Speed of Light Campaign – Innovative Social Media Fundraising from SolarAid

SolarAid Speed of Light
You may not have heard, but 2015 is officially the International Year of Light – proclaimed by the UN to raise global awareness of how light-based technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health.

To coincide with this, SolarAid – a charity with a whole lot of knowledge about light-based technologies and sustainable development – has launched an innovative new online fundraising appeal called Speed of Light.

On visiting the Speed of Light site it explains some of the great benefits that a simple solar light can give to families in rural Africa and how for a donation of just £3 (€4, US$5) you can provide one. When you make a donation, of however many lamps you choose, then you get to see on an interactive map exactly where your lamps are going to (mine will apparently end-up in a village called Kigoma in Tanzania).

This is really nice, but not anything that others like Charity:Water haven’t offered before.

What caught my eye about SolarAid’s campaign is how they’ve developed it beyond a simple individual donor ask into a really nice social group ask. Because, once you’ve made your donation, you’re given a personalised URL which you can share with your friends through Facebook or Twitter. Then, if they use that link to donate more lamps they are added to your branch of the Speed of Light Donor Community – which you can see growing, along with the impact in terms of lights provided, on the Speed of Light site (as shown in the screengrab above).

Capitalising on the ‘Nominate a Friend’ trend used to such amazing effect in the #icebucketchallenge last year, SolarAid suggest that you use your personal URL to nominate friends to donate and so help grow the impact of the campaign (“No make-up, no ice-bucket, no selfies, just a good cause” as it says on their site) – and a £3 ask is the level where I’d imagine many donors will feel happy to do just that.

I talked to SolarAid’s Chief Fundraiser, Richard Turner, not long after the launch and he confirmed that, while the campaign was being seen very much as a test (which does show a little in the on-site user experience), they are really pleased with the results – both in terms of new donor numbers and new opportunities it has opened-up with corporates and membership organisations.


Much discussion about online fundraising at 2010 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress

I’ve finally reached home here in London after speaking at the 2010 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress over in Fulda last Thursday, having spent much of the last three days waiting for trains alongside countless other travellers stranded by the European air travel lockdown caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano. However, on the up-side, the unexpected land journey did give me an opportunity to see far more of the country than I would otherwise have done and it was certainly a great conference – with over 500 fundraisers attending, mainly from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

I was there to give a couple of sessions. One on Consumer Insight that you can find on my Strategy Refresh site, and the other on Online Community Fundraising that you can view above or on Slideshare.

It’s a really interesting time for online fundraising in Germany right now as adoption of social media is really starting to take off after a very cautious start, compared to the US and the UK (research findings on this are included in the presentation). With this a number of new German online fundraising websites have launched offering project-specific crowdfunding (like betterplace.org and  wikando) and personal fundraising pages (like Altruja). Much of the discussion during and after my session was about how quickly such sites might become popular with German consumers, and when German charities might be able to share online fundraising stories like those of the $93 Club in the US and little Charlie Simpson in the UK.

There were folks with pretty clear views on both sides of the debate. However, I think the majority opinion was that after several years watching other countries take advantage of social media in support of fundraising (Germany having been described as 5 years behind the US in social media adoption), the next couple of years look set to see online community fundraising start to take-off there. It’ll certainly be interesting to check-back at the 2012 Deutscher Fundraising Kongress to see just how things have evolved.


Great turn-out at the Fundraising Ireland 2010 National Conference

I’m just back home after a flying visit over to the Fundraising Ireland 2010 National Conference in Dublin, where I was presenting a session about online community fundraising – the slides from which are available to view above or via Slideshare.

The conference was a sell-out event and the sessions I got to, as well as my own, were characterised by some really great interaction and questions – which reflected the great atmosphere at the whole event. Add to that the best conference lunch I’ve had in ages and the whole thing was a great success. So, many congratulations to the organisers at Fundraising Ireland. They’re a pretty new network for Irish fundraisers, and just announced that they are about to re-vamp their website as an Irish fundraising information portal as well as introduce a membership scheme. Without a doubt, well worth getting involved with them if you’re a fundraiser in Ireland.

