Friday, October 31, 2008

How to Keep Donors Excited!!

Have you been through the pain of loosing donors who give to your cause? Or have you been through the exaltation when your donors go on to become your ambassadors?

The difference in above two situations could be in the way you cultivated your donors. Several fundraising guru's term it as Donor Stewardship. Are you thinking what do these two words mean?

According to a survey of around 150 fundraisers conducted by Gordon Mitchie of Relationship Marketing, UK,(available at )

"Stewardship is really about understanding your donor and their wants and needs. A good steward will know that stewardship means ensuring people give at levels they can afford and feel comfortable with so they might not need to be brought on to a higher giving level.And to a very good fundraising steward, asking only when your donors want to be asked, is a non-issue because you would know when your donor wanted to be asked without them having to tell you. That’s part of taking personal responsibility – taking responsibility for knowing when and how to ask."

Very often we ask donors less or more than they can afford. At times we ask them for causes they do not feel strongly about. We also ask them at times which are not great for them. Simply stewarding is about knowing right answers to these what, when and how much questions about your donors. Lots of hard work, but that is worth donors are!

PS: Although, the survey findings further go on to say that there are three kind of stewardships and wanting one definition type is not really fair, but the above simple understanding should be a good starting point for us fundraisers in the Indian sub-continent.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How do we give some sense to our CSR?

Does this question bog you very often as a practicing CSR professional? It certainly did bother my long time friend, who I have also known professionally now for around a decade.

My friend works for a top-line FMCG company that is also quiet active in community development. Quiet an expert himself, somehow this time he seemed to grapple hard with the question (How do we give some sense to our CSR?).

I am about to describe a situation that may be familar to some of you. His company was involved in several community welfare activities and that too in a totally decentralised fashion. You may be wondering where was the problem in all this? After all decentralization is a good word!

Well the problem was there and profound, as my friend articulated:

1) Most of the activities did not add up and hence the impact caused by them was not clear and measurable.

2) With 50 odd offices in 50 different cities doing their own bit, there seemed to be no sense of direction

Well, when he narrated this to me I was quiet surprised. The community development programme that they were running was almost the size that a mid-size non-profit in India manages. Not many non-profits in India, leave alone corporations, have a 50 city programme.

Obviously the programme was spread quiet thin. Clearly, the desire of each office to have their own programme had led to this situation. "But how does one handle this?", asked my friend.

That set me thinking. If a corporation's community development programme is equivalent in size to the programme that a mid-sized non-profit organisation usually runs, then it has to be handled in a manner the non-profits handle it. Like a serious business!
There are some best practices that rest with the non-profits. And if we superimpose some of these with corporate situations then the cocktail, as served below may offer some solutions:

a) It could be a good thing to issue guidelines to your local offices for the type of community welfare activities that they can enter into e.g. stocking the school library, sponsoring the teachers/health workers for critically important training programme, providing teaching/learning aids and so on.

I think a dozen odd activities amplifying the corporate vision should help.A best practice would be to evolve these dozen odd activity types by the way of an inter-office consultation.

b) I would reckon around 75% of the programming could take the above route and 25% could be still totally left to local office judgement;allowing for local level flexibilities.

c)The programme impact surely needs to be measurable. Some non-profits categorise their various projects on a two by two matrix. On one axis is the 'critically of the programme to overall vision' and on the other is 'resources involved'. So the programmes that rank high on both the parameters deserve and get special attention. These are provided special inputs in terms of agreeing on mission, goals, objectives and plan of action. Besides, these are frequently checked on the direction they are taking.

The corporations like the ones for which my friend works could also do the same. Focus on key projects, plan and monitor them well. The rest of the projects could be left to the judgment of people at local level. Mind you, this is not because people at local level know less. This is because,at the local level mostly the people stationed are sales/operations/production staff who are all the time busy chasing their own targets and do not have enough time for all this additional serious work.

d) The high ranking programmes could be even monitored by an outside agency. Often corporations do not have enough people for the purpose and hence an outside agency with expertise in this should be a great help.A mid-term followed by an year end evaluation should be good enough to start with.

