Here's our round-up of some great recent charity sector blogs and articles - featuring unique insights and innovative ideas that you might've missed...
Tom Crowe: 12 Highly Effective SEO Tips For Nonprofits
Published by Tom Crowe Digital
First up, here's an amazingly useful guide explaining 12 search engine optimisation 'quick wins' for small charities and social enterprises. Tom, an SEO specialist, recently audited a number of charity websites and concluded that with a few simple SEO fixes, many charities could quickly rescue a declining website and significantly boost their traffic and donations. Packed full of practical tips and clear explanations, this article could really transform you online game...
5 Years of Funder Plus, 5 Things We’ve Learned
Published by Lloyds Bank Foundation
Lloyds Bank Foundation do an amazing job of supporting the small charity sector, from their valuable core funding grants, in-kind support and vocal advocacy and opinion pieces. So we were very interested to read their new report reflecting on what they've learned from five years of delivering their Funder Plus programme, which explains why funders should strive to truly empower charities, invest in leadership and build their long-term capabilities. If other funders can put this advice into practice, it'll be a big boost for the sector.
Andrew Purkis: An ‘inconvenient truth’ for the Charity Commission
Published by Civil Society
The Charity Commission has repeatedly said that its job is to tell charities what the public expects from them, not to educate the public about charities. But how reliable are those public expectations? When 2,000 members of the public were asked what the word 'charities' brought to mind, they only named nine charities between them (all household names) and showed virtually no awareness of local charities. This fascinating article questions how much charities should be expected to change their behaviour in response to criticism, when that criticism is based on such a limited and skewed understanding of the sector.
Dave Lee: GoFundMe: Hope, but no solution, for the needy
Published by BBC News
Proof of humanity's innate desire to help each other, or a monument to inequality? Crowdfunding has undoubtedly brought hope and relief to many people, but in the US, you could argue that it essentially props up a broken healthcare system. So can we allow generosity to become a substitute for justice? We'd argue not - particularly when crowdfunding is so patchy in terms of who it benefits, with this likely to be skewed by things like ethnicity and social class. This is a great reminder that however good our fundraising efforts are, they're only one part of the work we need to do to change the world.
Young Trustees – Are We Really Doing Enough?
Published by Cause4
This month, Tate appointed a 28-year-old as the youngest serving Trustee of a national UK museum or gallery. Great news for them, but it also puts the spotlight on how few young trustees there are in the sector - just 0.5% of serving trustees are aged 18-24, despite 450,000 people in this age group running their own business. This a timely reminder of some of the benefits of appointing young trustees, and of how far we still have to go as a sector in order to be fully representative of the people we serve.
David Burgess: Making your Thank Yous SUPER
Published by Flight of the Fundraiser
We love this guest blog on why receiving a donation is a bit like being told "I love you", and how many charities fluff their lines in response. It can be easy to blame lack of time for sending mediocre thank yous, but you might be missing out on a lot more support as a result, and getting this right doesn't need to take very long at all. Here's how to dazzle your donors with a few minutes' extra effort, with a couple of real-life examples from Solar Aid and a small local music charity...
Matt Chittock: Why CEO letters suck (and how to make them better)
Published by CharityComms
You know when you've written or read something so many times that you take it for granted there's only one way of doing it? Well this month it's not only the mediocre thank you letter being deconstructed, oh no. Not when CEO letters are often where plain English goes to die - Matt's brave words, not ours. A letter from your CEO might feel like the crowning glory of your annual report, but it's often a missed opportunity to write something engaging and memorable for your supporters. And since there's no point deconstructing something if you're not going to make it better, here are five tips from Matt on how to do exactly that.
Beth Clarke: Six characteristics of a resilient charity
Published by Charities Aid Foundation
I met the founder of a local youth charity recently who told me he despised the word 'resilience'. Who creates a society where so many young people face such a struggle to get a good education, good healthcare etc, then puts the emphasis on them to be resilient enough to cope? You could say the same about smaller charities, who are often tasked with so much to do in their local communities yet left to battle so hard to even stay afloat. Yet here we are - organisational resilience is a key buzzword, so thank you Beth for sharing six ways in which a charity can be resilient, inspired by CAF's Resilience programme.
