How to Spot Bogus Fundraising Advice
On this episode of Bloomerang TV, Simon Scriver, Director of Total Fundraising, co-creator of GoodCharity.ie, and Head of Fundraising at One in Four Ireland, joins us to chat about how to spot good and bad fundraising advice online.
Steven: Hey there, welcome to this week’s episode of Bloomerang TV. Thanks for tuning in, thanks for hanging out with out with us for a few minutes here today. My name is Steven, as always I’m your host here at Bloomerang. I’m joined by my good buddy Simon Scriver. He is the Director of Total Fundraising. And he’s also the head of Fundraising at One & Four Ireland. He’s joining us all the way from Ireland. What’s up Simon, how you doing?
Simon: Hey, Steven. I can’t believe I’m your buddy. That’s an honor.
Steven: You are. Hopefully, you feel the same way about me.
Simon: Let’s see how the call goes.
Steven: So Director of Total Fundraising, you’re also head of Fundraising at an awesome nonprofit in Ireland. Can you tell us a little bit about the work you’re doing over there?
Simon: Yeah, so obviously I’m wearing two hats, so as Total Fundraising we’re an agency that help big and small charities do better fundraising in lots of different ways. And that’s great, I love that. And then my other hat is Head of fundraising at One in Four. One in Four is really small charity that works with survivors of sexual abuse in Ireland, which there’s a lot of. And they do amazing work, and I help them raise money, hopefully.
Steven: Yeah, you do. You do a lot of good work too. I really like you Simon because you don’t pull any punches, you tell it like it is. We’ve kind become friends on social media. You have an awesome blog, at Total Fundraising which everyone should read. You also speak at events, in addition to be a fundraiser. And what I like about you is, you’re not afraid to call out bad fundraising advice. Is that a fair statement to say?
Simon: Yeah, I don’t know, I suppose I’m in a fortunate position sometimes where I don’t have be extra polite but I believe in giving credit where credits due. I mean, I love your blog and I love your writing, I love your speaking, and some really good fundraising out there.
But obviously, you know sometimes there’s bad fundraising which is okay. But sometimes there’s people who pretend bad fundraising as good fundraising which I think is not okay. And that can be pretty damaging to the sector. So I think sometimes if there’s bad stats or bad fundraising I think we need to talk about it and call it out and you know share our failures so that we as a sector become better at what we do.
Steven: So we live in an age where it seems like everyone has a blog, you know lots of people are speaking, people have podcasts, and people are doing videos and newsletters. There’s a lot of fundraising advice out there. And it seems like a common everyday fundraising at a nonprofit. They can kind of be overwhelmed by all this content and I’m adding to it. I’m just as guilty as anyone.
How do you, because you’re a fundraiser, as well as a contact creator. How do you look for advice? And how do you kind of know what’s good, what’s bad. Do you just read everything? And you have to stay up all night to keep up on it? You know, what advice would you give to a fundraising just looking for help?
Simon: I think like the support we said, everyone it’s very easy for us all to have a voice now. And people like me and you to pretend we’re experts. We’ve become like because if the incident we can share incorrect news, and incorrect stuff quicker than ever. And we have to be really careful about that.
I mean in terms of finding great stuff, I think yeah you have to read a lot, like as fundraiser we do you have to read a lot, and sometimes we don’t read enough. Then you begin to filter and find the people that share good stuff, you know the people who have proven short records. People who’ve become reliable and there’s some really good names out there on Twitter and blogs who constantly share good stuff.
So it’s just about I think finding them, but I mean anytime you read this stuff, it’s not just fundraising it’s everything. I mean you have to be a little bit cynical, and you have to question a lot of it. And you have to question, you know why is this person telling me this? Is it because they’re trying to sell something which most of the time they are.
But when you read the stuff it’s about not taking that faith it’s about being critical of it, being question of it. And talking to other people in this sector and trying to find stuff that backs up before we take is tried and tested and try and do it. There’s no point in, innovating and doing this like futuristic stuff when there’s a lot of data and a lot of evidence to show that the old stuff is still working. So it is reading a lot, but it’s about being cynical and fine tuning what you’re reading and who believe in I suppose.
Steven: So speaking of these things that we’re talking about. There’s this weird stat that keeps popping up. And you and I joke about it a lot. Something like 50% of people who watched a video on a nonprofit website went on to donate. What is that and why those stats… why are those so pervasive and end up in every presentation and quoted wildly. What’s going on there?
Simon: Yeah, I mean that’s is really bad research that was done which is just completely not true. I said if 57% of people who watch a video go on to make a donation, so every second person who watches your video will donate.
Simon: And I think, no like it’s not true. Don’t be amazed, it’s not true. But I think like we all wanted it to be true and I think when we see these stats. Especially most of the stats you see are online, so they favor online fundraising. They’re put online by people who like online.
So I think we want to believe them because it would make our jobs so much easier if every second person watched the video. So we supposed to see stat get shared by more and more people without questioning it and even if took, I mean I think you said you just took ten seconds to think okay do I donate to every second video I watch. Is every second person doing this? And you realize that it’s just complete rubbish. It just doesn’t make sense.
So I think we have to kind of, you have to kind of use common sense sometimes with these stats. You know, really take the time to look back as to what the source is. And really you know before you share any of this stuff be careful because people are making decisions on it, and people who aren’t as smart as you and as smart fundraisers, some of the fundraisers out there. They’re making budget dissections on this and small charities and putting their budget into video because they think 50% of the people are going to donate to it, and they’re not. We have a responsibility because of the causes we work with, we have a responsibility to be careful with these stats.
I think like the other thing which is fundraising, fundraising is hard. And no matter what anyone tells you, you know if you see the word revolutionary, or the future, or undeniable these are all buzz words but basically mean you know be careful. It tells you it’s going to revolutionize fundraising. It almost certainly isn’t going to revolutionize fundraising.
Fundraising is going to be hard and it’s a going to be a slow steady thing. And you just have to remember that when you see these stats and you see people pushing stuff out I think.
Steven: So what about putting the good advice into action? You think critically about something, it seems like it’s on the level, it’s coming from a reputable source. How do you go about you know experimenting with maybe new ideas, or trying something that looks like other people are having success with? Do you just kind of dip our toes in the water and see what works? How do you go about actually following advice that you find that you think is good?
Simon: Yeah, I think, I mean for me, like every good fundraiser will tell you testing and you got to test this stuff on small scales before you put any real money behind it. And I think specially if you’re medium or big charity you sometimes have the luxury of being about to test this stuff before you roll out.
If you’re a small charity, I mean personally you have to be critical and there’s a good organization in England Rogary