Are Your Donors Too Old For Digital?

At the IoF Fundraising Convention I took part in a debate, for the motion “Your Donors Are Too Old For Digital”. I wanted to try and summarise my opening and closing statements as a blog post…so here you go…

Only 7% of donations come to non-profits on-line.

It was a statistic I first heard years ago at IoF’s National Convention. But didn’t seem right. There were so many sessions about digital and how on-line was the future. So many vendors telling me all of my donors were on-line. I’d bought in to it…I believed that you had to be investing heavily in digital.

Year after year that figure stayed reasonably stagnant. It still sits at just over 7%. So I stopped listening to what salesmen were saying. Instead I started looking at real donors actions taking place around me….people handing over bank details on the street, donors gushing over the phone, asking for paper sponsorship cards, bringing in bags of cash.

Real money.

Not impressions and engagement. Not eyeballs and clicks. Not chat bots and automated bullshit. (You can’t save a whale with impressions.)

I saw that 7% figure was the method, not the motivator. The motivators were real human interactions, dreams, hopes, fears, passions, a crippling fear of dying alone.

I saw me…Yes I love Twitter. I love Instagram. I love LinkedIn. But even though I was on-line, my life was off-line.

People aren’t on-line…they are off-line in front of a computer…distracted. Yes people are on-line…but they are donating off-line.

Regardless…I don’t matter…You don’t matter. You are not your target audience. 90% of your donors are older than me.

Digital might be the future…but we’re not living in the future. You have time…you don’t need to be an early adopter. We can run this debate next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. Until the figure significantly changes you don’t have to invest so heavily in digital. The truth is every form of fundraising works but we have to pick and choose how we spend our time. That’s really what fundraising is. You’ll go back to office tomorrow and you’ll have important decisions in how to spend time. And if you’re spending more than 7% of your time online then you’re wasting it.

Why are you here?

Yes you’re here to raise money…But why are you here today in this room at a fundraising convention?

You already know most of the stuff being talked about – you’ve heard it before. The plenaries are on Facebook live. The data is available on-line. The presentations will be published. You can find each of these speakers on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.

So why are you here?

It’s for the same reason that only 7% of donations are on-line.

It’s for the same reason we still crave the human touch. We still shake hands when we meet. We hug. We lose it when someone plays with our beard.

When we interact digitally what we’re really doing is trying to use a more efficient tool to find real human connections.

And we’re doing it badly. We’re sucking the life out of these connections…digital has made it really easy to not be a human. And humans give to humans.


Because you were raised by a human being. Our earliest memories are human touch. We love human touch, we thirst for it, we thrive with it.

It’s everything.

The generation who will be truly digital will be the generation delivered and held and raised by machines. 20 years after that poor child is born…that’s when your donors will be the right age for digital.

Until then…spend your time wisely.

Your donors are too old for digital. And you are too old for digital.


[I’ve countered this with another post Digital Fundraising…How Do I Love Thee?]

Digital Fundraising…How Do I Love Thee?

I give Digital Fundraising a hard time.

I’ve called on-line “snake-oil”.  Jen Love and I made the case at IoF’s Fundraising Convention that most, if not all, of your donors are too old for digital (blog post coming soon). I think every conference and most charities are wasting a disproportionate amount of time on digital. And I’m on a mission to destroy chat bots.

But do I mean it?

Well…like everything it’s not so black and white. Digital can be amazing when it doesn’t try to replace or replicate the human touch…but instead when it makes the delivery of that human touch more efficient. The truth is there’s a place for digital in my heart and a place for digital in your fundraising mix. Maybe there’s room for the two in your life?

