Australia’s FebFast 2014 fundraiser to include a Digital Detox option

Digital Detox Fundraiser

While the idea of individuals raising money for charity by being sponsored to give something up for a period of time isn’t by any means new, there does seem to have been a growing interest in charity ‘abstainathons’ just recently – with new takes on the old idea cropping-up all over the place.

To name just a few, Cancer Research UK raised almost £4 million ($USD 6.4m) earlier this year when over 35,000 people signed-up to it’s inaugural Dryathalon – raising sponsorship for giving-up alcohol for the whole of January. Then there’s Macmillan Cancer Support’s Go Sober for October (based on the Australian Dry July campaign). The fundraising extension of the annual NHS stop smoking campaign Stoptober, with ex-smokers raising funds for a wide range of different charities. And, of course, this month there’s Movember (another great Aussie import) raising awareness and funds for Prostate Cancer charities through guys giving-up shaving their ‘tash for the month.

But now, the folks at FebFast over in Australia have moved beyond booze, fags and facial hair to fundraise from the other big over-dependence that so many of us have these days – over-dependence on all things digital. What a brilliant idea!

They’re challenging people to go on a digital detox for the 28 days of February 2014 to help raise funds for organisations working to find solutions for youth addiction.

Other FebFast fundraising options are to abstain from Alcohol, Sugar, or Caffeine – any of which seems to me likely to be easier than giving-up my regular digital fixes throughout the day.


When was the last time you actually tried to give yourself a donation?


Network For Good has announced that this Wednesday, October 24th, is its inaugural Be Your Donor Day – when they’re hoping to inspire nonprofits to set aside time to put themselves in their donors’ shoes and test the experience being provided for them. Whether it’s calling your main office phone line to see what they make of new donor questions, or enduring the trial by tick box that far too many online donation experiences turn into, it’s an opportunity to highlight any problems in time to get them sorted before the peak time for donations over Christmas.

Given how much effort and budget is invested in getting people to visit donation pages, I’m amazed by how many organisations still focus minimal effort on ensuring their donation process is as simple as possible for the potential donors who reach them. This explains why 47% of potential online donors in the UK apparently give-up before making a donation because the website journey is not intuitive or engaging.

In the light of this, ‘Be Your Donor Day’ is a great way of bringing the real donor experience to the fore and identifying both quick fixes and areas that might require further thought and investment across all of your donor touchpoints.

In support of the day, Network For Good has created a range of resources including a Be Your Donor Day Checklist, and a simple guide to website donation process testing.

Go on. Give yourself some time to see how it feels from your potential donors’ point of view. It needn’t take-up much of your day, and if you can rope-in some colleagues then you can share the testing around. I have no doubt at all that you’ll discover something that you can fix to help improve your donors’ experience – and your fundraising results.

Don’t forget to test your website on different browsers (not everyone runs the old version of Internet Explorer that your IT department forces you to) and different devices (get those smartphones and tablets out) – and also test-out the donation journeys for any SMS shortcodes you might have live.

Rest assured – whatever issues you discover, it won’t be as bad as the customer experience in the great Google video above! (Or will it?)

WaterAid’s The Big Dig Appeal brings supporters closer through Instagram liveblogging world first

Since writing my last post on what makes for great digital fundraising content, I’ve had the privilege of travelling to Malawi with a small team from WaterAid and Misfit Inc, who were training WaterAid field staff in the use of smartphones to live blog from the remote communities they work with. All with the aim of enabling them to create fantastic digital fundraising content for WaterAid’s ‘The Big Dig’ Appeal that launched earlier this week.

The Big Dig (#thebigdig) aims to raise the £1.2m needed to provide safe water and sanitation for over 134,000 people in some of the poorest communities in rural Malawi, with all money donated by the public over the three month appeal (to September 18) being matched pound-for-pound by the UK Government.

But WaterAid also wanted to use the appeal as a unique opportunity to bring supporters closer to the real work their donations make possible in Malawi, by enabling them to follow progress day-by-day throughout the three months of hard work that needs to happen before the ultimate highlight of drilling safe water boreholes for the communities in September. To achieve this two WaterAid field officers, Michael Kalawe and Nathan Chiwoko, equipped with Smartphones running the wonderful Instagram photo sharing App, have become the eyes and ears of the appeal – recording the highs and lows of their day-to-day work with the villagers of Kaniche and Bokola, live as they happen.

