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Big wins for social media

According to the 2021 Edition of Social Media Statistics published on Broadband Search, social media app usage grew by 4 percent from January to June 2020.

Social media kept us sane
Hardly surprising, given that most of us were stuck at home waiting out Covid lockdowns, with only our phones for company! Social media might well have been what kept us sane, allowing us to share photos and keep in touch with friends and family we weren’t able to see for weeks on end. Apart from reading, gaming and binge watching on Netflix, social media was also pretty much our only source of entertainment.

No wonder YouTube and TikTok report a surge in usage. Even if we don’t personally go onto these platforms, we are exposed to the content because friends share it on Whats App and Facebook. This sharing aspect makes it difficult to accurately measure individual social media platforms’ reach.

Rising star
But TikTok was definitely the rising star of social media, with users up from 28 million in January 2020 to more than 600 million now. With no other fun activities or entertainment, it seems that younger people, in particular, just can’t get enough of this app.

And they spend a lot of time on it! An average of 52 minutes. YouTube (the closest in terms of average session time) records an average of 40 minutes. But before you go rushing off to dream up a strategy for capturing this audience, remember that Facebook still rules the social media world. On average, users spend 35 minutes on Facebook, and access the site as many as 15 times a day.

Facebook still rules
Facebook still leads the pack in terms of usage, closely followed by YouTube. Twitter and SnapChat have lost ground, the latter to Instagram, which now offers many of the SnapChat features.

So, if you have only a limited amount of time to spend promoting your cause on social media, you should still be spending most of it trying to boost reach and engagement on Facebook and Instagram. Because Facebook owns both platforms, it’s easy to share fundraising campaigns across the two with very little extra effort.

If your organisation is able to produce really engaging video content, think about joining the YouTube Partner Programme and monetizing your content. You need at least 1 000 subscribers to be eligible for the programme. But when your videos start attracting large numbers of views (4000 public watch hours in the last 12 months), you can earn a useful revenue from advertising.

The one thing you can’t afford to do is ignore social media.

As of January this year, there are more than 3.96 billion users globally. Considering that there are around 7 billion people in the world, that represents over more than half the population. In first world countries, the percentage is much higher – 79% of Americans have a social media profile. Closer to home, South Africa has 38 million active internet users, an overwhelming majority (over 36 million) of whom access the Internet via mobile devices.

Social causes that have invested time and money growing their brands on social media are reaping the rewards. If you are new to all this, the good news is that you can start small and grow your fundraising efforts as you establish what works best for your organisation.

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Paradox of 2020

In many ways, 2020 was the hardest year our non-profits have ever faced. Carefully laid plans and goals, fundraising events and budgets had to be scrapped as the country went into lockdown. Organisations reliant on funding from charity shops or social enterprise initiatives lost their income stream virtually overnight. Others faced cuts in subsidies, as government funding was channelled into Covid-19 crisis relief. And, as income dwindled or dried up completely, organisations scrambled to meet the additional, unplanned costs of hand sanitizer, thermometers, sanitizing stations, extra cleaning/security staff and PPE.

But in other ways, 2020 was also the most successful year for our non-profits.

Most experienced an unprecedented increase in donations, as individuals and companies responded with an overwhelming outpouring of generosity. Given that many South Africans experienced salary cuts and uncertainty about the future, it was a heartwarming reminder of just how generous and supportive we are as a nation.

The big winners were organisations that had already invested heavily in digital fundraising programmes, tools and technologies, who had the confidence and agility to take their fundraising communications online virtually overnight. Two of the organisations with which I work saw income from online donations exceed the R1 million mark for the first time last year. Although this is just one portion of the overall fundraising pie, online giving is becoming increasingly popular with donors.

Predictions for 2021
If 2020 was a successful year for fundraising, is this trend likely to continue into 2021? Unfortunately, the first rush to support charity had already started trailing off in the third and fourth quarters of last year, when we began to realise that Covid-19 was not going to be defeated any time soon. We were gatvol. And then came the second wave of a much deadlier, faster spreading variant of the disease and a new focus on funding a vaccine roll out.

So what does 2021 have in store for local non profits?

Obviously digital is here to stay, so if your website isn’t geared to accept online donations you need to fix that right now. But one of the most interesting trends is the growth in access via mobile phone. Mobile has been gaining ground steadily over the past few years, but usage shot up markedly last year. With so many people working remotely from home, and the reported boom in the sale of laptops, one would expect more donors to use this option. But it just isn’t so.

According to research I read recently, Americans pick up their phones 96 times a day. That’s nearly once every ten minutes. And there’s no reason to think South Africans are any different. We are becoming much more comfortable doing our banking and online shopping by phone (think of the popularity of the Checkers Sixty/60 App).

Mobile First
Last year, over 74% of traffic on the website mentioned earlier was mobile. Which means the bulk of the R1 million donated was made via phone. Your online donation system has to be geared for this. No lengthy, difficult to complete forms. And certainly not a donation process that includes a pdf form for donors to download, print, fill in and email back to you, which I saw on a non-profit website this week!

