Data, Belief & Vision


Data, data, data. It seems like the world is going mad for data. Data emerges when we gather together facts or statistics, then classify them into meaningful subsets, with a view to better understanding a particular phenomena. It’s a useful business tool, particularly as a fundraiser, because the more you understand your donors, the easier it becomes to target the ones who will help you further your cause.

For a moment, let’s take a more expanded perspective on data, by bringing time into the equation. Time, according to the dictionary definition on my apple is “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present and future regarded as a whole”. The keywords being the past, present and future.

Data, as a tool, is only ever going to provide information about the past. When we pause and reflect on that for a moment, we can see that despite all the rich stories we can derive from data, it is only offering 33% of our narrative. So where does the other 66% come from?

What the mind chooses to do with the data is based on how it is presently perceiving it. And at this point, we need to understand how the next 33%, belief, plays it’s role in the creation of strategy. A belief is something which the mind holds to be true. Our beliefs, which are largely subconscious, help create meaning about the world around us, by placing information into ‘true’ and ‘false’ boxes.

The challenge here, in relation to your fundraising strategy, is simple. If the data presents new information that is contradictory to the current beliefs about the right/best/quickest way to raise funds, then the mind will often reject it. Unless we are willing to stop and consciously challenge our beliefs, then often we end up seeing today, as though it were yesterday. And in a rapidly evolving and competitive marketplace, this can be destructive. If you’ve ever had a water-tight, evidence based business case rejected by your CEO/CFO, because they didn’t agree with the fundraising strategy, you’ll understand this dynamic first hand.

Making any kind of make progress, requires us to develop an innovative strategy. And the inner work that underpins all innovative strategic plans is having the courage and openness to challenge our existing beliefs. Only when we do this, can we consciously see and leverage the insights that new data presents to us. To get your innovative thinking hat on, try out these questions:

What did we used to believe was true about (data set)? How does this new data change our existing story about (data set)? How does this affect things for us now? What do we believe we can achieve by using this new data to change our future? What do we believe we still cannot achieve? What new beliefs must we develop to boldly leverage the insights in this (data set)?

And now onto the final 33% of our story which is how we create new futures. All great leaders have a grand and noble vision of a better future. No-one ever changed the world by playing it safe. And no-one ever changed the world without having a clear image about the type of world they wanted to be a part of.

And here’s how the 33%, holistically grows into 100%. As a fundraising leader, it’s not enough to gather data about your donors. It’s also not enough to simply think about the data insights. Equally it wouldn’t be enough to have an exciting vision, without data about your past and awareness of the present market conditions. You need all three. Data, to inform you about the past. Vision to channel your passion towards a future you want to create. And belief in the insights, yourself and your team to turn your ideas into a strategic roadmap. With these elements you can build bridges from the past, through the present and into the future.

To help you construct a powerful fundraising vision of the future, connect with Nick at Linked In and then download the PDF exercise entitled Fundraising Vision Builder, which is in the summary of his linked in profile. By attending the upcoming benchmarking day, you’ll gain data about the past. And the middle bit? Well, that one is up to you.

Nick Freedman is a not for profit leadership teacher, who has helped 1000s of people lead their teams more consciously. For more information about his upcoming NFP leadership program visit

Peter Bray named one of Men’s Style magazines’ Men of Influence 2011

Media Release 12 April 2011

Our very own CEO Peter Bray has been named by Men’s Style magazine as one of their Men of Influence 2011.

“While I am honoured to be included on the list alongside some very accomplished, inspiring men; I believe this is actually recognition of the not for profit sector as a whole, and what we are all achieving together” remarked Peter.

The list, comprising of 45 men under the age of 45, spans the breadth of Australian industries and includes Bondi Vet Chris Brown, chef and media personality Pete Evans, comedian and television presenter Adam Hills, Olympian Grant Hackett, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, patissier Adriano Zumbo and Victoria Cross recipient Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith.

Read Peter’s thoughts on influence and inspiration below.

