On my return from the annual International Fundraising Congress in Amsterdam recently my mind is full to bursting.
As always I was exposed to debate, case studies, insight and trends. We covered channels, products, messaging, donor journeys and donor behaviours. There were also practical workshops on how to ‘innovate’, ‘develop a fundraising strategy’ and ‘manage change’.
But the real value for me and the reason that I love IFC is the luxury of time away from the day job; 72 hours to submerge myself in fundraising, learning, thinking and debating with some of the best fundraisers in the world.
I have learnt far too much to cover in one blog post. So instead I will report back on what the common themes were – the hot topics. It is a useful exercise to establish what the sector as a whole is currently thinking about and inspired by, and to pinpoint our greatest challenges and opportunities.
So here are the things that came up over and over. I have split my list into the Old Stuff (the tried and tested, keeping sight of what we already know and doing what we already do better) and the New Stuff (less traditional techniques, the unknown and the opportunities).
Stewardship: Thanking, Loyalty, Engagement.
OK, the sector has been aware and inspired by the likes of Ken Burnett’s ‘Relationship Fundraising’ for over 20 years now. But it feels like we are now seeing a real gear change: We can no longer get away with simply weaving a few words of thanks into our appeals and sending out a newsletter. Real stewardship is more than that. It requires more thought, resources and budget. We are certainly observing this change at P&B also, in the way that charities are using the phone (more on that in future blogs).
Not convinced? Watch this amazing video from Charity: Water and ask yourself how you would feel on receiving this personal thanks. Or more importantly, how would you feel about the one charity that did NOT thank you properly? It seems there is a real danger in being the last to start doing this.
There were lots of sessions on storytelling. In summary we learnt that these days your brand matters less than your story. Tell the story right and people will give, regardless of their familiarity with you.
Tell an emotional, compelling and urgent story with a beginning middle and end: good old fashion fundraising!
Video was championed by many as the ultimate medium for inspiring and engaging donors and potential donors. Demand for video is big – YouTube is the 2nd biggest search engine after Google and this is set to grow. Put simply, when people are online they want to watch not read.
Unsurprisingly social media was discussed a fair bit. Despite a few good examples the general consensus was that social media is still not a big player in fundraising. ‘Likes’ and ‘going viral’ are not translating into hard cash.
And something that surprised me was that online gaming cropped up a fair bit. On reflection this makes sense, and I look around me and see some charities doing this already (see National Trust’s MyFarm for example). Think about what makes the gaming industry so successful for a minute – the enjoyment, the incentives, the rewards, the fear of missing out and of course the addictiveness! We can learn so much from this world.
Overall the message on digital fundraising was clear. Don’t wait for others to test first – things are moving too fast and you will miss the boat.
Innovation is another buzz word in the sector right now. Looking at the common fundraising challenges it is easy to see why – to keep donors engaged we need to hold their attention. To acquire new donors in a competitive environment we need to stand out, offer choice and make giving fun. And with so many new channels to explore and the ever changing online and social media world we need to work harder and faster to stay in the game.
Next year, the IFC promises to help us push forward with innovation and new media, and answer our questions by introducing speakers and content from outside the NFP sector. I can’t wait. In the mean time I am left with many nuggets of insight and inspiration that will drive me to do new things, and do old things better.
I am certainly not the only person to be so enthused and inspired by the conference. Find more learning and thoughts from others here: 101 Fundraising, Fledgling Fundraiser, Mark Phillips, Paul de Gregorio