In 2021, I believe we’re going to see a surge in websites that have been designed and built specifically for mobile. The ubiquitous home page slider is going to disappear - unless it renders in a vastly less cluttered version (or not at all) on phone and tablet. We’re also going to have to rethink our habit of placing donate buttons in the main menu, as this typically collapses into a ‘hamburger’ on a small screen, effectively hiding the donate button from view.

Phone messaging
Another result of working remotely has been the growth in WhatsApp as a communication tool for business. Companies are using WhatsApp groups to communicate with staff, and several of my clients now prefer this channel to email when communicating with me. It’s only a matter of time before non-profits make the same jump to this quick and ‘always on’ channel when communicating with supporters.

So if you’re not collecting mobile numbers and introducing opt-in mobile fields on donation forms and websites, this might be something to look at in 2021. Many organisations have already experienced success using phone messaging, either as a stand alone appeal, or as part of a multi-channel social media/email/phone campaign.

There are some glaring double standards when it comes to online privacy. 2021 is the year when South African websites will have to become compliant in displaying a cookie warning/policy. But this regulation does not apply in the USA. So Google and Facebook (the biggest users of tracking cookies) are not obliged to do the same.

As I write this, WhatsApp has introduced new terms and conditions that allow it to share information with sister company, Facebook. Although private messages cannot be accessed (yet), the app can share personal data such as your phone number and phone numbers of your contacts, profile names and pictures, and diagnostic data. Are concerns about privacy enough to make us abandon WhatsApp and Facebook? My gut says “No”. We already know that smart phones ‘eavesdrop’ on our conversations – even conversations that don’t take place on the phone. We express outrage but we accept it, because we just can’t live without our phones.

Even with the promise of a vaccine on the way and (hopefully) the demise of Covid-19 in 2021, things are not going to return to the way they were. Communication fundamentals and the way we work have been forever altered. We need new strategies to grow our fundraising success going forward.

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Borrow a winning website strategy

Why is a fundraising blog featuring the Woolworths website? Simply because I believe our non profits can learn a lot from their commercial counterparts!

As a fundraising consultant specialising in websites and digital giving, I am often asked to evaluate non profit websites. It’s got to the stage where I can do it in my sleep because at least 80% of South African non profits follow the same website formula. And it's pretty depressing.

Their home page is all about the organisation ... what they do, their vision and mission, etc. Then they add a big donate button to encourage website visitors to donate. Without making the slightest effort to engage with them in any way or explain how they can get involved or make a difference.

Non profit CEOs and marketing teams recoil in horror when I point out their website is not about them. How is that possible? Their organisations are wonderful and do incredible work. Naturally they have to explain this to website visitors and prospective donors. Well, yes. But in a different way. Stop making it all about you and start making it about the prospective donor.

If you don’t understand the difference, take a few moments to visit a successful commercial website, like Amazon, Woolworths or Safair. See how they put the focus squarely on the visitor (you).

When you land on the Fly Safair site, you can immediately do what you want to do – book a flight or check out the price of fares. Plus extras like managing your booking, or help with finding a hotel or hiring a car. What you don’t see on the home page:

  • How and when the company was formed
  • their vision and mission
  • what type and how many aeroplanes they own
  • “Meet the pilots”
So why do non profits insist on doing exactly that?

Take all that information about your organisation and put it where it belongs, under the “About us” tab. That leaves your home page clear to focus on a problem (or an opportunity) that needs to be fixed or taken advantage of. Preferably immediately. Explain what the issue is and then explain how the prospective donor can help solve it – by making a donation to your organisation.

Wherever possible, reduce the scale of the problem to one individual (person or animal) and tell their story with as much emotion as possible. Are they frightened? In pain? Desperate or hopeless? What do they need right now to make things better? What will it take for the donor to provide this? What will they get in return?

Borrow strategy from the commercial sites. See how Woolworths uses impactful images to trigger the itch to get your credit card out. Beautiful clothes. Delicious convenience food. Gifts for friends and family. Why do these work? Because people want to look attractive (new clothes) ... save time after a long and busy day (easy to cook food) ... make their loved ones happy. Do you understand what motivates your supporters to give? Can you find clever ways to make your cause or beneficiaries just as appealing?

The answer is yes, you can. But first you have to prise yourself out of the nonprofit website rut and dare to do something different!


Insights into Lockdown giving

Results of the Nonprofit Tech for Good 2020 Global Trends in Giving Survey will be released in September. In the meantime, some early results related to giving in response to the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • 68% of the COVID-19 donors were female, 31% male. 41% were Baby Boomers, 24% Millennials, 22% Gen X, 11% Matures, and 2% Gen Z.
  • The top three preferred methods of giving are online (80.5%), bank transfer (18.6%), and direct mail (14.4%).
  • 53.6% of COVID-19 donors are enrolled in a recurring giving programme.
  • 49.7% have donated to a crowdfunding campaign benefiting a nonprofit within the last 12 months.
  • 32.6% give to nonprofits located outside of their country of residence.
  • 66.7% have volunteered for a nonprofit within the last 12 months. 74% donated to the nonprofit that they volunteered for.
  • 32% of COVID-19 donors have donated through Facebook Fundraising Tools. Of those, 88% said they are likely to do it again.
  • 10.7% have donated through Instagram Fundraising Tools. Of those, 93% said they are likely to do it again.
  • 64.8% of COVID-19 donors say that regular email communication about the impact of their donation is most likely to inspire them to give repeatedly to an organisation.