One of the topics that was returned to a couple of times in discussions was the lack of useful Ireland-specific research on everything from giving trends to online usage. To help-out with the latter, here are the links to the latest freely available Irish online usage research I’ve been able to find – and which I quoted from in my session:

> Latest report from ComReg (the Irish Commission for Communications Regulation) a bit of a heavy read but does include the latest data on internet access in Ireland – published just this month: download it for free here

> Amarach Research Irish Life Online Report from Feb 2009: downloadable here

> Barry Hand’s blog post on the top Irish websites for Feb 2010: read it here

> Information on facebook user numbers in any country around the world: Checkfacebook.com

If anyone comes across any other recent research into the Irish online market – especially if it relates to social media use – then do let me know.


Wired Magazine praises Cancer Research UK’s MyProjects crowdfunding site

It’s not often that a charity gets a mention in the science and technology magazine Wired, but the forthcoming edition of Wired UK includes a great write-up on Cancer Research UK’s project crowdfunding site MyProjects – heralding it as a ‘radical approach to transparency in charities‘.

To be honest I’m not sure that MyProjects is quite as radical as the article suggests. But it is certainly the best project crowdfunding site that I’ve seen from a medical research charity and it does provide a level of transparency, through project-specific funding, that most other charities still shy away from.

Building on the understanding that many people want to be able to focus their donations on one particular type of cancer, MyProjects lets potential donors choose to support a specific project – with details of the work being undertaken provided through video interviews with the scientists involved. Once you’ve chosen a particular project, you can then set-up a ‘giving group’ through which you can get friends and family involved, with tools provided to help promote fundraising activity and to show progress being made towards the fundraising goal. It’s got a nice clean site design which is easy to navigate and 73 giving groups have already signed-up during the site’s Beta test stage.

All in all, well worth a look if you’re thinking of developing online project crowdfunding for your own organisation.


Forthcoming conference sessions – come and say Hello!

I’m just back from holiday and straight-away immersed in all sorts of client work, as well as getting-down to preparing presentations for several conferences I’m speaking at over the next few months. As it’s often only at conferences that I get an opportunity to meet folks who subscribe to my blogs, I thought I’d give them a quick plug here – then if you’re attending you can come by and say ‘hello’.

The first is the 2010 National Convention for Fundraisers in Ireland, which is being held in Dublin on March 23rd and 24th. I’m presenting late morning on 24th on ‘Community Fundraising 2.0’ – when I’ll be talking through some of the latest online fundraising developments worldwide as well as focusing specifically on some really interesting home-grown Irish initiatives.

Next month, from 14th to 16th April I’m over in Germany at the Deutscher Fundraising Kongress, presenting sessions on ‘Using Research to Generate Supporter Insight’ and ‘Online Community Fundraising’. I know that quite a few German fundraisers do subscribe to my blogs – so hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to meet some of you there.

Then, of course, in July (5th to 7th) it’s the Institute of Fundraising National Convention here in London, where I’m co-presenting a ‘Hot Topic’ session with Jason Potts of Think Consulting – where we’ll be sharing what we think are some of the hottest developments in digital fundraising. Given how quickly things are changing in the digital space, that’ll be one that we prepare right at the last minute!


The 93 Dollar Club – a fantastic example of online donors doing it for themselves

93 Dollar Club

I’ve had a manic few weeks since mid October, mostly related to my starting-up my own Marketing and Fundraising Consultancy (called Strategy Refresh – do take a look when you have a spare moment) with a bit of house moving thrown-in for good measure. All of which means that things have been very quiet on the Giving in a Digital World Front – so apologies for that. Normal service is close to being resumed as I’m starting to get into the swing of working as an independent consultant.

One think I’ve been meaning to post about but have only now had the opportunity to get to was the great response to the presentation Jonathan Waddingham from JustGiving and I gave at the International Fundraising Congress over in Holland last month. It was all about ‘The new breed of digital donor‘ and sparked all sorts of post presentation discussions – both online and offline – which was great. You can see the full presentation in the Slideshare embed below.

One part of the presentation that got a lot of folks interested was the story of the 93 Dollar Club – so I thought it worth repeating that here for anyone who hasn’t come across it before (you can see more about it in the presentation).