Is nuclear energy a viable solution?

By Sean Triner

The pain and fear for people in Japan is truly horrible. The government has lost credibility in what it is saying about the partial meltdown of the now infamous reactor 2 at Fukushima. But what is the real data?

I am currently in Canada, having spent some time in the US where Americans have been buying iodine to such a degree that there were TV ads running in the USA informing people about scams around radiation treatments.

And when they said on the news that a pool of water had one million times the safe dose of radiation – what did that actually mean? No wonder people – even across the Pacific – are worried with statements like that.

This superb graphic puts into perspective in a very easy way. Whilst the graphic makes you realise things aren’t that bad (at this point in time) it doesn’t take into account indirect effects of the nuclear industry – weapons and waste in particular.

I am still torn on nuclear energy as part of a solution for energy needs. Just because it is not as bad as coal* does not necessarily make it a good thing. Especially when weapons and waste are taken into account. But what, real alternatives are we going to actually take up?

* In terms of anticipated deaths, environmental impact etc – even including a Chernobyl size disaster every couple of decades, coal power appears to be worse than nuclear.

The worst disaster in the developed world since WW2

By Sean Triner

At a scale greater than 911 or Katrina, the devastation in Japan is surely our worst developed world disaster. The main differences between such huge human disasters in poor countries vs. rich countries are in media coverage and the ability of the nation to cope.

Whilst the number of people killed in Japan is huge and rising, the number of displaced persons appears to be comparable to the number of displaced people in Libya, yet the media has relegated the humanitarian crisis in North Africa to a bit part. We have Japan earthquake and tsunami, potential nuclear disaster and then the poetical impact of the Libyan crisis, political impact across other Arab and North African countries and maybe something about the North African humanitarian crisis.

The Japan disaster has also introduced a watershed in acceptable media coverage. Not long ago we weren’t shown dead bodies, this time we were shown people fleeing for their lives, with neighbours screaming them on, only to be caught up in the wave and had their lives extinguished in front of us, again and again.

The emotional impact is huge. I have no idea how it will affect fundraising. Appeals in Australia have been relatively low key so far – people are still shocked and no agency seems to be shouting for funds like they were over Christchurch and our local floods.

Unlike the floods, where there was a hastily constructed collecting tin in every pub, and no ten minutes on TV without an appeal there is no out-pouring of community spirit and people led fundraising here in Australia. I am sure millions will be raised but the impact on giving will be different. Only time will tell how.

What I do know, however, is that if you are are making decisions about your fundraising activites, and are not working in an organisation raising funds for the earthquake appeals then please, don’t alter your plans. If you think the disasters will harm your fundraising so you postpone activities or cancel them then you are right, it will harm your fundraising – a lot more than if you carried on.

If you work in an organisation fundraising for the people of Japan right now, please don’t forget the follow up. Check out this article to assess my point by point plan against your own plans. It may be helpful.

In the meantime, please donate to Save The Children who have launched an appeal for Japanese children affected by the disaster.

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Vote for us in the WWF Australia Earth Hour Awards!

Pareto Fundraising is a finalist in the WWF Australia Earth Hour Awards. Please vote for Clarke and help get us over the line!

Clarke Vincent and our Brisbane office are one of four finalists in the ‘Workplace Champions’category in the 2011 WWF Australia Earth Hour Awards. Please help us over the line by voting for Clarke. Clarke is the third row down, first on the left in the red jacket. Thank you for your support.

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Emergencies should not overwhelm

By Sean Triner

It always seems like there are more and more emergencies. This year fires, flood and earthquake have hammered Australia and New Zealand, as well as at least seven other countries. La Nina is not finished with us yet. The massive displacement of people in North Africa looks like it is just going to get worse, and the spectre of civil war raises its ugly head into the limelight again.

None of this takes away the needs caused by crippling diseases like arthritis, killer diseases like liver cancer, runaway species extinction and rainforest destruction. But let’s face it – it is the emergencies that get the news.