David Floyd: Can't get there from here
Published by Beanbags and Bullsh!t
On a related note, social enterprises have the odds stacked against them too, with the expectation that they'll be able to scale up into established household names despite the lack of sizeable grants available. Here, David argues that we need to develop a different funding landscape that gives social enterprises a genuine chance of thriving in consumer markets - because the few social enterprises that have managed to do this, like The Big Issue and Cafedirect, have actually benefitted from millions of pounds of private investment.
Emily Zulz: Daniel Kahneman - Your Intuition Is Wrong, Unless These 3 Conditions Are Met
Published by ThinkAdvisor
And finally, this caught my eye recently despite having nothing to do with the charity sector. How many times have you relied on your intuition to make a big decision? Do you trust that deep down you've got a good reason for 'knowing' the right thing to do, even if you can't explain it? According to Daniel Kahneman, an award-winning behavioural economist, unless you're able to meet these three conditions, relying on your intuition might actually be a huge risk. In our experience, intuition often plays a key role in decisions made by trustees and CEOs with varying results, so this is worth two minutes of your time.
Polly Neate: If you work for a charity you are a fundraiser – and that includes the CEO
Published by Institute of Fundraising
This guest blog by the Chief Executive of Shelter has been widely praised across social media and it's something that fundraisers have been crying out to hear for years. Polly says that the last thing ambitious causes need is an isolated fundraising department, particularly as “voluntary income is what we buy our freedom and independence with”. We're always talking about the importance of developing a whole-organisation commitment to fundraising, so to hear this from a prominent CEO was music to our ears!
Ian MacQuillin: Could it be unethical not to ask for a sufficiently high gift?
Published by 101Fundraising
Curiously, this article isn’t specifically about what the title suggests, but it is a thought-provoking debate on how you balance the ethical duties to your donors and your beneficiaries. For years, fashionable concepts like ‘donorcentrism’ and ‘relationship fundraising’ have encouraged fundraisers to put the donor at the centre of everything they do. But has the resultant ‘donor dominance’ led to recent fundraising scandals like the Presidents Club dinner, and what can we do about it?
Rosie Walworth: #YouMadeItHappen – why it always pays off to thank your supporters
Published by NCVO
One of the best - but most under-used - tools in a fundraiser's armoury is the thank you message. It's always easier to keep building relationships with your existing supporters than to acquire new ones, something that often gets forgotten in the daily rush to meet growth targets. This year, charities paused on 19 November to celebrate the vital contribution made by their supporters, volunteers, donors and campaigners, using the hashtag #YouMadeItHappen. Here's a lovely round-up of the day's most creative and inspiring thank yous.
Nikki Bell: Social Media & Professional Development; Little Digital Steps to Make Big Career Moves
Published by CharityNikki
Many people will be familiar with using social media to boost fundraising and raise awareness for their cause, but how can it help you with career development too? Inspired by how it's advanced her career, Nikki Bell has put together this advice for others. We like how this is divided into three handy sections: getting started, getting going and expert level. Drink in these tips, then come and say hi to us on social media!
Kate Lee: Time to go big or go home
Published by CLIC Sargent
In a tough climate for charities, celebrating your successes is important - but what about embracing your failures? The CEO of CLIC Sargent did just that, firstly acknowledging one of their biggest failings (not reaching one third of children diagnosed with cancer) publicly in their impact report, then launching an organisation-wide drive to understand why and take action. Committing to addressing your failings can be tough but, as Kate describes, the long-term impact on your work can be amazing.
Ann Christiano & Annie Neimand: The Science of What Makes People Care
Published by Stanford Social Innovation Review
Let's kick off with a dose of science - we love this fascinating in-depth study into how you can make people care more about your social purpose without spending more money. Ann and Annie share five principles to help you inspire engagement, belief, and behaviour change in your supporters, rather than just focusing on "awareness-raising". From one of the world's first social justice campaigns to abolish the slave trade, to Greenpeace's switch of focus to hope rather than guilt and fear - this is a long read, but well worth it.