The 93 Dollar Club all began back in August this year through a chance meeting and act of personal kindness in a Trader Joes grocery store. Jenni Ware was shopping there when she realised that she had forgotten her purse. Fortunately, next in the line was Carolee Hazard who, on seeing Jenni’s situation, kindly offered to cover her $207 bill. Jenni gratefully accepted and as the two left the store she reassured Carolee that she would mail her a cheque later that day. However, as Carolee drove away she couldn’t help wondering if she would ever actually see her $207 again. Being an active Facebook user, on arriving home she shared the story with her online network of Friends and they started to add to it, reassuring her that she had done a good thing and that it was sure to be repaid.

And so it was – with a check arriving not just for $207 but for $300, including a $93 ‘thank you’ gift. Carolee was surprised by this and at first intended to return the $93. However her Facebook Friends, who were by now an active part of this story, proposed she donate it to a non-profit instead. They even suggested which – the local Second Harvest Food Bank. Carolee liked this idea so much that she decided to match the $93 windfall donation with $93 of her own. Then, as is the way with social networks, her Facebook Friends agreed to follow-suite and by the next morning they had together collected over $1,000.

Encouraged by this, Carolee set-up a Facebook Page – entitled the 93 Dollar Club – and so the story continued, not just on Facebook but being picked-up and given massively greater reach by traditional news media too. Indeed, so much did the story grow that if you take a look at Carolee’s 93 Dollar Club page today you’ll see that the total raised has now gone from $93 to over $23,000 – and they’ve now set themselves a target of $93,000!

Do take a moment to visit the 93 Dollar Club Facebook page. On it you’ll see contributions from an incredibly vibrant community of donors, sharing ideas for fundraising and plans to expand the whole 93 Dollar Club concept to help achieve their great $93,000 target. A true community, focused on fundraising yet entirely inspired and organised by the donors themselves – a fantastic example of just what the new breed of digital donors can achieve when they get to grips with doing it for themselves.



Second International Twitter Fundraising Festival coming-up in September

Twestival Local

On the back of the phenomenal growth in usage of the Twitter microblogging service, there has been much discussion over the last year about the potential for its use by charities and other non-profits for both supporter communications and fundraising.

The case for using it as an addition to your online supporter communications now seems pretty clear – if your supporters are users of the service and you have someone available in your organisation who can manage your day-to-day Twitter communications (monitoring tweets relating to you and fielding the inevitable questions that will start to come through if people actively engage with your Twitter feed).

Quite how best to raise money direct from Twitter is less clear at present. Micro-transaction initiatives like Twollars are interesting but have not, as far as I know, yet started to deliver significant income for anyone, and few organisations are as yet showing real income coming from other Twitter-specific testing.

However, where it certainly is proving itself as having a fundraising role is when used to bring people who are usually only connected online together offline for a ‘real world’ fundraising event – known in Twitter parlance as a Twestival.

The first ever Twestival – entitled Harvest Twestival – was organised in September 2008 by a group of Twitter users here in London and set the form for future events – being organised entirely by volunteers, in a very short timescale, using Twitter as the primary communication and co-ordination mechanism. Originally intended for 30-40 people, their event ended-up attracting 250 and raised money for a central London homeless charity called The Connection.

After such a great start, the first Global Twestival was held in February this year with people from over 200 cities worldwide taking part and raising some $250,000 for charity:water.

Building on this success, a second international Twestival is taking place next month – from 10th through 13th September. But this time, rather than all events around the world focusing on a single charity, it is being described as Twestival Local with groups of volunteers voting for the charity they would like their local city’s event to raise money for. There’s a Google Maps mashup on the site showing all of the registered city Twestivals and their chosen charites – with the London Twestival raising money for the children’s charity Childline.

London Twestival

This is a fantastic example of online community fundraising in action – with freely available social media tools being used by groups of volunteers to run events on behalf of specific charities that they select as being most worthy of the resulting funds. No involvement from community fundraisers employed by specific charities. Just Web 2.0 empowered volunteers doing it for themselves, in the way that works best for them, and with all money raised going to their chosen charity.

So, do take a visit to the Twestival Local site; see where your local Twestival is taking place next month; and have a think about what this type of Community Fundraising 2.0 initiative might mean for the future of fundraising as it continues to grow in popularity.