivered’ to communities where the charity works.

Oxfam America will launch its first ‘alternative gift’ catalogue next week.

Thanks to Britt Bravo for the tip off.

By Steve Bridger filed under giving, oxfam

Technorati oxfam australia, oxfam unwrapped, problogger