As a lot of you who have met Harvey will know, he reads. A lot. Every time you see him he will have a new book recommendation for you.

One of his recommendations this year is The Political Brain by Drew Westen. Have you read it?

Drew Westen’s research spans across two decades looking at the role of emotion in US presidential elections.

He studies campaign videos, live debates, advertisements and speeches. And he tells us why each worked well or failed miserably.

It is a fascinating book, and has the power to change the way elections are managed by competing parties. For those of you who are working towards campaigns in the run to the Federal Election in Canada, this book is a must read.

I recently looked further into his research on environmental messaging. And it makes perfect sense:

‘What resonates with people are not specific fuel standards or the mechanics of how a cap and trade system would work or the precise tonnage of carbon emissions per year. What moves them is a set of themes that bring the issue home to them: economic prosperity and jobs; energy independence and self-sufficiency; clean, safe, natural sources of energy that will never run out; getting pollution under control and making polluters pay for their own messes so we protect our health and the health of our children, preserve the majesty of our land, and reverse the deterioration of our atmosphere; harnessing American ingenuity and restoring American leadership; and protecting our legacy to our children the way our parents and grandparents protected their legacy to us.’

He goes on to suggest the following alternative wording in your campaigns, which will resonate more with your audience:

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Canadians are known for many things. Maple syrup. Hockey. Saying sorry all too often. And of course, Justin Bieber (We really are sorry about that one…)

But Canadians are also unique for our giving habits. Some of the ways that we give are quite different from our friends in the south, and knowing Canadian giving habits is key to fundraising in Canada. Whether you’ve come to Canada from the US or abroad, or you were born in the Great White North (We actually don’t get nearly as much snow as some people think), the below list will help you understand some of the most important giving behaviours that make Canadians a little unique.

Canadians love to give to friends

Peer to peer fundraising in Canada is huge. In most major cities there’s runs, walks, bike rides, and other events happening weekly throughout the summer. All of these events are fueled by friends asking friends for money. And for Canadians this is very comfortable.

Looking at the global leaderboard for Movember last year Canadians accounted for 24% of worldwide donations. For a country of only 35 million this is quite impressive. And we were less than $1,000,000 behind the US in money raised, even though our population is 1/10th of theirs.

Do Canadians grow better beards than any other country in the world? Possible, but that seems unlikely. The success of events like this in Canada is simply because we love to support our friends in their charitable endeavours.

We don’t text to give

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If you were to pull out a direct mail pack from any time prior to 2010 what are some things that you notice?

The pack likely is very basic in its design, possibly including a short teaser, “Your gift enclosed”, “Renew your support today” or an emotional quote. But what you probably wouldn’t see from back then is glossy paper, full bleed, full colour designs and the reality is that these very simple designs worked.

With online integration becoming more and more a part of every organization’s annual giving program has come a need to make things ‘pretty’ and rightfully so. Online, your presence needs to be attractive and easy to navigate. It needs images; pictures and design to stand out although what escapes us is in direct mail is this is not necessarily what’s going to set you apart.

As a foundation it is important to remember that your most loyal long-term donors are those that may not have grown up with colour TV. Flashy is not what they connect to. The reason they are loyal donors is because they love your foundation. They want to feel that emotion when they receive a direct mail piece from your foundation because that is their reassurance. That is what comforts your donors when making the decision to continue giving to your foundation.

Direct mail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon regardless of how progressive we become online. And many on the people on your donor file at this time are likely most comfortable with mail.  This leads me to a few gentle reminders when developing your next direct mail piece:

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There's been a lot of discussion lately around mid-level programs and the idea that for a long time these 'not quite annual, but not quite major' donors were being lost somewhere in the 'middle'. If you haven't read "The Missing Middle" report, I strongly recommend it. Click here for the link. 

And so I asked my friend and fundraising peer, who happens to manage a mid-level giving program, "How are you keeping your mid-level donors from being 'lost in the middle?'" over dinner last night.

The reason I was particularly interested in asking this question is because my friend’s organization has developed a specialized program for mid-level donors so that they're no longer 'lost in the middle'. They have their own donor manager, their own communication channel and messaging, and their own highly personalized stewardship plan. 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation that you might find interesting:

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How many of your likes do you expect you’re reaching through your Facebook posts? 100%? 75%? 50%? The truth is that you’re likely only reaching 5-10% of your likes. Maybe 15% if you’re lucky. Why? Because this is exactly the way Facebook wants it.

They continue to refine their algorithm to ensure that the only way you can reach most of your supporters is through Facebook Advertising. Luckily though advertising on Facebook is still fairly inexpensive, and it’s something you should be testing for your charity.

There are three primary tools within Facebook advertising that you should be considering – Boosting your posts, increasing page likes, and sending people to your website. Each can be effective depending on what your purpose is.

Boosting a post (or multiple posts) is most effective for increasing your visibility and awareness. You can choose to boost your post to your likes (ensuring they all see it) or you can boost it beyond your own page, choosing demographic selections that work the best for you.

Increasing page likes is viable as an entry strategy if you eventually plan to boost posts to your likes. Just increasing your likes won’t do a lot of good on its own as you’ll only reach a small percentage of your actual likes. If one of the goals set out by your board is to increase the likes on Facebook this could be the tool for you.