Many local non-profits are excited about Facebook’s fundraising and donation tools. However, they are sadly not yet available in South Africa. We look forward to the expansion of these tools into other countries.

[Source: Non-profit Tech for Good]


Non profits under lockdown

What began as a fundraising disaster – with many non-profits forced to cancel income generating events and close charity shops – turned into a golden opportunity for those with the courage and agility to adapt quickly to the new reality.

People stuck at home with plenty of time on their hands and – initially at least – an almost obsessive interest in what was happening in the world, were keen to do something ... anything ... to help. There can’t be many South Africans who weren’t concerned about the plight of hundreds of thousands of their fellow men going hungry, as wages dried up and the promised government aid failed to materialise quickly enough.

Appeals for donations towards food parcels resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of generosity, even from those whose own future was uncertain. Inevitably food parcel distribution came with its own challenges, including looting of food trucks and angry protests by those who, for one reason or another, were excluded.

I’m not sure who first came up with the concept of SMS food vouchers, but it was a real game changer! People in need could apply to organisations like the Domino Foundation and Siyabonga Africa and within 24 hours, receive a R400/R500 voucher by SMS to spend at grocery stores like Checkers, Usave, Shoprite, Boxer and Pick ‘n Pay.

With one innovative idea, and the technology available via mobile phone, the whole food parcel distribution exercise was completely revolutionalised. Think of the saving in man power. No need for truckloads of food to be delivered to a central point, volunteers and staff to pack the parcels and expose themselves to the risk of infection. No time consuming house to house deliveries – or gathering of recipients in numbers at a distribution point.

Plus, recipients were able to buy what they needed most, and support their local stores, many of which were also struggling to survive under restricted trading conditions.


But community service and feeding schemes weren’t the only fundraising winners. Support for causes completely unrelated to Covid-19 also surged.

One of the organisations with which we work raised over 6.5 times as much this April as they did in April 2019, to help offset the loss of income from their events and charity shop. They achieved this by coming up with innovative ideas to engage with their supporters, keep their organisation top of mind, and develop new and appealing ways for people to continue supporting them. Virtual events, appeals built around the common lockdown experience, moving their charity shop online, and developing innovative lockdown products all contributed to their success.

Another client raised over R130 000 towards a Covdi-19 relief initiave in just two days. However, don't imagine that this was an overnight success. They were able to send the right message, to the right audience, at the right time because they've spent years developing and nurturing an effective fundraising programme.

Speaking of virtual events – who hasn’t heard of the success of the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust FutureLife Bambalela Marathon? Instead of postponing their race, scheduled to take place on Easter Monday, 13 April, HACT challenged runners to complete the distance over their own ‘garden route’.

The response was phenomenal. Over 720 runners and walkers took part, raising an incredible R125 743 for HACT in the process. Apart from the fun runners who walked or jogged 5km around their gardens or houses, others completed a full marathon’s distance of 42.2km. And let us not forget Dean Wight of Beloved Long Runs, who completed all four distances (42.2km, 5km, 10km & 21.1km) back-to-back on the day. Altogether he ran a mind-boggling 78.3km – 1566 laps around his 50m garden. Dean also personally raised over R8000 for HACT by getting friends and colleagues to sponsor his 4-in-1 challenge.

Because the event was virtual, there were no restrictions on who could enter. A mother and son in Alaska walked 42km in the snow in support of the Bambalela Marathon, while 81 year-old Ursula Stredwick was one of 13 German runners and walkers who showed their support on the day. She completed 5km in her zimmer frame and electric wheelchair.

Adding to the fun were printable race numbers emailed to all participants ahead of the run, and race certificates and e-medals (a customised Facebook profile frame) issued on an honesty basis afterwards.

When I first started out in fundraising all those years ago, Terry Murray used to say, “There is no shortage of funds – just a shortage of good ideas to raise those funds.” I’m sure there are many, many more success stories out there that I’m not aware of. If you developed innovative ways to motivate donors during lockdown, please do share your success with us.

new year predictions

2020 Vision

Forgive me for I have sinned. It has been over a year since my last blog post! But what can I say – 2019 was a strange and busy year.

From a fundraising perspective, there were plenty of ups and downs – some of which left us questioning everything we knew (or thought we did) about why and how people give. In South Africa, we battled a shrinking economy that left many non-profits on the brink of disaster. But then somehow, against all the odds, many of our clients finished the year on an all time high!

How reassuring it was to find out that we are not alone. Amy Peyrot's item on the M+R Lab echoed much of what we took away from 2019 – and then some. This is what she wrote:

"Year-over-year EOY (end of year) growth is common, but not universal. About half of our clients saw overall gains in their online EOY fundraising from 2018 levels. About a third saw year-over-year decrease in online revenue, while the rest were about flat. No matter what your results, you have plenty of company.