Alastair Wilson: The myth of sustainability is damaging the social enterprise sector
Published by Thomas Reuter's Foundation
We couldn't agree more with this - why should organisations attempting to generate their own income through trading be expected to become entirely self-sustaining? We've spoken to many frustrated social enterprises who are struggling to meet the unrealistic expectations placed on them, or excluded from grant opportunities because of their status. Here's a passionate argument about why social enterprises that trade in deprived communities, or give job opportunities to people who are disadvantaged in the labour market, need a little helping hand along the way...
Lisa Weaks: Building resilience and sustainability – tips for charity leaders
Published by The King's Fund
The King’s Fund has run the GSK IMPACT Awards for 20 years, visited more than 400 smaller charities and reviewed thousands of applications. So they're well-placed to offer ten tips for charity leaders - while you'll have heard many of these before, the occasional reminder never does any harm. If you're short on time, the article also has a handy visual summary of the ten tips. From careful data analysis to writing an excellent trustees' report, via succession planning - how many of these can you tick off?
Sarah Carter: How to collaborate successfully for greater impact
Published by 101Fundraising
One of the ten leadership tips from The King's Fund is about careful partnership planning, so we were intrigued to spot this blog on the subject soon after. Partnerships can be an amazing leg-up for your organisation - both in terms of impact and profile - but when things go wrong, a bad partnership can drain your time and alienate your beneficiaries. Here's a checklist of vital things to consider when entering into a new partnership and trying to juggle different priorities, outcomes and working cultures...
Michael Connellan: Want more media coverage? Then buying journalists coffee is not your priority
Published by CharityComms
We always love an article that challenges old or established ways of thinking, and this article has 'old PR advice' in its sights. So ditch your little black book of contacts and don't even think getting to know journalists for the sake of it. Instead, understand what the evolving news media sector is really looking for, and go digging for real news - that means visiting your service users, spending time with frontline staff, and being imaginative enough to pose questions that you've never asked before.
Beate Sørum: Losing the donor relationship
Published on Beate In English
In our recent blog about 'Public Fundraising 2.0' after GDPR, we wrote how donor data was getting harder to come by, and choosing the right platforms would become vital. Beate takes this even further - we might soon have very little donor data at all! The rising use of digital channels could be the biggest cause of 'disruption' to fundraising, by causing us to lose ownership of our relationship with donors. So should we fight to keep our current business model and risk our sector's very own 'Kodak moment', or find ways to adapt?
James Clarke: The Civil Society Strategy - what it says about funding and finance
Published on NCVO
You might've seen that the Government has just published its long-awaited Civil Society Strategy, setting out how it plans to improve the ways in which public sector bodies interact with the charity sector in future. It's a crucial document but 120 pages long, so handily NCVO have published a series of blogs on what it means for the sector. This part is all about funding, including how charities will be encouraged to take ownership of community buildings, and unlocking money from inactive charitable trusts. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy...
Rob Preston: Paul Streets: ‘Grant-givers should fund core costs’
Published on Civil Society
This just missed the deadline for our July round-up, but it's so good we just had to include it now. Sound the trumpets! There are funders out there that genuinely trust and value smaller charities, and want to empower them with core funding. Paul Streets, who is always a brilliant advocate for the sector, explains the thinking behind Lloyds Bank Foundation's new five-year strategy and takes aim at 'projectitis' - in other words, the obsession with funding 'innovation' over tried-and-tested vital community work.
Ikhlaq Hussein: Actively listening helps to discover donors’ passion and raise more support
Published on UK Fundraising
Here's one for those of you who spend ages preparing for meetings with potential major donors, but aren't unlocking those big donations you dream about. You might be telling them what feels like important information, but are you asking the right questions? For those big meetings, curiosity and listening might be your most important skills. Ikhlaq explains how to build a picture about a potential donor's background, and their motivation for giving, before you even start thinking about making that all-important ask.
Marcus Missen: It's time for business unusual
Published on Third Sector
Encouraging different thinking and 'breaking the rules' is basically what our Unconventional Wisdom series is all about, so this article by Marcus Missen is just the ticket. Here are his thoughts on what innovation and 'trusting your team' are really all about, and how WaterAid did away with its fundraising strategy and developed a whole new vision in order to keep raising money in a tough environment.