Sending people to your website is most effective if you’re looking for donations. Be sure that if you are using this you send them to a page that clearly identifies your mission and provides an easy way to donate. Ideally this would already be part of your homepage, but if it’s not be sure you make the updates before testing.

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I can’t count the number of times an organization has asked me something like ‘Our CEO wants to find younger donors. How can I use social media to acquire new 20 year old donors?’.

The truth is, you can’t. Social media is great for a lot of things, but it’s not the magic tool to help you find 20 year old donors that will give to your cause. This is because 20 to 30 year olds just don’t have the means to do so. They certainly care about your cause, and they’ll get involved if you ask them in the right way, but they’re not going to help you meet your fundraising targets. At least not in the short term.

If you build a good engagement strategy with these donors you will eventually convert them into financial donors. But this could be 10, 15, even 20 years down the road. So it’s important that when you’re setting targets for social media you keep your goals realistic. Set targets for increasing likes, shares, comments, etc. but don’t expect a big windfall of cash.

Yes, some organizations are starting to raise money through Facebook and other social media tools. Most of the success is coming from animal, environmental, and disaster relief charities. The Ice Bucket Challenge last year raised millions through social media, but this is not something that’s soon going to be replicated. In fact, it may never happen again.

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I remember loading MS Publisher onto my home computer for the first time.  It was pretty exciting and gave me a basic introduction to the world of newsletter design.

I went on to create a newsletter with my family as the main subject.  My parents, brother, aunts, uncles and cousins got a real kick reading about our family (and in particular reading about themselves).  They were interested because the content and pictures spoke to them – they could relate.  I’m pretty sure if I’d created a newsletter that was all about “me” they would have said it was great but would have wondered what about them?

I bring this up because the same can be said of many non-profit newsletters.  If they’re all about the organization and don’t speak to the people who make the work they do possible, the organization will miss a chance to really engage their supporters.

We recently re-designed a newsletter for one of our clients.  We put the spotlight on the donor in each article and used lots of images to help tell each story.  The results have exceeded our expectations both in response rate and average gift.  One donor even called to give a gift of $250 – they usually give $25 a year.

So what can you do?

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How often do you think about your donor journey? Whether it’s online or offline, thinking about, and building a great donor journey is key to your success.

A great donor journey ensures that your donors don’t get lost along the way. You need to lead them along the path that will lead them to making a 2nd gift, 3rd gift, and eventually a major and/or legacy gift.

This means doing more than just asking them over and over. Once they’ve made their first gift you need to thank them right away. Ideally within 48 hours. From there, you might consider engaging them further with a survey or petition to build their connection with your organization. This is especially important for online acquired donors. We’ve found that it can take anywhere from 3 -7 steps to convert an online donor to an offline donor. Trying to make this conversion is important, as the retention rate for offline donors is far more than online donors.

It’s also important to think about your donor journey on your website. When a prospective donor arrives, what’s the first thing that catches their attention? It should be your ‘donate now’ button. And when they click that they should be immediately directed to the donation form (which hopefully just requires one click to donate).

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Normally we don't talk about food on our website, but we are making an exception this week to let all of the delegates visiting Vancouver know where some of the great restaurants are located.


Welcome to the 2015 AHP Convene Conference in Vancouver, BC.

While here we assume that you would like to eat food. Preferably great food. So I have prepared a list of some of my favorite restaurants for you. I hope that this little guide leads you to sample some great food, and enjoy some of the best of what our city offers.

Vancouver is a great restaurant city. It's full of creative chefs, and an abundance of local delights.

You will not go hungry.

I've split this recommendation list into a few different categories to make it somewhat easier. First, since virtually all delegates will be staying in downtown Vancouver, I focused my choices on what will be close by. Second, I've tried to divide it into low-budget, medium, and high end. Frequently, but not always, the best restaurants tend to charge you a lot more money. Nonetheless, sometimes it's worth it.

I've also added some vegan and vegetarian recommendations. If I didn't mention where they are, the restaurants are in the downtown core. Other restaurants I mentioned are still within 3 to 7 miles from the conference center.

Good Budget restaurants

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We are often asked what non-profits should do on social media. Should they spend their time getting to know Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, You Tube…etc. What can they expect out of it? Will it raise any money?

Social Media is top of mind for most of us. We use it every day. We constantly see updates from family, friends as well as our favourite causes and companies. And when we are at work we think, surely we should be doing this too?

Generally, the non-profit world has been a bit slow to embrace social media. But there has been a shift in attitude and resources in the past five years. In 2014, online donations accounted for only 6.7% of all fundraising in North America. Not much at all.

But when you think that online giving grew by 8.9% in 2014 compared to the previous year, it represents one of the fastest growing areas of fundraising today.

And now we are seeing some exciting fundraising developments from social media. In the UK, The Good Agency launched #DONATE last week enabling you to donate to your favourite cause via Twitter. All you need to do is tweet or retweet your chosen charity with the amount and hashtag #DONATE. You will receive an automated reply confirming you are happy to donate. You then use your PayPal account to make the transaction. It will be a very easy way to donate for the majority of Twitter users in the UK.

With 1.35 billion active users worldwide, Facebook gives you an immediate international platform for your fundraising campaigns. There is huge potential to use Facebook as a key acquisition channel.

And when it is planned, tested and executed in the right way, a well-integrated fundraising campaign with a focus on digital tools can attract thousands of new donors for your cause.

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