The nonprofit fundraising landscape is evolving. Lots of groups saw strong performance from channels that haven’t traditionally had a big impact (like peer-to-peer texting). Some saw reliable channels become not so reliable. Donor behaviors are changing, new channels are emerging, and tools and technology are catching up. This year many groups were feeling the urgency (and seeing the benefits) of a programme that uses all possible ways to communicate with supporters in sophisticated ways.

Deliverability is a big deal (mostly in a bad way). Lower deliverability means lower response rates means lower email revenue, and many nonprofits struggled to land EOY appeals in inboxes this December. Those who spotted deliverability issues last year and took steps to improve their outlook (Microsoft Outlook pun extremely intended) saw increases in their email revenue.

Giving Tuesday keeps getting bigger. More and more nonprofits are expanding Giving Tuesday to a campaign that stretches over three or four days, with special offers, celebrity promotions, premiums, and matching gifts. Giving Tuesday revenue grew for most of our clients, even those that don’t promote it much.

Nonprofits who’ve invested in growing their mobile lists over the last few years are starting to see major returns. Text messages — at least so far — are less likely to get lost in a crowded inbox, so it’s a great way to get supporters’ attention. The numbers say it all — our 2019 Benchmarks Study found fundraising SMS messages average a 13% clickthrough rate, compared to 0.44% for fundraising emails! On fundraising-focused days like Giving Tuesday, text messages can have a big impact.

Peer-to-peer text fundraising is coming. For many nonprofits, it’s already here. Some of our clients used peer-to-peer text messaging to secure donations from page abandoners, thank donors, and connect with prospects.

Mobile optimization matters. If you’re a loyal reader of our annual Benchmarks Study, you know that mobile devices make up an increasingly large portion of nonprofit web traffic. One group saw mobile visits to their website in December increase 40% YOY. Serving up a smooth, compelling mobile experience will help convert those visits to revenue."

I have to admit that SMS fundraising is something I haven't tried yet – but certainly hope to do so this year. Are any South African non-profits already using this channel? Would love to hear about your experiences! Please email

[Source M+R]

You may also be interested in this in-depth look at email statistics from Avasam. Interesting to see that only a small proportion of people (18%) access their mail via a desktop computer. Once again, mobile has taken over (43%), with a surpising number of users opting to check mail via webmail access (39%). If you're sending out mail in mobile unfriendly format, you're wasting your time!


Report reveals most/least effective fundraising tools

Survey respondents for the 2018 Global NGO Technology Report were asked to rate the effectiveness of the most commonly used communication and fundraising tools. Their answers provide valuable insight into which tools NGOs should prioritise in their communications and fundraising strategy.

Surprisingly, text messaging and messsaaging apps got the thumbs down from most participating organisations, with 42% rating Text-to-Give tools as ineffective. Messaging apps were rated ineffective by 36% of respondents.

Tools rated effective, or somewhat effective were:

  1. Email updates (82%)
  2. Websites (81%)
  3. Social media (78%)
  4. Video (72%)
  5. Printed annual reports
  6. Social media ads (61%)
  7. Direct mail (60%)
  8. Peer-to-peer fundraising (56%)
  9. Printed newsletters (54%)
  10. Search engine ads (49%)

Over 5 000 non profits in 164 countries (including 330 from South Africa) were surveyed. 92% have a website, the majority of which are mobile compatible. 63% regularly send email updates and appeals to their supporters. Email address lists ranged from under 10 000 for small organisations to over 60 000 for large organisations.

According to Ashley Thompson, Managing Director of Blackbaud, "In the US, online giving has grown an average of 8% annually for the past five years. Excellent online practices — from thoughtful web design to active social media stewardship — are now fundamental basics for successful donor engagement."

NGOs that are successful at online fundraising regularly publish news articles and blog posts focused on stories of hope that include a prominent call to give. These are then shared in email updates and fundraising appeals. Posting the same content on social media also inspires online giving – but right now, email is still the most powerful online fundraising tool.

Other interesting online facts recently published by Nonprofit Tech for Good:
  1. On average, non profits raise 7.6% of their total revenue online.
  2. 21% of online donations were made on a mobile device in 2017.
  3. 66% of donors would use a mobile app that allows two-tap giving and earns badges and redeemable points. This app does not exist.
  4. Over the last 10 years, donor retention rates have been consistently weak - averaging below 50%.
  5. 66% of donors are volunteers and 85% of them donated to the non profit that they volunteered for.

[Source Nonprofit Tech for Good]


When is the best time to send out email?

According to Nathan Ellering, writing on the CoSchedule blog, the best time to send out marketing email is on a Tuesday morning at 10am.

He trawled through 10 studies by email companies such as MailChimp, HubSpot and Wordstream to arrive at this conclusion. Tuesday was hands down the best day. If you send two emails per week, choose Thursday for the second one. And, while no single study showed that Wednesday was the most popular, it came in second place several times.

Why should you care?

