Exporting ideas and bringing back inspiration from afar... The globalisation of fundraising ideas and opinions

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Guest Bloggers | 2 October 2017

Paul de Gregorio is the Director of Digital Engagement at Open.

The speed at which news and opinions travel the global fundraising community never ceases to amaze me. At Open this has meant that news of the work we’ve done in the UK has spread to all four corners of the fundraising globe, resulting in us getting involved in campaigns in the USA, Canada and Australia – and the creation of our sister agency, Open America.

So when the IoF asked Fiona and I to run a session in the digital workstream at this year’s conference that explored the fundraising ideas we’ve exported, the things we’ve learnt and the inspiration we’ve brought back, we jumped at the chance.

The cliché is that technology has made the world smaller. But it’s a reality for fundraisers. At the beginning of my fundraising career you ‘met’ people at conferences and consumed new thinking and opinion by reading the sector press and getting hold of the latest books.

This is no longer the case. The mass adoption of blogging platforms means that, for better or worse, a much wider range of fundraising opinion and insight is now available. Powered by the monumental rise of social media platforms; opinions, ideas, cases studies, results and even reputations can spread around the world in an instant. So our networks are now global. Which is a good thing for how today’s fundraisers get their inspiration.

Exporting ideas and approaches from the UK

When we think about new approaches to fundraising at Open we think about how we fuse creative, strategy and technology to drive response and engagement. We look at how we can tune into existing human behaviours rather than force new ones and how to maximise the use of existing technologies in this space. Combining these factors creates the biggest impact.

This thinking led us initially to mobile: we’ve all got one, we all keep them close and we are increasingly dependant on them for all aspects of our private, professional and social lives.


As a result, we’ve been central to a number of mobile campaigns recruiting new supporters in America, Canada and Australia. We learnt a lot which, in turn, is informing our thinking back in the UK: in Australia we first saw the potential of digital to recruit fundraising prospects at scale and in the USA we tested approaches around driving response when our offers required a hard opt in to future communications.

Being in the right place at the right time creates opportunity.

Spending so much time in the USA has led to some great opportunities to learn new approaches to fundraising, for example the high profile telethon for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in March this year.

Many Americans had been protesting against the actions of their new President and the ACLU had become a popular choice for donations to fund the opposition of some of his policies.

This included a group of big shot TV producers who asked their A-list celebrity friends (the likes of Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and Tom Hanks), to take part in a telethon to raise money for the ACLU. Stand for Rights was broadcast on Facebook Live and it was the first major integrated use of Facebook Live and Donate functionality.

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At the time, Facebook Donate was only available in the US but has now been given a UK launch date so we were very excited to be part of this fundraising event and to learn how to use a brand new fundraising platform.

You can read the full story here, but essentially Open put a team of four in New York for a week to create and implement the social media and fundraising strategies. Our goals were to to grow the Stand for Rights community before the event and maximise income generation on the night.

Using the Facebook tools was incredible: at Open we obsess about making payment fast and easy and the Donate tool makes this a reality. When fused with great content, broadcast through Facebook Live, we start to see the phenomenal potential of Facebook for fundraising.

Not every charity will be able to draw on Tom Hanks, but every charity has an incredible story to tell. These tools make it easier to tell that story and move people to give. Integrating Facebook Live and Donate means any charity has the ability to ‘go live’ whenever they have something to say – and provide a seamless way to give without users even leaving the platform. But we can’t raise money without an audience: so a key focus for fundraisers will be the creation of engaged communities online so we have the crowd to crowdfund from.

Drawing inspiration from afar

I’ve already mentioned our obsession with making giving fast and easy: once we have moved someone to give, the actual act of giving should be as simple as possible. Long, ugly and illogical donation processes only make some people who chose to give, decide not to.

We have seen incredible technologies, that make giving easy, deployed in the US presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Using companies like ActBlu the Bernie and Hillary campaigns enabled first time donors to register or vault their credit card details to enable one click future donations. Think Amazon one click.

facebookStrategies were focussed on getting that first (often low value) donation and connecting the vaulted card to an email address or mobile phone number. This meant securing that all important second donation later in the campaign was as simple for the donor as hitting a button in an email or replying to an SMS message.

We think applying these technologies for ‘one click’ donations and the introduction of Facebook fundraising tools into the UK market could be transformational in terms of strategies for mass mobilisation and product development – and the use of email in fundraising.

We need to place equal focus on making giving as easy as possible for donors as we do on developing the creative, content and messaging to use in these tools. If we do, we will surely create a successful and exciting new phase of fundraising innovation. 


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