Sophie Hobson: Do’s and don’ts of trading for social enterprises & charities
Published on Good Finance
And finally, here's another way to survive and thrive when funding is disappearing: turn to trading. Moving towards an earned income model can feel pretty daunting, so these ten tips from Sophie on how to get started could make all the difference. They include bringing your Board along on the journey, developing trading ideas around your existing expertise, and not expecting people to buy from you just because you’re social...
Melanie May: The Grand Appeal’s 2018 Gromit trail goes contactless
Published by UK Fundraising
First up, something local to Lime Green HQ - The Grand Appeal have just launched their third ever 'sculpture trail', featuring over 60 giant Wallace & Gromit sculptures designed by local artists in iconic spots around Bristol, all to raise money for Bristol Children's Hospital. This is fundraising innovation at its best - featuring its own app, contactless donation points on the sculptures, and corporate tie-ins with Rolls-Royce and the University of Bristol. This ticks many of our favourite fundraising boxes - it provides donors with a unique experience, makes excellent use of technology, and makes donating as convenient as possible.
Sarah Gate: Where should I start with charity social media?
Published by JustGiving
It's that age-old dilemma for charities with limited resources - how to unlock the potential of engaging supporters on social media, without drowning in the potentially endless list of things to do and platforms to use? We love this overview, which covers topics such as which platforms to use, how to maximise charity hashtags, how often to post, and how to deal with negative comments.
Richard Sved: Graffiti on oak – when a fundraising idea catches fire!
Published by 3rd Sector Mission Control
Here's the latest offering from one of our all-time favourite bloggers Richard Sved, about a £400,000 fundraising campaign to restore the St Albans Museum & Gallery. This features an 'honours board' with a twist, with over 1,400 people donating £250 each to have their names carved graffiti-style into restored oak panels. If the Wallace & Gromit trail is all about innovation and technology, this is a fundraising campaign built on more traditional ingredients for success: relevance, beauty, permanence, emotional storytelling and listening to your supporters.
Emma Beeston: Is philanthropy safe from impact investment?
Published by Emma Beeston Consultancy
How much do you know about the rising trend of impact investment, where donors choose to invest in social good projects with the expectation of achieving a measurable social return and a financial return? Is this a welcome development for charities, or are wealthy people increasingly turning to impact investment instead of donations, grants and philanthropy? What type of causes are a good fit for the investment model? Click above for answers to all these questions and more.
Charles Orton-Jones: Why choose a smaller charity?
Published by Raconteur.net
Corporate fundraising can often feel impossibly tough for smaller charities. The 'big boys' seem to have it all sown up, with the top 1,000 charities soaking up 89% of all corporate donations in the UK. But are things changing? Smaller charities can help companies to have more local and visible impact, and offer more benefits to companies than you might imagine. With news of a new partnership between Deutsche Bank and Autistica, and a Southampton cardiac charity that engaged companies by offering their staff free health checks, here are some all-new tips for punching above your weight with corporate fundraising...
We like to spend time trawling through blogs and articles from the third sector, so we can bring you some unique ideas and perspectives that you might have missed. This month comes with a warning about neglecting the importance of digital communication - but, fortunately, plenty of ideas about how you can avoid doing just that...
Natasha Stone: Is gaming the hot new trend for charities?
Published by JustGiving
On the eve of one of the biggest charity gaming events of the year, Natasha from JustGiving delved into how online gaming could bring untapped potential for charities. Gaming has boomed into a £100 billion industry and some of the stats may surprise you – there are 1.5 billion gamers worldwide, the average age is 35 and an increasing number of women and families are gaming. Could you grab a piece of the potential by teaming up with a gaming influencer or creating a charity gaming event?
Austin Clark: Charities can ‘no longer afford to be digitally defiant’
Published by Charity Digital News
This stark warning comes after Tech Trust’s new Digital Charity Survey found that 58% of charities still don’t have a digital strategy. In our experience, many charities dabble with social media with moderate success, but see a digital strategy as ‘something we ought to get around to eventually’. As over 65s increasingly embrace social media, and younger generations grow up having never lived without smart phones, will charities soon be unable to survive unless they put technology at the heart of their comms?