Because email – along with direct mail and telephone fundraising – remains the most effective way of raising funds from individual donors. The key to this success is volume. Non-profits need a cheap way to reach more donors and generate consistent returns. The classic fundraising method, direct mail, is becoming more and more costly as print and postage rates rise. Add to this the unreliability of our local postal service, and email emerges as the easiest and cheapest way to reach large numbers of prospective donors.

But you need to be tenacious. According to statistics 2018, published on Smart Insights, the industry standard open rates for non-profits is 24.98% and the click rate is 2.76%. Find peace with the reality that three quarters of the emails you send out won't even be opened. Many will be blocked by spam filters or end up in junk mailboxes. Others will simply be ignored. This doesn't mean that e-appeals don't work. It means you need to mail often.

But won't donors get irritated? How often is too often? Frustratingly, the answer will be different for every organisation. But you can easily measure donor reaction by keeping a close eye on your unsubscribe rate. A useful guide is again the industry standard – 0.19%. When you see unsubscribe rates of 2% or more, you need to realise that something is going badly wrong.

Unsubscribes occur not only when you send out email too often. There may be problems with the content of the mailer, especially if the message is just 'give, give, give'! Reports back on previous campaigns or how previous donations were spent are just as important as requests for support. Email can also be used for awareness messages, to promote events, competitions and so on.

If you vary your messages and keep them interesting, people generally won't hit the unsubscribe button.

cyber attacks

Cryptocurrency mining behind massive increase in cyber attacks

On Monday, Wordfence, a WordPress security plugin, reported a massive distributed brute force attack campaign targeting WordPress sites.

“The attack uses a large number of attacking IPs, each of which is generating a huge number of attacks. This is the most aggressive campaign we have seen to date, peaking at over 14 million attacks per hour,” reported Mark Maunder of Wordfence. “The attack campaign was so severe that we had to scale up our logging infrastructure to cope with the volume when it kicked off, which makes it clear that this is the highest volume attack that we have seen in Wordfence history.”

On investigation, the company discovered that a single botnet was behind the attacks. They were able to isolate the IP addresses from the botnet and access the logs to find out what the attacker is up to.

Sophisticated malware is being leveraged to remotely gain control of WordPress servers and use them to mine for cryptocurrency, almost certainly Mondero, since it can be mined using regular processors instead of graphics processors. Even so, mining isn’t easy – it consumes enormous amounts of processing power and the returns aren’t great. By compromising as many servers as possible, the attacker has considerably increased his mining power. Two wallet addresses monitored by Wordfence (which surely represent only a fraction of this attacker’s activities) have together received about 217 XMR, which at current market value is worth almost $100 000.

With returns like this, the increase in brute force attacks becomes obvious. The malware uses a combination of common password lists and heuristics based on the domain name and contents of the site that it attacks – including names, usernames, and words – to gain access. It’s also attacking sites running on non-standard ports, using only an IP address rather than a domain name – so don’t think your site is safe from attack just because it’s hidden away somewhere.

“On December 5th, a massive database of hacked credentials emerged,” explains Maunder. “It contains over 1.4 billion username/password pairs. The database is searchable and easy to use.” Historically, brute force attacks targeting WordPress have not been very successful. This new database provides fresh credentials that, when matched with a WordPress username, may provide a higher success rate for attackers targeting sites that do not have any protection.

If you have a WordPress site, Maunder recommends that you:

  1. Run a malware detection scan – the php malware found on the compromised sites is detected by Wordfence.
  2. Check your server resources – the Monero mining will use as many CPU resources as it possibly can.
  3. If you have the ability to check your site’s resource usage, you can verify if CPU usage is within normal levels. If you have command line access to your server, you can use the utility `htop` to see which processes are using the most CPU.
  4. Harden your site against brute force attacks –
    • Ensure that you have strong passwords on all user accounts, especially admin.
    • Change your admin username from the default ‘admin’ to something harder to guess.
    • Delete any unused accounts, especially admin accounts that you don’t use. This reduces your attack surface.
    • Enable an IP blacklist to block IPs that are engaged in this attack.
    • Monitor login attempts by configuring alerts when an admin signs into your website.
    • Do not reuse a password on multiple services. That way if you have a password from a data breach in this new database, it won’t be the same as your WordPress admin password.
  5. Monitor blacklists – if your site is attacking other sites, it will likely be blacklisted.
  6. Act quickly if compromised – If you have been infected, clean your site immediately; your domain and IP address reputations are going to be damaged very quickly if your site is being used to attack other sites.
digital giving trends

Interesting trends in digital giving

The recently released 2017 Global Trends in Giving Report reveals some encouraging trends for digital fundraisers. Thanks to Michaela on Fancy Guppy for unpacking the most pertinent.

Ignore Facebook at your peril
In the report, which surveyed more than 4000 donors in 95 countries, 25% of donors said they were inspired to give by social media, with Facebook being by far the most influential, outstripping Twitter (the next most cited platform) by a clear margin. 75% of donors said that social media is a primary news source for keeping up to date with organisations they care about. So the time you invest in keeping your organisation's Facebook page fresh and relevant is more than worthwhile.