Colleagues and I have written about the perils of fundraisers holding off fundraising activities due to an emergency that doesn’t directly affect their charity. For example, a New Zealand cancer charity deciding to postpone its donor appeal due out the first week of March because of the earthquake. Few commentators disagree with our point that you should go ahead with your campaign.

But what if your organisation is directly affected? For example, if there is an earthquake, and your charity is a development agency tasked with helping out.

In this case, the emergency should affect your fundraising. If the event is gaining lots of media coverage, then it is likely that you are already affected by the phones ringing, and your website being overwhelmed.

Most emergency type charities are ready for this. Many have excellent emergency response plans with call centres on standby, mail files already selected, templates (electronic and mail) already in existence.

An emergency is a very exciting, exhausting and overwhelming time for fundraisers in such charities. People cancel leave, work 84 hour weeks, man phones, stuff envelopes; they may not have the skills for sorting through rubble but they put their soul into helping the rubble sorters’ funding.

But what next?

I tend to make gifts to emergencies. Caught up in the passion and the moment, appalled by what I see in the media, I want to do something. These gifts are usually on top of my usual gifts to my ‘regular’ charities.

Data analysis shows that I am not unusual. (Well, in that aspect anyway).

Often these donations are from people who have not ever donated to that charity before, or only during previous emergencies. I shall call these ‘emergency donors.’

Overall, charities tend to find that emergency donors are a tougher group to get motivated and become ‘normal’ donors – giving occasionally to tax or Christmas appeals, for example.

Data also shows that the best time to ask someone for a regular, monthly gift tends to be soon after a single gift.

We have seen from our own work within Pareto Phone and Pareto Fundraising that this tends to hold true for emergency donors too. For example, calling six months after an emergency will get better results than nine months later.

One theory, as yet untested, is that if that phone call is made even sooner – maybe within four days of a gift – the results would be even better.

Perhaps these results could be improved if the emergency donor had made a second gift? But we know they are not likely second gift prospects, except for emergencies.

It seems to me that the right second gift ask should be during the same emergency. I believe that most emergency donors give because of the media, but don’t really know how much to give. So they are ripe for asking.

I suggest testing email, phone and mail to solicit a second gift, within 72 hours of previous gift, whilst the emergency is still big news. The amount you ask for should be tested too. Perhaps test asking for the same amount v twice the amount v four times. Of course, the copy or script has to be brilliant to make this work, but that shouldn’t be hard. Just tell the truth.

You may not be able to get to them all, so target by size of gift, AMEX / diners card donors and credit cards ahead of cheques. This approach should be followed, within weeks by a regular giving ask.

In your explorations, I would also suggest testing straight to regular gift against trying to get a second gift. Whatever you do, please, make sure it is someone’s responsibility to follow up on donations. Ensure they are not dragged into the massive maelstrom of just trying to keep up during an emergency.

Here is my recommended five step plan – before an emergency. I think some charities are on top of the second part, but few are on top of the others.

Pareto Fundraising’s Five Step Plan…

If you’d like to discuss how we might help you with an emergency preparedness plan, please don’t hesitate to give Clarke Vincent a bell on 07 3015 4021 or drop him email.

Pareto Fundraising names Peter Bray as new CEO

Media Release 1 March 2011

Pareto Fundraising, the largest Australian agency dedicated to the not for profit sector, has snared well known communications identity Peter Bray as the new CEO (Australia and New Zealand).

“When the opportunity came along to lead Australia’s best agency dedicated to the not for profit sector, it was something I couldn’t say no to. Amazing clients that make a real, positive difference to the world and a strong, united team is an incredibly attractive combination, while the not for profit sector is an area that I have always been involved with and am passionate about,” remarks Bray. “I can’t wait to get to work.”

Sean Triner, one of the founders of Pareto Fundraising adds, “Peter is a proven leader, and has consistently shown vision combined with world class ability and know how. We are excited to have someone of his calibre leading the company to capitalise on what we have achieved to date. Those that have heard him speak at various events in Australia and internationally will be as excited as we are.”