Piper Hendricks: How To Avoid Harmful Stereotypes In Your Nonprofit Videos
Published by GlobalGiving
If digital communication is an increasingly important ‘weapon’ in your charity’s arsenal, then video storytelling should arguably be your ammunition of choice. Creating video content is a brilliant way to reach more people and raise awareness about your work, but with great power comes great responsibility. Piper explains why too much charity video content inadvertently perpetuates harmful stereotypes and one-dimension portrayals of helpless beneficiaries, and shares five questions you can ask to avoid falling into this trap.
Which fundraising techniques really annoy the public?
Published by nfpSynergy
We recently published a blog about the long-term impact of having so many fundraising methods that interrupt – rather than add value to – people’s everyday lives. They may be profitable, but the long-term impact on public opinion is unsustainable. This in-depth study by nfpSynergy adds some broader context to the same issue – and while it’s not a reason to change your fundraising methods overnight, it provides some fascinating food for thought about how those methods may be perceived by different audience demographics.
Karl Wilding: Charities change the world. Why isn't that message getting through?
Published by The Guardian
There’s evidently a widening chasm between what charities think and what the public (and, often, their own supporter bases) think – whether that’s about things like Brexit, or how the sector is run. This article argues that we need to do more ourselves to close that gap, starting by cutting the jargon and relying less on obscure financial information. It’s clearly easier said than done, but could we be more honest and open about the issues we’re facing, and the importance of things like investing in staff and digital tools?
Sophie Hobson: Five New Year’s resolutions for social entrepreneurs
Published by the School for Social Entrepreneurs
You’ve now only got 11 months left to put these into practice, but better late than never hey? Working to bring about social change can be a lonely and relentless rollercoaster ride, but Sophie’s excellent tips for 2018 will help you to maximise productivity, stay strategic amidst the daily grind, and keep developing as a leader.
Gillian Murray: Times will be tough for charities in 2018. A solid strategy is more vital than ever
Published by The Guardian
This recent article from the CEO of Pilotlight – who help charities to sharpen their business planning skills – also highlights the need for a more strategic approach in 2018. With resources tighter than ever, three out of five smaller charities feel they do not have the skills required to prosper in the future. But sometimes even identifying the right skills gaps is tricky – so it’s vital to first understand what your biggest strategic challenges are, and how to address them.
Fiona Wallace: CSR for the charity sector? We need a system where charities can acknowledge their wider benefits on society
Published by nfpSynergy
This thought-provoking piece explores why Corporate Social Responsibility isn’t just important for companies, but for charities too. How much does your organisation go beyond your core remit to support the broader community? How important is it to encourage workforce diversity and create opportunities for payroll giving and volunteering? Or, in these times of austerity, is the charitable nature of your work enough of a focus?
Rebecca Cooney: Small Charities Coalition launches online GDPR tool
Published by Third Sector
It seems like we’ve been talking about GDPR forever, but Data Protection changes are rumbling closer than ever and non-compliance simply isn’t an option. However, for many people this is a minefield of policies, processes and legal jargon. We’re delighted that the Small Charities Coalition has launched an interactive GDPR portal, enabling you to make the necessary changes in an affordable and time-effective way, then display a ‘GDPR compliant’ green tick.
Simon George: Making the most of charities’ anniversaries
Published by UK Fundraising
Is 2018 a landmark year for your charity? Anniversaries are a great opportunity to raise your profile and generate some much-needed funds. We’ve seen many charities try to do exactly this, only to be hamstrung by a lack of capacity, planning or ability to answer that “so what?” question. This article is a huge help in making sure the big opportunity doesn’t slip through your grasp – so if 2018 marks a key anniversary for your organisation, keep these eight tips in mind.
Here's our final edition of 'Unconventional Wisdom' for 2017 - featuring some unique insights and innovative ideas recently published by people from across the charity sector...
Joe Saxton: Is fundraising f***ked?