Saving time
Interestingly, a further 25% of donors said fundraising events inspired them to give, while 21% responded to emails. Although fundraising events have a major role to play in creating awareness as well as raising funds, no one can deny that organising an event requires a huge investment of time and staff. Compare this to the time it takes to create a Facebook post or email – and digital fundraising looks even more attractive!

Donors prefer to give online
Even older donors indicated that their preferred giving chanel was online (59% – against 19% who said they preferred to give through the mail). However, it must be noted that the survey on which the report is based was conducted online, so these results represent the views of an internet-savy group, who have access to the internet and are comfortable using social media and email.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is very popular
In the last year, 33% of respondents have donated to a campaign where an individual has created their own online fundraising campaign to raise money for an NGO or nonprofit. Peer-to-peer or 'challenge' fundraising is popular across all age groups of donors – encouraging news especially for smaller, less well known organisations which lack the budget or staff to manage big fundraising campaigns of their own.

This is just a small 'taste' of some of the emerging trends revealed by the report. To find out more, download the 2017 Global Trends in Giving Reort here.

social media marketing

The "hidden" dangers of Facebook advertising and remarketing

Many non-profits are turning to Facebook to promote their cause or appeal, and it makes perfect sense. With over 2 billion active users worldwide spending an average 20 minutes on the site, Facebook is certainly where the eyes are.

But never forget that, unlike traditional media such as newspapers, radio or TV, social media audiences have the power to choose whether or not your adverts appear in their space. If your messages are not relevant, appealing or interesting, your audience may react by 'hiding' or even blocking individual posts or everything you, and other non-profits like you, post.

Facebook statsUnless there is a complaint, which Facebook will act on and report to you, you won't know this is happening. But you should be monitoring your organisation's Facebook page for 'unlikes' and 'hides'. If you notice a trend like the one pictured here, where there are more 'unlikes' than 'likes' leading to a net loss in your audience, you need to analyse what's going wrong and fix it quickly.

What are you doing wrong?
You may be posting too frequently – or conversely, not often enough. How much is too much? There's no magic number – every organisation is different and it depends a lot on what you're posting. If your posts are all about you – or worse, all about your needs (give, give, give!) you should probably cut down on both the number of posts per day and the number of days in the week when you post. If you're sharing popular content (that has some relevance to your cause), genuine news, or helpful information (for e.g. the Heart Foundation could post early warning symptoms of a heart attack or stroke), you can get away with more frequent posts.

The future is remarketing ... or is it?
Have you every visited a website and then noticed ads for that site following you wherever you go on the Internet? It's all possible through some clever technology called remarketing, which places a 'cookie' on your device when you visit a website but fail to take the desired action (eg. buying a product or downloading an e-book). The cookie then triggers specially targetted advertisements to display on other websites you visit within the Google or social media networks. Marketers claim it's a highly cost effective tool, and it may well push someone who's undecided into making the purchase. But ...

Maybe it's just me but I keep noticing instances where remarketing is a complete flop. Like when you research a hotel for your next holiday, choose one and make your booking, only to have the 'losers' follow you around the Internet in a fruitless effort to secure your booking. These hotels and their special offers begin to look a bit desperate and pathetic, which is surely not the image you want for your brand?

Even worse was my recent experience with FlySafair, after I took up their offer of a cheap flight to Jo'burg. After paying for my luggage to accompany me, I realised that my cheap flight was not. Cheap. In fact, the return flight on Mango (with bag included) was considerably less.

I probably would have forgotten all about it by now, except that FlySafair pops up wherever I go on the Internet, with more offers of cheap flights. Every time I see it, it serves as a negative reminder of how I was taken in. As a result, I have developed a massive dislike of their perky pink and turquoise logo and can honestly say that I will probably never fly with them again.

The problem is that, clever as the remarketing technology is, it cannot figure out why website visitors do what they do. Until it can, those ads are about as welcome as a telemarketer who won't take No for an answer!

give yourself

Inspiration for fellow fundraisers and other South Africans with soul

According to a report on, South Africans bucked a global trend of giving less to become more charitable in 2016 – despite the tough economic climate.

The Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index rated South Africa the 24th most charitable country in the world.  South Africans rated higher in the categories of ‘helping a stranger’ and ‘volunteering time’, but less so when it came to ‘donating money’. All three categories were combined to produce the overall score. Our 2016 score was higher than that achieved in 2015, indicating that more people are getting involved in charitable causes.

As someone who’s been involved in fundraising for most of my professional life, these stats are a balm to the soul. When I first started out (some 30 years ago), people referred to my work in direct mail as ‘begging letters’ – often accompanied by a sneer. As if it was somehow shameful to invite others to contribute towards the dream of a better world. So the shift towards more and more people wanting to get involved in charitable initiatives, is really heartening. I’m especially inspired by individuals who don’t just volunteer or contribute to worthy causes, but who take it one step further and start their own projects which are deeply meaningful to them.

Stephan Ferreira is one such person. Although he had previously been involved in charity work, it was only after he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013 that he decided he needed to do something more.

“The idea of death did not scare me,” he writes on his Facebook page, Charity Begins With Me. “But I knew I wanted to leave behind something worth remembering before I officially kicked the bucket.”