Previously head of STW Group owned agency The Brand Shop, Bray has a wealth of experience in both the commercial and not for profit sector. Not for profits he has worked with in the past include Anglicare, Mission Australia, The Make A Wish Foundation, The Centenary Institute, Redkite and The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Have established his reputation through being one of the leaders of digital in Australia for over a decade, Peter is also a Director of CHOICE, (The Australian Consumers’ Association) as well as being the National Vice President of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association and a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.


For further information please contact Tara Tan: or +61 2 8823 5800.

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A Lesson from Vodafone

By Jonathon Grapsas

It’s not often I’ll draw on something a telecommunications provider has done to inspire fundraising greatness. I’m often the first one to scorn at my phone company.

But I make an exception here.

Last night I got this email from the CEO at Vodafone.

Pretty candid. Quite gutsy. He even put his photo on here so we could visualize him apologizing. The only thing he could have done to expose himself more is done this via a video clip (but then the reach would likely have been lower).

I like the way that Nigel makes no bones about the fact that they haven’t been up to scratch. He doesn’t try and make excuses, simply tells it as it is.

“The simple answer is that we’ve been growing fast, and when problems came, we responded too slowly. ”

He could have given us some garbled response tinged with big words that would have left us flummoxed, but he didn’t. He merely admitted they had tried to run before they crawl.

I love the rawness of this. It reminds me of a client a few years back who had a major internal meltdown days after an appeal lodging. Database crashed, staff shortages, the works.

And what did they do?

Something similar to Nigel Dews. Wrote to their donors, explained what happened and asked for a little patience as it may take longer to get back and thank them if they had indeed already sent a gift.

What happened?

Gifts flowed in. To the apology letter. It wasn’t the point, nor the intention. But it proved that showing their cards, opening themselves up, was absolutely the right thing to do.

Now if this client had done this again, and if Vodafone doesn’t deliver, then people will walk.

But right now, it’s hats off to Nigel Dews and the Vodafone gang.

Never thought I’d say that.

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Floods and Fires

By Sean Triner

The floods across much of Eastern Australia are mostly over. For now. But cleaning up and rebuilding is not over, and many families are yet to get back into their homes. Indeed, some have no home to return to. And the outlook is not good, with very high chances of further catastrophic floods into the future.

At the same time, other countries have been hit hard. Brazil has lost at least 800 people, and many other countries are struggling to rebuild after, and prepare for more, flooding.

The response to the Australian floods by the Australian public has been overwhelming. They have donated around $200m – $168m to the official appeal and several millions more direct to charities. Almost every retail business is running an appeal and thousands of volunteers are still helping to clear up.

Australia managed to go a long time without any really serious natural disasters – most photos that you see are in black and white, it is that long ago. Until two years ago when the Victorian bushfires raged out of control, and this summer’s floods.

The flood affected areas are larger in size and scope than the fires of two years ago, and in terms of worldwide natural disasters, the casualty numbers are in the same ‘order’ – 173 in the fires and 35-50 in the recent floods. There are still people listed as missing, hence the uncertainty.

The fires raised around $400m – the floods look like they will raise perhaps $250m. Both substantial sums, but why the disparity?

I don’t doubt that the number of deaths had some impact – but not all of it.

Both events were mass media events. Although retailers and other businesses have tried various ideas, it is the TV that drove most of the donations to both campaigns.

Victorian Bushfires, 2009

And herein lies the main reason the floods are unlikely to surpass the fires in donations. Fires are more exciting. Floods, usually, seep up, slowly inundating homes and causing slow motion destruction. Fires rage, they leap across roads, leave hardly anything behind and are primal – they are terrifying. Floods, usually, are not.

In these floods, an extraordinary event occurred – what has been described as an ‘inland tsunami’ – which meant the floods moved up in the primal areas of peoples’ minds to something dramatically terrifying. The inland tsunami will have added a huge amount of income to the appeal; it was all we were talking about for a while.