It’s an incredible fact that while the people in these villages have no access to clean water, instead being reliant on filthy scoop holes in river beds which make them and their children sick, through the wonders of the mobile internet as you stand in their village you can take and upload an Instagram photo in under a minute – and see it shared globally through Facebook and Twitter just minutes later. As I did with this photo of the scoop hole at Bokola.

As far as I know, the use of Instagram in this way by a development non-profit’s field officers to share their day-to-day work with supporters in support of a rolling fundraising appeal is a world first (at least @ajleon from Misfit Inc hasn’t heard of it being done before – and he should know!). However, given the compelling authenticity of the content that results – telling the real story of the need being faced and the impact your donations can have, day-by-day, as it happens – I’m sure it won’t be the last.

For more of a feel for The Big Dig appeal, take a couple of minutes to watch the great appeal promo video below and then click-on down to their website at (and perhaps even give them a donation? Remember every pound you give is doubled – and it is a great appeal!-)


Then, have a think about how you can come-up with your own innovative fundraising approach using some of the wealth of digital storytelling tools available to us today.

Instagram was used in this case because it proved to be by far the easiest way to share stories from these remote communities, live. We would have loved to use live video, but while the mobile internet there is good – it’s just not that good. So video content like this has to be uploaded separately.

Your cause might not be the same as WaterAid’s and the situations you work in may be very different – all this means is that the tools you can use and the approach you take to bring your supporters closer is likely to be different. But used in the right way, the positive impact on your fundraising should still be the same.

And one last thought. Just incase you think this type of digital storytelling is too much to ask your front-line workers to help you with, I’ll leave the last word to Nathan in Malawi (that’s him liveblogging in my photo at the top of this post). When asked if he was happy to keep-on liveblogging throughout the project he replied “How can I stop? I feel the future development of Kaniche and Bokola is in this phone”.

My test for great digital fundraising content

I mentioned this simple “test” that I use when reviewing or planning digital fundraising content when I wrote about Truly Personalised Video Thanking back in January, but it has generated so much positive discussion when I’ve been using it in workshops and planning sessions since then that I thought I’d give it a short post of its own. So, here it is again:

Does your content make good use of the digital opportunities available to really bring someone closer to your work; help them understand the impact their support will have; motivate them to give (or give again); and make the experience of supporting such that they want to share it with their friends?

Breaking it down, to help illustrate what I mean:

  • Does it make good use of the digital opportunities available to really bring me closer to your work? Through digital we have a whole host of new ways to engage supporters in more relevant, authentic, and genuinely interesting ways than ever before. Yet all too often I still see online fundraising content that looks just like traditional printed material pasted onscreen or into an email (especially when it comes to those generic, text-heavy monthly eNewsletters that so many orgs persist in sending me). Take a look around at how other brands (nonprofit and commercial) are capitalising on new ways to engage through digital, and think about how you might be able to use some of these to really bring your supporters closer to the work they enable you to do. And remember – just because you send me a video doesn’t mean that you’re bringing me closer, especially if it’s more along the lines of a corporate promotion than an authentic window on the work you want me to support.
  • Does it help me understand the impact my support will have? Fundraising is all about inspiring and enabling people to help change the world for the better – and a key part of this is helping them understand the impact their personal support will have on what may well be a massive and complex need. Again, digital potentially offers new ways to achieve this that simply aren’t possible through traditional print or broadcast content – if we use it well.
  • Does it motivate me to give? If you’ve ticked the previous two boxes then you should be well on the way to motivating me to give. But don’t just bask in the warm glow of great content and take my donation for granted. You still need to make it very clear that you do need my support – and make it really easy for me to give it.
  • Does it make the experience of supporting such that I want to share it with my friends? Thanks to the ubiquity of social media these days, I can share your content with my whole social network with just one click. But my making that click depends on the experience I have when I engage with your content, and make my donation, and whether I feel it would be interesting/fun/relevant for my friends to experience too.

To help get some new content ideas moving, you can check back to a couple of my related posts on Personalised Video Thanking, and Strategic Blogger Outreach, as well as taking a look at the latest Oxfam ‘See For Yourself’ campaign to find a non-supporter to visit one of their their projects and report back on how donations are being used.

