Open Fundraising


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I’m reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking – one of those books that millions of people buy but just a fraction understand.


I don’t understand it all. But I am enjoying bending my brain around the concept of time and space – and thinking about how it relates to fundraising.


Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was assumed that no matter how fast you travelled, time remained constant. But this was proven to be false. Time dilates and the faster you travel, the greater the dilation.


For example, if you were to fire up your rocket and travel at 95% of the speed of light for 5 years (relative to you inside the ship) across the universe and then return home, time (relative to the people of earth) would have lapsed by 16.1 years.


Physicians have created a measurement to understand dilation. It combines space and time to create one single measurement: spacetime. A property that is unchanging is known as an invariant.


But how can spacetime impact on how we fundraise?


Well, when assessing performance there are several ways you can measure success: response rate, average gift, contact rate, and ROI (Return On Investment). Wouldn’t it be nice to create some invariant measurements for assessing success?


Cash appeals: Income is the product of average gift and response rate. So if we divide income over volume contacted we have the invariant IPD (Income Per Donor).


TM Campaigns: Tired of sifting through contact and response rate? 1/Response Rate/Contact Rate gives you the invariant PPR (Prospects Per Response).


Or, if you fancy something a bit more challenging, you could try assessing your recruitment.


CPR (Cost Per Recruit) is a nice measurement but it doesn’t tell the whole story (the proverbial peanuts and monkeys spring to mind).


ROI could be considered, and whilst it has some invariant properties, it ignores value. I’d rather spend £2.50 to get £15, but ROI would say spending £1 to get £10 back is preferable.


I think that Life Time Value is the invariant solution. Income raised less the cost of raising, expressed as an absolute.


When we’re fundraising a single measurement of success is always what we should be aiming for. And spacetime can show us how to get there.


Paul Smith

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This weekend, our good friends Tobin Aldrich (Global Fundraising Director at Sightsavers) and Peter Muffett (CEO at DTV) are setting off on a 9-day, 969-mile journey.


They’re cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, through wind and rain, via every intervening mountain. The reason for this hellish trip? To raise enough money to give 969 people their sight back.


There are 39 million blind people in the world. Blindness leaves people feeling vulnerable, unable to look after their children, or themselves, without support. Yet a simple, sight-saving operation costs just £30 and will give someone the chance to work, support their family and watch their children grow up.


Tobin and Peter have already raised an incredible £15,000 – but that’s only half their target. So please, sponsor them here and help give more blind people the gift of sight.


And should you need anymore convincing, you can watch Tobin and Peter’s brilliant (and very funny) video here.



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In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan we tested asking people who had made a text donation to the DEC to give £3 a month on their mobile phone – to help communities rebuild.


The gift was limited to 6 months, which is how long a DEC appeal typically lasts. And the deal was that if you gave, we’d send you messages every month using our Mobilise platform that showed you the impact on peoples lives.


It worked beautifully.


We got a great initial response rate, low STOPs and SKIPs and at the end of the 6 months we did as we said we would and stopped the Mobilise donation.


As you know the DEC has just launched their Gaza appeal. Thousands of people have responded to help the civilian population of Gaza with the very basics needed to survive. And we’ve repeated what we did in the aftermath of the Haiyan disaster.


This time we were more organised and we got it out quicker. And we’ve got double the response rate we got in our first test.


Of course, there are lots of other factors at play. But it would appear that speed matters.



Paul de Gregorio