Inland Tsunami, Queensland Floods 2010/2011

In both appeals, Australians have dug deep and been generous, but in the end, we can’t beat emotional motivation in raising more money. Despite the fact that these fundraising events were not run by fundraisers, the lesson for fundraisers is applicable for all money raising campaigns.

You need to understand your media (in this case TV) and use it to tap into emotion, clearly demonstrate the need and make sure it is dramatic, interesting and compelling. Only then will you maximise people’s abilities to make the change.

Net income is king…usually

By Sean Triner This article was first published in Fundraising and Philanthropy E-bulletinin August 2010

Cost of fundraising a dangerous measure for public consumption

Explaining cost of fundraising (COF) to the giving public is not only complicated – it is often not a real issue for donors until we nonprofit people make it so!

At a recent meeting with a small nonprofit, I was told that the chief executive officer of a very, very large nonprofit had been on TV talking about his organisation and how the public can support it.

Within his conversation I am told he mentioned that the cost of fundraising and administration at this organisation is incredibly low. The nonprofit is a client of mine; I have seen the figures, and their cost of fundraising (COF) is indeed very low.

However, COF is a really dangerous measure to be talking about in that context. It is really complicated and needs too much explaining. The COF for donor acquisition, for example, is usually more than the funds initially raised; it needs a lot more than a sound bite to explain that to the giving public.

I have written at length about cost of fundraising, including a useful exercise in my white paper ‘Ten Steps to Fundraising in a Recession’ which helps demonstrate why COF is not a real issue for donors until we nonprofit people make it so. As well as not being particularly useful for complexity reasons, it is also unfair and not even a useful internal measure.

Net income is the way to go

I would argue that net income is the single most important measure. It is the only financial measure on impact. Net income is what a nonprofit uses to ‘buy’ services to implement its mission. Other impact measures then kick in, for example, lives saved or improved, land protected or policy implemented. But for us fundraisers, net income is the driver.

Put simply, it is better to raise $500,000 at the cost of $200,000 (40% COF) than $100,000 at the cost of $10,000 (10% COF). You can do more than three times the ‘work’ with the $300,000 net raised in the first example, than the $90,000 in the second. And if a charity is growing, it will be experiencing much higher COF than when it is stable – so higher COF tends to hint towards growth.

While COF agitates me, I am more agitated about making sure we have a focus on the right net income. Like anything in maths, it really isn’t black and white.

Take this mail example. (The same lessons apply for email, phone or other media.)

A charity decides to take a new approach to its Christmas warm appeal. The new approach, B, costs much more to produce than the old style; A. Approach B has a bigger pack and includes telephone calls to top donors.

The charity does a 50/50 split test of the two approaches.

Approach A brings in $150,000 at a cost of $30,000 from 3,000 donors. However, approach B raises $180,000 at a cost of $60,000 from 3,600 donors. The average was about the same, the net was the same. The only differences are that approach A had a COF of 20%, while approach B had a COF of 30% and also received 600 more donations.

Which one won?

As always – it’s the long term that matters

The instinctive reaction, and the one the accountant will go for is A. But approach B is much better, and bodes better for the future. The reason for this comes down to thinking beyond this campaign. We know that the two biggest variables that indicate whether someone will donate are the number of gifts they made in the past, and how recently they were made. Approach B got 600 people to donate another gift, which means 600 people donated more recently than before the campaign. That is 20% more viable donors for your next autumn or tax appeal.

The message of this agitator is not unusual: think long term. Think beyond the next campaign, balance net, COF, number of donors and even average donation. They all play a part; it isn’t as simple as it seems at first.

I wish that the chief executive officer of the big charity had been concentrating on the impact of his charity’s work, and the number of Australians motivated to give – not the COF. COF is a nearly irrelevant and confusing statistic that doesn’t demonstrate anything about the good that a donation and the donor is doing now and into the future.