The non-profits even go to a greater extent to plan and monitor their programmes. But at most of the corporations it is still a different story. CSR and hence community development is not an integral part of business for many. Nothing to fret about, we know it is still evolving!

These basics if applied could make the Community Development programme of a corporation (often called CSR to great dismay of many) more strategic and give it an increased sense of direction. There is much more, but as I said these are just few basics.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Honey traps for INGOs in India

While attending the International Fundraising Conference at Amsterdam, I chanced upon my good Italian friend and former colleague Francesco. After doing several years with International non-profits in Europe and Latin America, he is now a new but a devout convert to consulting.

On the bar stools, I have yet to come across a more inciting/inspiring fundraiser as him. And hence my friend encouraged me to write about the "Honey traps that INGOs land in while entering new emerging markets".

"Well, I told him, " I know more about India and at best South Asia, but I will do it for you".

So here is this to you Francesco, my two (sorry five) pence:

1) First and foremost the assumption by INGOs, that donor is a "she". Unfortunately (for all our efforts at women empowerment), donors in emerging markets like India are a "he". In other words donor is predominantly a male unlike the western and north American world.

2) Then ' real donors are 55 years and above'. Surprise, surprise. The donors in India are 30 years and above. In fact post 55 they tend to stop contributing. The state sponsored social security in such emerging markets virtually does not exist and hence the obvious donor behaviour.

3)Renting lists for Direct mail is cheaper than buying them. Not in India. If you are renting a list then it is most likely a well guarded proprietary or at least a decent compiled list. But if you are buying them, these could be dirt cheap, although of low reliability.

4) Some INGOs believe that corporations will fuel their growth in the country. It is not the case for India. The corporations in India have their own philanthropic foundations and don't need INGOs mostly. On the contrary they need small and medium implementing non-profit organisations, who can bring to reality their vision.

5) Acquiring new donors is always done at a break even cost or even a loss. In India all the leading Indian non-profits make money on acquisition, largely due to low cost mail packages. So, decide whether to keep your western ways or take to the Indian. Both I am sure have their merits.

I am hoping that these five pence should make Francesco a happy man. Although, I am sure having worked in Latin America he knows it all and was being his usual inciting self on the bar stool. Por eso mi amigo, espero que tu quieras este.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Telling Powerful Fundraising Stories

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at Resource Alliance's International Fundraising Conference, clearly the largest gathering of fundraisers from around the world, at Amsterdam.

There I picked up a book mark that provides real useful tips on writing effective fundraising stories. You could see them at

The book mark was jointly developed by Jon Duschinsky of BeTheChange Consulting (France) and Sonya Swiridjuk of Breast Cancer Foundation (Canada). Real concise and hits bull's eye.

I am having fun using the tips given in there, I hope you too would. Click on the link below now.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Fundraisers of India Decide to Unite

Some good news in the world of Indian fundraising. A group of fundraisers in India have decided to unite. The idea is to help grow the sector as a whole.

The genesis of the forum was at the "India Direct Marketing Fundraising Round table" recently held in Delhi. The fundraising icon Mal Warwick was visiting India and volunteered to help crystallise this.Mal facilitated the round table that was organised by Resource Alliance India.

The prime objective of the Round table was to build capacities of Direct Marketing fundraising non-profits in India. The Round table saw fundraisers from leading non-profits like CRY, Can Kids, Deepalaya,GreenPeace, HelpAge India, Meenakshi Mission Hospital, UNICEF, WWF India and World Vision in attendance. Direxions a leading Direct Marketing Agency and Syrex the leaders in telephone based fundraising also represented fundraising consultants fraternity.

During the sessions common challenges of non-delivery of mailers, bad lists etc. came to the fore very often. The participants felt that it was the time when everyone needed to come together, to take these issues collectively with the parties concerned.

The first signs of activity can be seen on the blog of the forum

I wish the Forum all the best and hope it goes on to take up sectoral issues effectively and efficiently or in other words with great response rate and ROI :)