We thoroughly enjoyed FIA Conference 2016.
Being my first FIA, I can’t compare with events from previous years, however the feedback from others who had attended before was that this year was bigger, more engaging and the delivery of topics and content was of high quality. We found a lot of value in the plenary and many of the presentations, as well as discussions with a number of very knowledgeable fundraisers along the way.
A Snapshot of the Industry
- Overall, the Australian fundraising sector appears to be healthy, with a large focus on growth through better donor retention.
- Of the ~37000 charities within Australia, ~300 raise more than 1m per year (less than 1%). This was presented by Pareto, and is largely based on the analysis of the ACNC data.
- Based on the same data, the average breakdown of fundraising income per charity is 56% through Face-to-Face, 20% through bequests, 14% as cash (individuals) and 10% from major donors. In our experience, we find this varies hugely from organisation to organisation, but is nonetheless good to know.
- The tightening of legislation in the UK is viewed as a worst case scenario for Australia and an incentive to focus on and improve the way the Australian sector does fundraising. There were no particular practices or trends of concern – it was more a motivator to continually improve the practices and ethics of the sector.
- There was a large number of presentations dedicated to discussing techniques and tools that have worked for campaigns like Steptember and Live Below the Line, as well as regular giving more generally. This is reflective of the new techniques in fundraising supported by digital technology, as well as the need to create real engagement in an increasingly competitive and potentially regulated environment (as seen in the UK).
- Direct mail (DM) is still strong. There was some brief mention of changes in the Australia post rates for charitable mail, however DM continues to be a major component of many campaigns and the new cost structures will still allow DM to thrive. A key point to note with DM is to ensure consistency of the donor experience – have consistent content and branding online and offline, which can be difficult when running a number of campaigns at once.
- Mobile is already the future – there were a number of presentations that covered the importance of mobile, in particular a highlight from a change.org presentation that the majority of change.org users view their EDM content via mobile.
- Siloing needs to stop – addressed throughout the conference in particular the plenary and the Fairytale Fundraising session was the issue of organisational siloing and how this creates a fragmentation of the donor experience. We have seen a lot of this in both nonprofit and commercial organisations, and in my personal view is a combination of issues around customer/supporter information management (i.e. CRM) and organisational structure (i.e. the empowerment of digital/IT departments within the business).
Being a digital agency, we were very keen to see what web app and mobile apps trends there were, and how other digital channels feed into the platforms and campaign sites that were built. For myself, the following are the key takeaways with respect to digital:
- We attended a number of presentations focused on the donor journey, with various levels of the detail on fundraising mechanisms and strategies used. What was a recurring theme is the growing reliance on marketing automation solutions like Marketo and Vision6 to deliver ever more engaging and relevant content, in particular for peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns like Steptember. I see this as a huge untapped area of growth for regular giving as well.
- There was a very interesting breakdown of registrations by digital channel in the ‘How to make your event a smash hit, overnight’ presentation. Good tracking and attribution implementation is hugely important as it provides instant feedback on which channels are working, and as pointed out in the presentation there is a need to consistently try and refine new channels (e.g. Twitter ads) and content to find what works for your campaign and organisation.
- We want to reinforce the importance of mobile technology, and specifically the distinction between mobile web, mobile EDMs and mobile apps. There was the highlight of the chat with change.org on the use of mobile EDMs and interaction, which is mirrored by our experience (many of our clients websites now sit in the 40-50% mobile device traffic range). What we found sorely lacking was a discussion on the use of native mobile applications – there is huge space to improve many campaigns by introducing this technology as the potential for more meaningful and interactive engagement is greater.
- Finally, the point around siloing is a huge point to hit home. In our work with our clients, difficulties in communication between ‘silos’ results in a lot of wheels being reinvented, rather than a harmonious single strategy. This is a problem at a much greater scale than just the fundraising component of an organisation, and can have great positive impacts if this comes right.
This year’s conference has shown that the path forward for fundraisers is to continue crafting compelling content and stories to create better engagement, but more so than before to make it personalised, relevant and consistent in an ever changing and more competitive environment.
The team at Leafcutter are excited about the potential of new technology in the mobile space, better tracking and even potentially VR to create more relevant and personalised supporter journeys in the coming year. We would love to work with like minded people who have the ability and passion to be able to create truly unique experience that fund the work of nonprofits and the change they bring.
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Maxwell (Facebook).