So here’s my love letter to digital fundraising…

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

  1. It makes giving really easy.
    Once you don’t confuse the method and the motivator you realise that digital makes donating really, really convenient. Paypal, Facebook Donate, and on-line fundraising sites are some of the ways we can allow our donors to give in one or two clicks. Sure, it’s not the reason they’re giving…but it’s one more way to do it and the easier it is the more likely they’ll follow through.
  2. LinkedIn has actually revolutionised networking
    When people say their digital product has revolutionised fundraising they’re usually selling some stupid shit. But LinkedIn has revolutionised fundraising. It makes research easy, it makes contact easy, it makes stewardship easy. If you’re not on LinkedIn and using it every day to progress your fundraising and your career then you’re missing out.
  3. Facebook is great for events
    Event invites, participant recruitment and spreading the word is definitely one of the few perks of Facebook. And beyond that, feeding back gratitude and images and video and results of your events is pretty damn easy. When you see fundraisers integrating it with the real world it becomes a thing of beauty.
  4. Buffer the Time-waster Slayer
    Scheduled posts and repeating content allows you to have a pretty decent social media presence in less than an hour a week. Thank you Buffer!
  5. Digital Makes Learning Free
    Resources like Irish Charity Lab, Third Sector PR & Comms network and Fundraising Chat on Facebook are invaluable. A place to ask questions and immediately get answers from some of the best fundraisers in the world.
  6. On-line is great for testing before you move off-line
    Put up a different story from your organisation every day. The one that gets the best result is probably the one you post out to your real-world mailing list. Simple as.
  7. Digital Makes Us Brave
    I talk about picking up the phone and face-to-face asks all the time. But the truth is it’s scary. Yes you need to do it…but while you’re working up the courage there is still a place for those safer on-line messages. You don’t feel like you’re leaving your most vulnerable self exposed.That cheeky little private message can lead to some of the most scarily beautiful real-world human interactions you can ever imagine…they’ll break your heart.

The Fundraising Funnel – Part 1: An Introduction

I find many non-profits tend to ignore key parts of the Fundraising Funnel or disregard it completely. You might never have heard of a Fundraising Funnel or haven’t thought too much about it. But it’s one of the fundamentals of fundraising. It has to run through everything your organisation does if you’re going to have a successful fundraising strategy.

So I want to write a few posts about it, starting with this one.

The thing is…you’re currently sitting in a bunch of people’s funnels! They might be Sales Funnels, Prospect Funnels, Loyalty Ladders, Purchase Funnels, Customer Funnels, Marketing Funnels…whatever.

Whatever they’re calling them, it’s the interaction to get your more committed, more loyal, and spending more money. Call now for information. Apply for a loyalty card. Collect 5 tokens. Sign-up now to get free alerts. It’s every touch point and the call-to-action that goes with it.

You can’t even imagine how many sales and marketing manager’s funnels you’re sitting in right now.

More than that…you are almost certainly running your own Fundraising Funnel for your organisation right now without even thinking about it. It’s quite natural.

But the point of these posts is to get you thinking about it in a more considered and systematic way. And to help you improve every stage so you get more donors…quicker…and cheaper.

Let me show you a sample Fundraising Funnel…one of my favourites that I’ve used successfully a number of times.

Very simply it might look like this:

Your organisation decides to host an information event for the public. Perhaps your CEO will speak about the latest developments in the are or one of your front-line staff might offer advice on how to support someone who is affected by the issue. Out of your 1000 followers on Facebook maybe 50 say they’re interested in the event and maybe 10 people actually turn up. Great!

The event is successful. It’s nothing glamorous. Literally just some seats put out in your offices. And tea and coffee. Your speaker was good and engaging and there were a handful of questions froA sample Fundraising Funnelm the guests. At the end you pass round a form to capture attendees contact details if they’d like to be kept up-to-date on news and events and fundraising. Out of the 10 people there maybe 9 give their phone number.

The next day you call them all to say ‘Thank You’! Thanks so much for attending…great to meet you…I hope you found it helpful. You ask the attendees if they have any feedback. What was missing? What else do they want to know? How could it have been improved? Great suggestions! Thank you! Out of the 9 people you tried to call you had a decent conversation with maybe 5 of them.

The following week you call them all back. Thanks so much again for attending last week. You got in to work this morning and they popped in to your head and you wanted to call them and only them because there’s this project your organisation is working on that you think might be of some interest to them. This is what it is…this is the problem…this is the solution…and so now you’re asking if they’d like to donate to it? Or help fundraise for it? Great! Thank you! Out of the 5 people you spoke to this time maybe 2 of them agreed to make a donation over the phone! Yay!

There’s a bit of work over a bit of time…but the lifetime value of those donors, and even of the individuals who dropped off at each stage and didn’t progress, is potentially huge. It makes the time you spent at each stage more than worthwhile.

That’s it. Nothing shiny or particularly innovative or groundbreaking. Just good, solid fundraising.

Over the coming series of posts I want to talk about other Fundraising Funnels that can work for you, how to get started, how to constantly get better at it, and more.

But in the next post I’m going to tell you the 2 biggest mistakes that organisations make.


You don’t have enough time, right?

You don’t have enough time…right?

You have to be online! You have to send more mail! Treat every donor like a major donor! Your Board wants another golf classic! People are phoning for fundraising packs and you don’t have time to train in the volunteers! Plan Christmas! Plan your summer! Plan Flag Day! Pick up the phone! Sign up for Twitter! Facebook! Google Plus! Tinder! MyFace! The next big thing! Meanwhile your kid’s school has some stupid event you got roped in to and you’re neglecting your mum!