He decided he would give hungry children from an impoverished informal settlement a small lunch on Sundays. For convenience and economy (and because kids like them!) he decided on a hot dog and juice, with an apple to keep them healthy, and some marshmallows – because they are kids and they deserve a little joy in life.

Stephan is now feeding 800+ children every Sunday! As well as holding down a full time job and collecting donated food items and other basic necessities during the week. If that is not a shining example of how one person can make a difference, I don’t know what is.

More inspiration comes from another Facebook page, I Have a Name. There's a blog too.

I’m not quite sure who’s behind it, but the page invites you to ,“Come with me on a journey … the stories and names behind the faces of everyday South Africans living their life in your neighbourhood, on your streets.”

It comes with the disclaimer that the author is running the page in her/his spare time while juggling family, kids and work. I Have a Name is not an NGO nor does it accept monetary contributions. The goal is to inspire others to break down barriers and help, by taking up contact with the people featured, to encourage a radical change of perspective, and to inspire hope for South Africa's future. “We share this country with a lot of big hearted, generous people who want to make a difference,” says the author.

In complete contrast, Siyabonga Africa is not a small start up initiative – it’s a large, thriving non-profit doing incredible work. I was lucky enough to visit recently and see their baking initiative. Unemployed people from the local community are taught the basics of bread making and baking and then use these skills to start up small home based bakeries of their own. Some are employed in the organisation’s own bakery – which supplies hundreds of low cost loaves to the community. It’s a win-win situation offering employment and the opportunity to feed families with top quality bread at a lower price than commercially produced loaves.

Visit for more about the incredible work done by this non-profit.

Please share stories of organisations and individuals that inspire you. We all need more good news!

attributes of successful fundraisers

Volunteers get stuck in on last year's ICC (International Coastal Clean up) Day. Photo: North Glen News

Spring cleaning – every little bit helps

Last Sunday's stroll along Durban beach turned into a mini beach clean up after I found myself incapable of walking past a disgusting tattered plastic bag embedded in the sand by my toes.

Half an hour later, we had collected a bursting bag full of plastic rubbish – from supermarket bags and packets to bottle caps and drinking straws, all of which cause havoc with the marine animals, seabirds and fish that call our oceans 'home'. We don't know how many die after ingesting plastic ... we do know that floating plastic resembles food but is indigestible. It forms a lining in the stomach which prevents real food from being absorbed, and sea creatures literally starve to death.

But with an estimated 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean, what good could picking up a few pieces of litter on Durban beach possibly do? Well, just imagine if every beachgoer visiting every beach in the world did the same thing! If we were all aware of the need to dispose of rubbish responsibly, we could begin to turn the tide (excuse the pun!) against this shameful destruction of our seas.

Within hours of returning from the beach, I picked up an email to sign a petition to ask one of our popular supermarket chains to stop wrapping whole fruit and vegetables in plastic. Apparently nearly 13 000 people have already signed the petition, so it will be really interesting to see if the store concerned rises to the challenge.

If you'd like to add your name to the petition, please click here.

attributes of successful fundraisers

5 characteristics of enduring fundraisers

During the pre-workshop introductory session at a recent SAIF workshop I presented, I asked the question: "How many of you have been in fundraising for five years or more?" Of the 30+ delegates, not one raised a hand. The 'oldest' fundraiser had been in her position for four years. Most of the other delegates were completely new to fundraising.

It was a stark reminder of the high attrition rate among people in this field. And yet, I have many colleagues who, despite the challenges, have remained in the profession for ten, twenty and more years. So what is it that they have, that sets them up for success?

1. They're passionate about what they do
People who do well at fundraising believe strongly in what they are doing. They see their work as an opportunity to make the world a better place and their commitment keeps them going when people who lack this belief and conviction give up. As a young advertising copywriter, I entered the fundraising field by accident when Terry Murray asked me: "What would you rather do? Use your time and creative skills to convince people to buy Surf rather than Omo – or for something important like preventing animal cruelty ... helping blind people acquire mobility and literacy skills ... or ensuring that hungry children get something to eat today?" Talk about a life-changing epiphany! If you're not passionate about your organisation's work, find another organisation that does inspire you.

2. They see the bigger picture
If you think your job as a fundraiser is all about money, you may not be heading for longevity in your career. Yes, your success will be measured by the income you secure for your organisation and you will get enormous satisfaction from reporting year on year growth. But sooner or later you will inevitably hit a slump. Successful fundraisers measure their efforts in terms of the number of people or animals helped, environments saved, wrongs put right, etc. They understand that the money they raise is only the means to an end – and by focussing on the end results, they make their job far more rewarding.

3. They're tenacious
All the enduring fundraisers I know have this quality. They are not easily discouraged and they keep on going when others give up. Hand in hand with this quality comes ...

4. They don't take rejection personally
If you spend your time asking people for money, you are going to have to get used to hearing the word, "No." But when it's an organisation or individual who has supported you in the past, someone you know perosonally, or someone you were counting on to say, "Yes" - it can be very difficult to remain positive, or even gracious! Successful fundraisers are able to separate themselves and their cause from the rejection. They understand that most of the time, a "No" has nothing to do with them; it is the result of the donor's own circumstances.