Plus – if you’ve seen any great content that you feel passes the ‘test’, then do share it by leaving a comment below…

An interesting take on the ROI of Social Media


I was preparing a presentation the other day when I came across this great video by Erik Qualman of Socialnomics, packed full of interesting statistics and insights relating to the growth of Social Media.

Now, I’m an avid reader of digital usage research as part of my job but the way Qualman presents the case for the importance of Social Media and what it means for consumer engagement really captured my attention and is well worth a look

A great soundtrack and lots of interesting nuggets – including one that particularly struck me (3.49 minutes into the 4.16 video):

A pretty challenging thought that – and one that I challenge you not to take seriously after you’ve watched the video!

UK online giving up 85% over 3 years – but still only 3.7% of charitable donations?

Over the last few months a combination of client workload, a shoulder op, and a house renovation project have unfortunately left me no time at all for blogging. However, I have been keeping-up with my report and research reading, and last week’s release of the latest eBay/MissionFish report ‘Passion, persistence and partnership: the secrets of earning more online’ has finally got me back to my keyboard.

At 50 pages this free report is a lengthy but worthwhile read, combining recent research into general UK internet usage as well as online charity activity, together with advice on how to make best use of online opportunities and some thoughts on how things are likely to develop in the future.

What makes it all the more interesting is that it represents an update of a report first released in 2008, providing some insight into how things have changed over the last three years. Naturally a lot of the change reported relates to the explosion in Social Media activity seen over this period, but it is also good to see more organisations reporting that online activity is moving from the sidelines towards the heart of their supporter engagement programmes.

The one piece of data I was particularly interested to see was the proportion of charitable donations now reported as coming online, as this is a common question amongst organisations reviewing their fundraising activity and robust benchmark data is typically difficult to find.

Based on the nfpSynergy ‘Virtual Promise’ research data quoted in the report there was an 85% increase in the percentage of voluntary income that came from online between 2007 and 2010.

Now, 85% is a significant increase – even in the digital world where things tend to increase a lot, very quickly. However, this actually represents growth from just 2% to 3.7% of overall annual voluntary income – which somehow doesn’t seem quite so impressive.

For comparison, according to Blackbaud’s 2010 US Online Giving Report online giving in America represented around 7% of all voluntary income in 2010 – which is better, but still not an especially high proportion given the effort invested in promoting digital fundraising over recent years.

I suspect one reason for these disappointingly low contributions is the fundamental challenge of measuring the true financial contribution of all digital activity. Measuring one-off online donations made through your website should be easy enough, but what about direct debits started online. How many organisations allocate the subsequent years’ regular giving income back to their online income lines? Then there are the increasing volumes of donations made on other sites, from sponsorship income collected through JustGiving, MyDonate, etc. to the emerging growth of microdonations through sites like eBay (eBay checkout microdonations amounted to c£1.5m over the last two years) which might simply not be included when organisations report their ‘online’ income because they are not monitored by the main online fundraising team.

What do you think? Are charities under-reporting online giving or is online really providing less than one twentieth of all the UK’s voluntary income?

Beautiful Greenpeace crowdfunding site lets you buy a piece of the new Rainbow Warrior

Crowdfunding websites that let you contribute to specific projects are nothing new, but launched by Greenpeace to generate funds for their new Rainbow Warrior has lifted the bar to a new level in terms of on-site experience.

The site opens with a great full screen video telling the story of the current Rainbow Warrior and the need for a replacement. Then you can take a look at the planned new vessel through an interactive 3d model and browse through detailed blueprints of the new ship to select items that you’d like to ‘buy’ to help fund its construction – anything from a Survival Suit at €800 to a €10 Toilet Roll Holder. All donors will receive a Certificate of Purchase and have their name added to a dedication wall on the ship itself.

Elsewhere on the site you can see personal stories from the Rainbow Warrior crew and view video of the latest stage of construction via a webcam at the dry dock in Germany. Social sharing opportunities are provided through Facebook and Twitter share buttons.

Overall, it’s a great user experience. Right down to the soundtrack becoming muffled if you drop beneath the surface of the sea to view the underside of the ship!

The only thing they don’t seem to have got right is the search strategy to help drive traffic to the site. I first heard about it on Twitter (thanks to @101reinier). But then when I wanted to show the site to someone else and tried to find it using Google it was nowhere to be seen. Even typing ‘New Rainbow Warrior’ didn’t bring-up the site, although it did return a wide range of news stories about the ship being built and a range of other Greenpeace fundraising landing pages like this one.