Well, over on Bloomerang I have a new blog post with my 7 Tips To Help Fundraisers Manage Their Time.

Have a look!

Do Your Co-Workers Hate Fundraising?

Fundraising challenges come at you from all directions.

Sometimes the most disheartening and difficult challenge is the resistance you might receive from your co-workers. At some stage you’ve probably witnessed the other staff in your charity complain about fundraising or felt their lack of support and interest. You might even have felt alone in your organization. Look around the staff meeting…are you the only fundraiser?

It doesn’t have to be us and them.

With a bit of ‘internal marketing’ you can get the rest of your organisation on your side… and even get them happily fundraising for you.

Over on Bloomerang you can read my 5 Ways Fundraisers Can Get Their Co-Workers Interested In Fundraising.


How Would You Spend A €$£1,000 Fundraising Budget?

Following on from the blog post, “How Would You Spend A €$£10,000 Fundraising Budget?” I decided to call on some other amazing fundraisers to ask how they’d spend an even smaller budget in an even smaller charity.

How would you spend 1,000?

“I would invest in a program where $1,000 would make a huge difference to the success of the program and/or the community it is intended to serve. For example, a $1,000 investment in a community garden would go a long way in providing an irrigation system, seeds/plants, marketing, and distribution of fresh produce to those in need. I would then work to ensure that the impact of that investment was communicated to others who would be inspired to give, maybe as simply as inviting them to visit the garden and see it firsthand.” Joe Matassino

“I’d invest £1,000 in storytelling, which is a key part of fundraising but is difficult to resource. I’d hire a freelance journalist to interview a range of the charity’s beneficiaries. The journalist would take photos and videos in the process. The beneficiaries could then tell their own stories of how they benefited. Publishing these stories would inspire donors to give.” George Overton

“Fancy an ROI of 34 to 1? The best thing you could do is invest that €1,000 in some decent fundraising training. Especially if your team is inexperienced. In fact, consultant Amy Eisenstein, Professor Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Rita Kottasz ran a study of major gift fundraising at 662 organisations. They found an increase of $37,000 (or €34,000… see what I did there?) in gifts for each additional training opportunity given to staff. And I suspect the effect may be even bigger for other, (especially more technical) forms of fundraising. Soooo, that certificate in fundraising your boss won’t pay for… kind of puts things into perspective, right?” Colin Skehan


And this amazing breakdown from the amazing nerd Caoileann Appleby, showing how she would tackle DM, email and social media:



The Evolution of Statistics

I wrote before how Bad Statistics Are Dangerous For Charities.

Here’s a great example of how a statistic evolves on-line…

Here’s the original statistic from the (questionable) research: “64% say that corporate social responsibility is core to their business rather than being a stand-alone programme”. Note that this is derived from asking CEOs “Which of these statements best describes your organisation today?” 



This is pulled in to a blog post and correctly used (although there’s no mention of the wishy-washy way the stat is derived):


But (presumably) the editor goes with a catchy headline, “64% of CEOs Are Increasing Investment in Corporate Social Responsibility in 2016 – Here’s Why”:


Although this same headline is used in the original blog – so there probably was no editor.

A Director of PWC UK then share’s the statistic, with a subtle but crucial change, “64% of CEOs increased investment into CSR in 2016”:


And forever now we’ll be reading that in 2016 the majority of CEOs increased investment in CSR.

The end.

The Fundraisers Book Club


Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details.

The Fundraisers Book Club was the brainchild of Gaby Murphy (Purplegrass)  Colin Skehan (Merchants’ Quay) and Simon Scriver (ChangeFundraising). We are all members of Rogare, the Fundraising Think Tank based at the University of Plymouth’s Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy and we were looking for a way to share some of the critical thinking on fundraising that this group is producing.

We wanted to make sure that Irish fundraisers had a chance to share in that debate and so we came up with the idea of the Fundraisers Book Club.

The idea is to provide an informal networking and continuous learning club for fundraisers of all levels. The plan is to meet every 2 months and at each meeting we will review a publication, a piece of research or a book on a fundraising related topic.

It will be run like a book club, in that everyone will have the opportunity to input into the discussion, regardless of experience, level of seniority or discipline.

Discussions will focus on the practical application of fundraising theory or research and how we use evidence and best practice to inform how we fundraise.

Who can attend?

It is open to all fundraisers and communications professionals working in the sector or interested in getting into the sector. The only entry criteria is an open mind and a willingness to learn.