Published on nfpSynergy
Joe Saxton is a real authority on fundraising - his 'Gimme Gimme Gimme' introductory guide is still the first resource we point charities towards. So when he chooses such an eye-catching headline, it's for good reason. Ahead of nfpSynergy's forthcoming report into the political, economic, social and technological factors affecting fundraising, this article provides a quick summary of the situation. It's worrying to hear but important to know - and fortunately, there's a chirpier follow-up piece coming soon on the positive developments and opportunities for charities!
Does it cost £60 to build a toilet?
Published on Toilet Twinning
Great fundraising campaigns can be a brilliant antidote to the concerns currently surrounding fundraising. This Toilet Twinning campaign by Tearfund has drawn plenty of well-deserved praise from fundraisers - here's a charity translating a complex issue into a simple and compelling ask, not hiding away from the true costs of its work, and making donors feel excited about the impact of a relatively modest contribution. Well worth checking out for some inspiration!
Jo Fischl & Tim Harrison: GDPR: The change that charity donors want
Published on nfpSynergy
We know what you're thinking: another report about Data Protection... But this excellent free download looks at GDPR from a different and important angle - what's the current public mood towards charities and data protection? And how are donors likely to respond to the coming changes? While the conclusions are worrying - donors often feel bombarded, and welcome GDPR as a way of taking control - nfpSynergy also provide plenty of constructive advice on how charities can adapt.
Rosie Ifould: 'Would you be willing?': words to turn a conversation around (and those to avoid)
Published on The Guardian
Research shows that we're all far more influenced by the language people use than we'd like to admit. Professors at Loughborough University have analysed thousands of hours of recorded conversations - from customer services calls to police crisis negotiation - to identify certain words and phrases with the power to change the course of a conversation both positively and negatively. While this isn't specific to the sector, it provides plenty of food for thought for charities and fundraisers. So...would you be willing to have a quick read to find out more?
Claire Axelrad: Key Issues in Effective Nonprofit Board Decision-Making
Published on Clairification
"Many nonprofits are stuck. They’re tethered to their early decisions. Often made by others who came before them." It's a bold opening to an article all about the factors that hold trustee boards back from making complex decisions such as investing in fundraising. These include confirmation bias, emotional attachment and fear of failure - do you recognise any of these? Could this article help your trustees to become more aware of some of the common challenges?
Tereza Litsa: How to bring social media into your fundraising strategy
Published on Hubbub
Charities have known for years that social media is an excellent opportunity to reach new supporters and start meaningful conversations with them. However, turning followers into donors is particularly tricky, making it hard for smaller organisations to decide how much time to dedicate to social media. Tereza's blog provides some handy pointers on this, including some great examples from charities who have got it right.
Sarah Finley: Is 'tap and go' a better way to give to charity?
Published on BBC News
Ten years after contactless payments reached the UK, more than half of all transactions up to £30 are now made made using 'tap and go' technology. Various trials by charities have shown that contactless collection boxes attract higher average donations than traditional tins. Contactless payment ports have even popped up in winter coats, 'smart benches' and a charity car! Sarah explores some of these successful trials, and why 'tap and go' donations are set to grow and grow...
Kate Ferguson: How to create a diverse Board of Trustees
Published on NCVO Knowhow Nonprofit
Board diversity has been a hot topic for charities for many years, but creating a truly diverse board - and attracting the right trustees - is easier said than done. It's a task that Kate Ferguson, Chair of The Advocacy Project, has dedicated a lot of time to, so it's well worth reading her seven top tips here - including the importance of transparency, accessible decision-making and consistent feedback from your Chair.
Caroline Fiennes: Good charities spend more on administration than less good charities spend
Published on Giving Evidence
After so much media scrutiny of their spending, charities have never felt more under pressure to keep their administrative costs to a minimum. However, this can often be really counter-productive - we come across far more charities facing challenges due to under-investment than wasteful organisations. This study of the relationship between 'quality' and admin costs popped up again on social media recently - it was written several years ago, but we feel it's never been more relevant.
Laura Hannan: Christmas is coming for Charities
Published on LinkedIn Pulse
Is it too early to mention the C-word yet? Not for Laura, who thinks that the huge uplift in donations during December means that charities need to get planning for Christmas now. Laura's blog provides some great tips on how to maximise the festive pounds and make best use of a range of digital platforms. Yes, we know it's not even November yet but go on, have a read...