5. They keep on learning
Any job becomes boring if you keep on doing the same thing, year after year. The reasons people give may not have changed since the dawn of time, but the tools and techniques available to fundraisers are constrantly evolving. Successful fundraisers read books and attend conferences to learn from others' successes, and are not afraid to try out new options.

Thank you

Power of appreciation

Isn't it lovely when one of those little gems pops up in your mailbox ... a few sincere words of thanks for a job well done? Especially if it comes out of the blue from a client you've been working with for a while.

Receiving one of these uplifting messages earlier in the week – and basking in a few precious 'feel good' moments - I started wondering why we don't take the trouble to say, "Thank you," more often. It costs nothing but a few minutes to draft a brief email, letting a colleague, client or supplier know you appreciate them. Yet it can really make their day! Not only that, human nature being what it is, you can be pretty sure that the next task this person undertakes on your behalf will be done with extra enthusiasm and pleasure. If we all said, 'thank you,' more frequently, we could create a much more pleasant and co-operative working environment!

This started me thinking about the people who donate to our organisations. If ever anyone deserved heaps of appreciation it has to be those who part with their hard earned cash in the hope of making the world a better place. But are we really showing them how much we appreciate them? Do we even acknowledge their support? And if we do, are our words of thanks sincere and genuine, or just standard auto email responses and form letters churned out by the thousand?

Most organisations thank donors when the cheque or credit card payment comes through. And that's the least we can do. But I wonder how a donor would feel if he or she received a letter of appreciation, an email or thank you card completely out of the blue ... just to let them know you are thinking of them and thankful for their support in the past. I'm willing to predict this would create a stronger bond and increase the likelihood of further support!

Wordpress sites under attack

According to Wordfence, the security plugin we use on our Wordpress sites, an average of just over 30 million brute force attacks (login guessing attempts) as well as 7.2 million complex attacks (attempts to exploit a security vulnerability) took place every day during June 2017 on the websites they monitor.

Sadly one of our clients' sites fell victim to hacking earlier this year, which taught us a lot more than we ever wanted to know about the 'baddies' out there in cyberspace. The site was both defaced and, more alarmingly, SQL injection was used to secretly infiltrate the database and make changes to some of the functionality of the site.

Fortunately, we were able to remove the defaced pages almost as soon as they occurred, thus reducing the potential damage that might have been caused by a loss of donor confidence in the site. Fixing the database and preventing further breaches though took a lot more effort and some sleepless nights!

Regardless of what security measures you have in place, hackers are continually looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit. The latest relates to a method attackers use to find a WordPress website within minutes of it being installed for the first time. As the legitimate installation is in progress, the hacker runs his/her own script to install a back door and resets the site so the site owner doesn't know it's been compromised.

Another way of compromising a Wordpress site is by quietly installing a malicious web shell, which takes over and executes all kinds of malicious scripts and behavior. In essence, writes Andie La-Rosa of Wordfence, "Your website has been broken into, hackers have made themselves at home on your server, your bandwidth and storage space have been stolen, and you’re none the wiser".

Unfortunately, owing to their popularity, Wordpress sites are most at risk of malidious attacks. If you have a Wordpress site, it's vitally important to ensure that the core files are immediately updated whenever a new version is released. You also need to ensure that you are always running the latest version of your theme file and all plugins. Brute force attacks can be countered by choosing good usernames and passwords. In 90% of the attacks I've monitored, hackers use "admin" as the username. They also frequently try the organisation's name or email address as the username or the password.

When it comes to passwords, length is more important than complexity. According to, “It takes only 10 minutes to crack a lowercase password that is six characters long. Add two extra letters and a few uppercase letters and that number jumps to 3 years. Add just one more character and some numbers and symbols and it will take 44,530 years to crack.”

Technology changes - fundraising doesn't

helping others

With all the digital tools and widgets, it's easy to forget everything you know about fundraising. The truth is, people won't give to your organisation because you have a really cool and interactive website. Or because you have a huge donate button on every page.

They give because you make them feel something – sad, angry, frightened, guilty, obligated – or because they want to be part of a group ... to look good among their peers ... or for religious reasons, because they believe it is the right thing to do.

Using your home page to tell visitors all about your organisation – your mission and vision, your achievements, your projects, your credentials, your team – may seem like the logical thing to do. But you only have to visit a commercial website like Woolworths – where the focus is all on the visitor and what they might want to buy – to realise that you need to shift the focus from your organisation to your visitor. People are interested in themselves first and foremost, and you need to immediately answer the question, "What's in it for me?"

What's in it for the visitor is, of course, the chance to do something that will make them feel good about themselves. Human beings are programmed with the desire to help other people or animals. To be kind. To help put things right that are wrong. All you have to do is show them how.

Often you can do this by telling a story about someone in need, or about a hero in your organisation who has done something inspiring. And of course, you should never under estimate the power of a really good image. Pictured alongside is one of my all time favourites by Reuters/Daily Mail UK, on the death of Nelson Mandela. You cannot look at the picture and not feel the grief and shock of the moment.