What is the aim of the Book Club?

Continuous learning,  self-improvement,  networking with colleagues, fun and lively discussion.

Will I be expected to prepare for the sessions?

Like any book club we will let people know in advance what the text is that we will be discussing so that people have a few months to read it.

Is there a charge?

The Club will be run on a cost neutral basis – most events will be free of charge and some may incur a small charge to cover venue hire costs, where needed.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details.

Which Charity Should I Donate To?


Do you find it hard to decide who to donate to? The best way to donate?

Are you part of a group that wants to support a charity? Is it your company? Your society? A group of friends?

Are you cynical about charities? Wondering why we continue to see charity scandals every once in a while?

Well we, as donors, have to take responsibility for our own donations and admit our role in the enabling of bad practice. When scandals come to light we’re surprised, but the warning signs are usually there. Instead, with a bit of careful thought we can minimise the risk and maximise the good we do. The poorly-run organisations can be starved, while the ‘good’ charities get the funding they deserve.

Let’s put some careful consideration in before we support any organisation, whether it’s a personal donation, a corporate partnership, your student union or a fundraising event.


Consider giving earlier next year.
About 30% of donations are made in the last month of the year.

This can be a problem for charities as it can make it difficult to plan and increase the risk of things going wrong. Consider supporting your chosen charity steadily throughout the year. Commit to an amount and inform the organisation so they know it’ll be coming in.

Decide what you want to achieve.
There are so many good causes out there that it can be hard to narrow it down. So focus on what’s really important to you right now and accept that you can’t help every good charity out there.

Don’t just be reactive.
Most donations are given off the back of being asked, whether that’s someone shaking a bucket, an ad you see on TV or an appeal you get in the post. This fundraising and marketing is a necessary cost…us fundraisers spend money on these to raise even more. Obviously, in theory it would be much more cost-effective if the same donations were made unsolicited.

Unfortunately, most of our giving decisions are made emotionally rather than logically, which is why you still see so many badly governed charities in Ireland being supported even after the scandals.

It might be an unrealistic goal to expect all donations to be better thought through and considered, but you can start by being less reactive and instead planning your giving.

Are they a registered charity?
Most countries have a central database of registered charities. In Ireland ours is maintained by the Charities Regulatory Authority and is
searchable here. If the charity you’re considering donating to isn’t on it then ask them why. If you don’t get an acceptable answer then report them to the CRA.

Do they meet the highest standards?
Determine what else is important to you. has a great series of questions and lots of helpful information on ‘what makes a charity good’.

You might, for example, object to the charity’s staff being paid or a charity with ‘higher admin costs’. On the other hand, you might realise that higher salaries and higher costs might just be indicative of better qualified staffed and better governance.

Either way, any information that’s important to you should be available to you. If you ask a charity for this information and they can’t give you a satisfactory response then move on.

In Ireland we’re fortunate enough to have The Governance Code, of which only a few hundred charities are fully compliant. Search for your charity and if they’re not compliant then ask them why not?

Are they actually having a positive impact?
Think about whether you understand and agree with the method they’re taking to fix the problem. Is there research and results to show that what they’re doing works?

For example, William Macaskill rightly pointed out that a homeopathy charity meets all of the conventional criteria we usually look for in a charity, but is proven to be absolutely ineffective.

I truly believe every charity should be able to show you evidence of their success: whether it’s formal research, something tangible or simply testimonials from service users you should have access to it before you donate.

Decide how many charities you want to give to and how much you want to give.
Caroline Fiennes says donating to fewer charities makes it easier to identify the good ones and it reduces transaction costs.

Try to focus on your core charities and don’t feel guilty about turning others away. Be honest with yourself about how much you can donate (perhaps 5-10% of your earnings) and then feel happy about sticking to it. There is no shame in wanting to spend money on yourself, your loved ones, and that stupid hobby you have which is truly, truly dumb.

Nobody can make you feel guilty about that except you. So if you truly feel like you’re giving what you can then don’t feel bad the next time you say no.

Then give, give, give…
Give…give with all your heart. Give loudly and give proudly. You are wonderful.

The whole process can be time consuming, sure. But this is your hard earned money you’re giving away and the problems we’re trying to solve are too important for us to give without putting thought in. Why not commit to doing some real research every 3 years, decide on ‘your charity’, and then give like hell?

Still, you might argue that you don’t have time to do any research. Don’t be tempted to make your decision based on oversimplified charity comparison websites. Instead, look at who undertake huge research and only recommend a handful of charities. Give to one of those.

Or…contact me and I’ll help you decide.